B.C. prepares for rumble with largest earthquake drill

Oct 18, 2012 | News

By Kelly Snider

This is the second year for the Great B.C. ShakeOut, with over 590,000 participating province-wide. COURTESY GREAT B.C. SHAKEOUT

Residents of British Columbia took part in the largest earthquake drill in Canadian history Thursday.

Along with millions of others across the world, the Great ShakeOut, which was started in 2008 in southern California, prepares those in areas that experience earthquakes often by doing the “drop”, “cover”, and “hold-on” drill.

More than 14 million people participated in the earthquake preparedness drill, with the largest being 9.3 million from California, Mark Benthien, organizer of the Great ShakeOut, told Humber News.

“The goal is for people to practise how to protect themselves during an earthquake,” said Benthien. “Also, to talk with each other about how to get better prepared so that we’ll all be able to survive and recover quickly.”

Benthien told CBC News this drill is not meant to look at earthquakes as doom and gloom.

According to federal statistics, about 450 earthquakes occur in Eastern Canada every year, compared to more than a 1,000 that occur in Western Canada.

Kevin Harding, 25, a Vancouver resident who took part in ShakeOut B.C. in his office, said these kinds of drills are not foreign to westerners, many of whom were taught how to survive earthquakes in public schools in the shakiest part of the country.

“The ShakeOut was a great province-wide initiative,” said Harding. “I think it’s a great thing to keep in mind, and raise awareness of something that British Columbia is absolutely facing.”

Taimi Mulder, an earthquake seismologist with the Canadian Geological Survey, said ShakeOut is a great way to promote preparedness in  earthquake zones.

“We cannot predict earthquakes,” said Mulder. “But looking at past events and magnitudes makes it easier to tell what areas of the country will experience earthquakes the most.”

Mulder said most of the earthquakes that hit Canada occur along the coast from southwestern B.C. to as far north as the Yukon.

The zone stretching east of the Rocky Mountains is largely earthquake-free, but the earth does shake — more gently than on the West Coast — in the  St. Lawrence River Valley and surrounding regions.

Mulder said B.C. is at risk for a large subduction earthquake, which has a magnitude of nine on the Richter Scale . By comparison the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which took some 300,000 lives, was clocked as magnitude 7. Mulder said the West Coast is due for the Big One. Such earthquakes occur in every 200 to 800 years, but the last to hit the region was around  1700.