The ‘big one’ is coming. It’s not a matter of if, but when. A gentle reminder was a 4.5 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Vancouver Island on Wednesday, Oct. 11.
Metro Vancouver sits on the North American plate, and the smaller Juan de Fuca plate. They’re on a collision course that experts predict will trigger a major quake within the next 50 years.
When it does strike, the destruction could be catastrophic for the region. Major transportation routes could be closed, power and water cut off, and thousands of people could be desperate for shelter.
For Patrick Cullen, the emergency program coordinator for the City of Maple Ridge, he’s hoping the next week is a chance for residents to spend a little time getting ready for the inevitable.
Cullen will be part of the city’s efforts over the next week encouraging residents to take to do a little planning in the event of an earthquake or another major natural disaster.
He said the City of Maple Ridge will be part of the estimated 800,000 British Columbians who will take part in the annual Shake Out earthquake drill on Thursday, Oct. 19.
At 10:19 a.m., people across the province are being encouraged to participate in the drill, where you drop to the ground, take cover and hold on. Since most injuries and deaths occurred from falling objects, the drill is aimed at helping with the immediate response should a major quake hit the region.
But Cullen and city staff are also aiming at making sure people can be prepared once the shaking stops.
After one of the worst wildfire seasons in almost 60 years, Cullen said he’s hoping the public will be sparked to take action.
“A lot of people always think it won’t happen to them or they’ll figure out what to do in an emergency, but I think if this summer’s forest fire season taught us anything it’s that you may not have time to get everything that you need.”
The summer of 2017 saw more than 165 fires burning across the province and an estimated a 13,000 square kilometres of land scored to ashes since April 1. The province estimates it will have spent close to $500 million fighting fires across the province this year.
“People literally had minutes to evacuate,” noted Cullen. “If you don’t have a bagged packed, it’s too late when they come knocking on your door.”
He said while events like forest fires, floods and wind can wreak havoc on populations and destroy property, a major earthquake could bring a whole new level of destruction, along with major logistical headaches for people and emergency crews few people in B.C. have yet to face.
He said being prepared means having a backpack readily available, filled with supplies like food and water. But Cullen said there are other things to consider. He said making sure you have a warm blanket, as well as copies of personal identification is also critical. Copies of insurance papers and a driver’s licence can go a long way when someone is forced to flee their home in a moment’s notice, said Cullen
As well as Shake Out, the city is hosting other events aimed at educating the public.
On Saturday, Oct. 14, the Maple Ridge Fire Department kicks off fire prevention week as they host an open house at firehall 1 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
On Monday, Oct. 16, the city of Pitt Meadows will have the Quake Cottage, an earthquake simulator, on hand at the recreation centre from 2 to 7 p.m. The simulator will also make an appearance at Thomas Haney Secondary on Tuesday, Sept. 17.
The final event of the week will be Oct. 20 at the Maple Ridge fire hall No. 1. for seniors.