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Andrew Alden

Vancouver Moves Toward Quake Resilience

By December 3, 2013

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earthquake damageThe city of Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2011 commissioned an update to its plans to deal with a large earthquake. This is a big deal because Vancouver, like Seattle and Portland and many other cities in the Pacific Northwest and northernmost California, all face the threat of a Japan-style magnitude-9 earthquake at a time unknown. It's also a big deal to me because next year's annual meeting of the Geological Society of America will be in Vancouver. The Canadian news site Global News summarizes the story, and a presentation about the plan (PDF) is online. It has the look of a Powerpoint presentation, but that keeps things simple and digestable.

Regardless of the steps Vancouver plans, it's worth contemplating what the report says about a big quake there. Six big things: (1) damage to buildings and infrastructure, but you knew that; (2) fires start as gas lines break, but maybe you knew that too; (3) the electricity fails; (4/5) 9-1-1 and the phone system are swamped; (6) "people flood to the streets and begin making their way from the areas of major damage." Don't count on taking your well-packed Land Rover anywhere.

Vancouver's report noted that the recent New Zealand earthquake "demonstrated the importance of trained volunter response." And Vancouver has launched a Vancouver Volunteer Corps, now more than 800 strong, to be ready to help by taking part in training and regular exercises. My particular interest—how we rebuild, and who benefits—is not addressed, but that's a fearsome topic and I understand.
Smashed home in Christchurch — image from Vancouver report


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