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B.C. prepares for earthquake potential

Andrea Stockton, staff writer

March 23, 2011 — With natural disasters becoming more frequent, preparing for a damaging event is crucial.

The areas in red are most at risk for seismic activity
The areas in red are most at risk for seismic activity

Coastal areas in British Columbia are prone to minor earthquakes, but authorities say there's the potential for a “big one” in the future.

A 9.0 magnitude earthquake, like the one that devastated Japan recently, would have a deadly impact on B.C.'s coast as well. Experts say communities in the Port Alberni area would have 30 minutes to move to higher ground following the earthquake before a wave would inundate the coast.

On Wednesday, experts took part in a training exercise that shows how an earthquake on the scale of the one that hit Japan would affect the west coast of North America.

The simulation, known as PACIFICEX11, was put together in a detailed handbook to help tsunami experts in the U.S. and Canada rehearse for the potential 'Big One.' Tsunami bulletins were issued by the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center beginning at 10 a.m. PT.

In January, more than 420,000 people took part in a massive earthquake drill as well. Radio stations across the province joined in by sounding an alarm at 10 a.m. local time, which prompted the nearly half a million people to practice the proper safety precautions.

“We had nearly 900 schools participate, but businesses, health sectors, school sectors, all levels of government, we had more than 150 municipalities participating,” says Heather Lyle, co-chair of B.C.'s ShakeOut Organizing Committee. Lyle says this event was meant for anyone and everyone since seismic activity is common across the coast.

“We do have earthquakes in B.C. frequently,” notes Lyle. “There's between three and four hundred a year, small ones, that we don't always feel. But the fact remains, there is seismic activity occurring and we certainly could have a more significant earthquake.”

Lyle adds that empowering residents with knowledge and skills is crucial and techniques learned could help to protect and even save lives during a major earthquake event.

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