The city of Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2011 commissioned an update to its plans to deal with a large earthquake, and the update came out in December 2013. 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 the 2014 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America is 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