Original article published on Fraser Valley Today: YOUR PERSPECTIVE: Keeping British Columbians safer during earthquakes | Fraser Valley Today | Everything Fraser Valley
Every year in October, The Great B.C. Shakeout is a chance for students, workers, and everyone across British Columbia to learn the best ways to stay safe in the event of an earthquake.
Earlier this week, our provincial government released a comprehensive earthquake response strategy in order to keep people as safe as possible if a major earthquake should occur.
The strategy is buildable and able to adapt based on the severity of a situation. Importantly, it can apply to other potential emergencies, such as flooding or wildfires.
Using what we learned about emergency response from the COVID-19 pandemic and last year’s atmospheric river, the Provincial Earthquake Immediate Response Strategy considers new technologies and focuses on nuanced approaches to reaching vulnerable communities during emergencies.
This new strategy has a strong focus on working with local governments and First Nations, who are in the best position to communicate the needs of their communities, and on collaborating with the federal government and neighbouring regions to make sure that everyone gets the emergency care they need. This also includes partnering with the federal government to work on an emergency alert system that will notify people of an earthquake up to tens of seconds before any movement occurs.
These measures build on the important cross-ministry work that our government is already doing to keep British Columbians safe in an earthquake event. For example, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has seismic safety at top of mind when building new infrastructure, like highways and bridges, and has a $5 million budget for seismic retrofits and upgrades every year.
We’re also committed to making schools as safe and structurally sound as possible. Since September 2017, the New Democrat government has approved over $1.2 billion for replacements or seismic upgrades at 59 schools, with $800 million in Budget 2022 allocated for upgrades at even more schools.
In Langley, we opened the brand new, seismically sound Donna Gabriel Robins Elementary last September, and this past spring we broke ground on a seismic expansion and partial replacement at Vanguard Secondary. I am so glad that students in Langley have safe and modern facilities in which to learn and play.
This Thursday, October 20 at 10:20 a.m., people in Langley and across B.C. will practice their “drop, cover, and hold” in schools, workplaces and public places as part of the Great B.C. Shakeout drill.
In February 2023, the province will hold a larger-scale earthquake response drill that will incorporate important parts of PEIRS, such as working with local governments and partners in emergency response to make sure that we are all prepared in case of a big earthquake.
I encourage everyone to take the time to plan and practice how to respond to an earthquake, practice your “drop, cover, and hold,” and make sure you have emergency kits in order to keep yourself and your family safe. Visit preparedbc.ca to learn more.