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Seismologist says ‘The Big One’ would be 200 times worse
Published Thursday, April 24, 2014 9:40AM PDT Last Updated Thursday, April 24, 2014 8:24PM PDT
A 6.6-magnitude earthquake that shook much of southwestern B.C. should be a reminder that British Columbians live in a very active quake region and should be ready for when “The Big One” hits, according to a prominent seismologist.
John Cassidy from Natural Resources Canada said hundreds of aftershocks were reported after Wednesday night’s quake, which hit on the Nootka fault zone off the west coast of Vancouver Island. The largest aftershocks had magnitudes of 4.2 and 5.
Aftershocks were felt from one end of Vancouver Island to the other and parts of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. There were reports that aftershocks were felt as far as Kelowna and Penticton in the province’s Interior.
“We’ve been seeing non-stop aftershocks. We’ve recorded literally hundreds of aftershocks, all very tiny except for the initial two or three,” the expert told CTV Morning Live.
Most of the aftershocks are in the 2-magnitude range, much smaller than the initial shaker that caused buildings and light fixtures to sway across the province.
Cassidy says the shaking from last night’s seismic activity pales in comparison to what will happen if the long predicted “Big One” hits B.C.
“You’d have to take the shaking by about 200 times to get to the realty big one, the magnitude 9 earthquakes, that we know have occurred off of our coast,” he said.
Last month, B.C. Auditor General Russ Jones said the province appears to be woefully underprepared for a major seismic event.
Jones said that the province’s emergency management organization is “not adequately prepared for a catastrophic earthquake.”
His report also found the province and EMBC haven’t made earthquake preparedness a priority since the last audit was released in 1997.
In response, the province said in coming months it will launch an awareness campaign geared toward getting B.C. residents to properly prepare for a seismic event.
B.C. forms part of the North American portion of what is called the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a 40,000 km horseshoe of ocean trenches and volcanoes where 90 per cent of the world's earthquakes take place.
According to Natural Resources Canada, the Geological Survey of Canada records more than 1,000 earthquakes in western Canada each year. More than 100 magnitude 5 or greater earthquakes have been recorded in the ocean west of Vancouver Island in the past 70 years.
How to get ready
The City of Vancouver is treating the event as a gentle nudge for people to have an emergency kit for their home or office.
The mayor’s office says people should have an emergency plan in place and also be prepared to survive for several days without food, water or shelter.
The city offers free workshops to learn how to prepare for earthquakes and other emergencies.
Cassidy says the B.C. government is doing a good job seismically readying schools in case of a major event, and all the work done ahead of time will be well worth it.
“When a very large earthquake hits this region, all of the preparedness that we’re doing, all of the work on bridges, the science, the engineering, that will all pay off when the really bigger earthquakes hit in this region because we’ll be better prepared,” Cassidy said.
Two-thirds of Canadians recently polled in a Red Cross survey said they haven’t taken any steps to prepare for a disaster, like an earthquake, flood or tsunami, primarily because they don’t think it’s going to happen – or they simply haven’t thought about it.
The agency rolled out a new disaster preparedness calculator application last year that tests how ready you are for an emergency.
The Facebook app lets users drag and drop the items they already have at home into a theoretical emergency kit. It then calculates how ready you are according to how many adults, children and pets are in your home.
The calculator will then generate a shopping list of items you need to build your own home kit, things like flashlights, batteries, water bottles, candles and waterproof matches. The list can also be downloaded to make shopping easier.
During an earthquake, those inside are advised to drop under any heavy furniture and cover your head to prevent being hit by any falling objects. If you can’t get under something strong, flatten yourself or crouch against an interior wall.
Public Safety Canada says to avoid the following during an earthquake: doorways, windows and tall furniture, elevators and downed power lines. It also advises to stay away from coastlines, in case the earthquake triggers a large ocean wave or tsunami.