The earth's crust is made up of plates which are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, constantly moving, relative to one another, at speeds of about 2-10 centimetres per year or about as fast as your fingernails grow. The plates can either slide past one another, collide, or they can move apart. Check out the BBC animated earthquake guide or Exploring Earth Annimations Earthquake Waves to see how this actually takes place. The west coast of Canada is one of the few areas in the world where all three of these types of plate movements take place, resulting in significant earthquake activity.
Each year seismologists with the Geological Survey of Canada record and locate more than 1,000 earthquakes in western Canada. Earthquakes strike suddenly, violently, and without warning. Planning ahead can reduce the danger of serious injury or loss of life from an earthquake.
The North Shore could experience an earthquake that causes damage and injury. Taking one of our free emergency preparedness workshops is the best way to learn about potential hazards, instructions on assembling a household emergency plan and emergency kit, and how to protect yourself during the shaking.
- Watch this preparedness video for some great tips on what to do during an earthquake.
- Is your house safe? Play the earthquake game and identify objects that can be dangerous during an earthquake.
- Develop a household emergency plan that suits your family’s individual needs and limitations.
- Assign specific safety tasks to family members.
- Practice your household emergency plan until everyone is sure of their role and keep it current by practicing every six months.
- Prepare an emergency kit to be self-sufficient for a minimum of 72 hours, but preferably one week.
- As well as having an emergency kit at home, you should have one in your vehicle and at school or work.
- Plan a family meeting place.
- Plan to have an out-of-area contact where all family members can check in, in case you are separated.
- Take first aid and emergency preparedness workshops and keep your training current.
- Keep your vehicle in good repair and keep your gas tank at least half full.
- Stay in touch with the world around you. Keep informed of impending dangers. When warnings occur, stay tuned to the radio, TV, internet (including social media) for more information as it becomes available.
- Complete a home hazard hunt.
- Identify safe places indoors and outdoors.
- Under sturdy furniture such as a heavy desk or table.
- Against an inside wall.
- Away from windows or mirrors, where glass could shatter.
- Away from heavy furniture that could fall over, such as bookcases.
- In the open, away from buildings, trees, telephone and power lines, overpasses, or elevated expressways.
If you are inside your home when an earthquake strikes, stay there, and:
- DROP under a sturdy desk or solid piece of furniture to COVER your body. HOLD ON to the furniture and continue to protect yourself. If the furniture moves, stay under and move with it.
- Inner walls, corners and hallways can also be safe. The inner core of a building is usually the strongest and least likely to collapse. Get down alongside the inner wall or corner, place your head close to your knees, cover the sides of your head with your elbows and clasp your hands firmly behind your neck. Keep in mind that inside walls may have other hazards: pictures, glass, light fixtures, unsecured shelving.
- If you are in a very narrow hallway, you can sit down; brace your back against one wall and your feet against the other. Again, protect your head, neck, and face.
- If there is no cover, just grab anything to protect you - a chair, a coat, newspaper, cushion.
- Remember: DROP under something solid to protect yourself, COVER your neck to protect your vital organs, and HOLD ON. DROP, COVER, AND HOLD ON!
- After the Shaking Stops
- Retrieve your emergency kit.
- Expect aftershocks. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures and can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or months after the quake.
- Contact loved ones through social media and/or out of area contact.
- Listen or follow local media for emergency information.
- Administer first aid.
- Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building.Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if it is safe for you to do so. Call FortisBC (1-800-663-9911) to report the smell of gas or to report that you have turned off the gas meter”. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
- Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker if it is safe for you to do so.
- If you suspect sewer and/or water line damage, do not use your toilet.
- One Step at a Time: A Guide to Disaster Recovery has further information on recovery activities.
- Restock any emergency supplies that you might have used.
One more way to protect your home or business is through Seismic retrofitting. A Seismic Retrofit provides existing structures with more resistance to seismic activity due to earthquakes. In buildings, this process typically includes strengthening weak connections found in roof to wall connections, continuity ties, shear walls and the roof diaphragm. It is also recommended to bracing commercial Fire Protection systems and Water Heaters, Securing suspended ceilings, bookcases, cabinets / drawers, flat screen TV’s, Gas Lines, Picture frames and bulletin boards. For more details please follow the links below.
References and Links
- Hazard Hunt
- District of North Vancouver - Earthquake Hazard and Risk in the District
- Emergency Management BC - Earthquake Preparedness
- Earthquake and Tsunami Smart Manual
- Are BC Highways Prepared for Earthquakes - BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
- Natural Resources Canada - Earthquake Canada
- U.S. Geological Survey
- Ready.gov - Earthquakes
- Emergency Management B.C. - One Step at a Time: A Guide to Disaster Recovery