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What Would Happen if a Magnitude 9 Earthquake Hit British Columbia?

The big shakedown. Chances are, if you grew up in BC, you know what we are referring to. Vancouver sits on the fault line of two major tectonic plates, the North American Plate and the Juan de Fuca Plate. Currently, the Juan De Fuca plate is attempting to slide underneath the North American Plate, as it has been for a long time, but when it finally completes its geological quest- it will cause an earthquake larger than any BC resident has seen in centuries.

SOME HISTORY ON THE LAST BIG ONE IN BC

The last time this happened was way back in the 1700s, when the architecture, landscape, and climate of our province looked incredibly different than what we see today. We know this because of First Nation storytelling and due to samples taken off the ocean floor. The oral story passed down by the ​Haida peoples is a tale of loss and devastation, even before modern architecture and concentrated populations. The damage that could be done today is hard to comprehend. Firstly, the structural damage alone would be devastating in an area with high demand for housing, to begin with. The provincial emergency response plan estimates 150 buildings to collapse and another 4000 to be so badly damaged they would need to be demolished, just in the city of Vancouver alone. These falling buildings will take out natural gas lines, electric lines, cell phone towers and bring traffic to a standstill as people start to panic and search for their loved ones with desperation. Older builds in Victoria are much more vulnerable to structural failure because they lack proper earthquake-resistant foundations and the island is closer to the fault line than the mainland.

THE RISK OF A TSUNAMI

Photo by Ryan Pernofski on Unsplash.

We’ve seen it in Japan, we’ve seen it in Indonesia, after every big earthquake there is always a tsunami to be the deadly icing on the destructive cake. Tsunamis are created when a plate shifts underneath the water and can often look like an average wave. But do not be fooled, these death traps move as quick as a jet plane and wreak havoc on already devastated cities. If you are on the coast and an earthquake happens, get to high ground as fast as possible to reduce your chances of being caught in this deadly wave. Those on Vancouver island should be especially vigilant as the wave will hit them first and the hardest. Vancouver’s port is one of the largest on the West Coast. The earthquake, followed by the tsunami and then the ensuing chaos will halt all planes, ships or trains scheduled to deliver goods to many countries across the world, hurting Canada's and more specifically BC’s economy. Seismologists say there is a one in three chance of this earthquake hitting in the next 50-100 years and there has been mounting pressure for the Vancouver government to do more. ​The Insurance Bureau of Canada projects we will need $75 billion dollars to repair the damages. Insurance covers $20 billion of that but $55 billion dollars is still near to what BC makes in one year, this is a staggering burden for the government (​Stelmakowich,2013​).

HOW YOU CAN PREPARE

We cannot control when the earthquake comes, however, we can control how prepared we are for it. Open a dialogue with your family about what you should do during a disaster and choose a meeting spot after the quake stops. Make sure all your work data is backed up on servers outside of the office, to minimize financial losses and most importantly have an emergency kit packed and ready to grab at the drop of a hat. This bag should have enough supplies to sustain your household for 72 hours. Emergency management BC recommends this kit includes 4L of water per person per day, non-perishable food items, a light source, a battery-powered radio, masks, money and hygiene products. 3 person basic emergency kit GetMyKit’s Basic Emergency Survival Kit checks all of those boxes and gives you extra helpful items like an army knife and a flashlight with an attached siren all in a conveniently sized backpack. We offer packs for two-person households up to eight-person households, a one time purchase to ensure your family’s safety for years to come. Alison Bird cautions us to ensure we do not just “see disasters as things that happen to others” because then when the inevitable disaster hits and we cannot just avoid the thought anymore, we do not know how to react. So get as prepared as you can now, it may be uncomfortable to allow the idea to come to life, but you’ll be thankful you did in the long run.  

Sources:

Over 50 Earthquakes recorded since April 18: Why Alaska is so seismically active?

This year, on April 18th and April 19th over 50 earthquakes were recorded in Alaska ranging from 0.5 to 4.5 in Magnitudes.
 

Why is Alaska so prone to Earthquakes?

The earth’s outermost crust is made up of Tectonic plates that are frequently moving.  Being that Alaska is over the intersection of two great plates it is subject to more frequent seismic activity and Earthquakes.  The two plates nearest to Alaska are the Great Pacific Plate, beneath the Pacific Ocean, and the North American Plate, which covers most of North America.

What caused Sunday’s Earthquake?

U.S. Geological Survey researcher, Peter Haeussler compares the earth cracking to a chocolate bar bending and breaking on the surface, seeing as Tectonic Plates do not move and slide neatly, there is a lot of seismically active earth above these Plates that is directly affected. In the past, Alaskan Earthquakes have caused Tsunami Warnings to be issued for North East Vancouver Island Coast, as well as The Central Coast of British Columbia. Tsunami waves can become extremely large, having multiple waves (the 3rd and 4th being the most dangerous) and affect low lying areas under 20 meters. Sunday’s Earthquake originated 75m below ground and 53m offshore in a region of the Pacific Plate.  The Earthquake occurred at 1:30am Sunday and was powerful enough to rattle houses and startle people but it was far enough away from Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, to damage buildings.

What Does The Future Hold…

Alaska will see more large earthquakes but U.S.G.S scientists have never predicted one. The agency calculates probabilities and focuses on long-term mitigation of earthquake hazards by helping improve structures safely. More than homes, an earthquake in the wrong place could damage infrastructure, such as ports and power transmission, rail or communication lines, which in Alaska have far less redundancy than other states.

Where GetMyKit.ca Comes in: 

Due to the fact that an earthquake so far can affect us so closely, we recognize that preparedness for you and your family is essential. That's why at GetMyKit.ca we have taken the thought process out of preparedness for you! GetMyKit.ca's Emergency Kits are fully equipped with enough food, water, shelter and other survival amenities to ensure the safety and comfort of your family. These 72-hour Emergency Kits are guaranteed to last at least 3-5 days and are recommended by all levels of government should we suffer a large natural disaster.    

Vehicle & Roadside Safety

General preparedness is critical for all situations, however one that is often overlooked is vehicle safety and preparedness. Many vehicle emergencies or road side issues are ones that are easily preventable with pre-planning and preparation. All levels of government recommend carrying a survival kit in all vehicles. A few tips to help you get prepared!

 Repairing your vehicle prior to a trip:

  • Do a vehicle walk around and underneath to see if there is anything that looks out of place, damaged, or hanging down improperly.
  • Schedule a checkup before leaving for a trip.
  • Ensure there is enough supplies for all persons in the vehicle in case you break down in a remote location, in extreme weather, or late at night.
  • Keep fuel topped up, check tire pressure and fluid levels - consider bringing fluids along for extending trips.
  • Actively check the weather forecast and ensure your vehicle meets or surpasses weather requirements.
  • Inform a friend or family member aware of your route and check in often. If something happens and they do not hear from you, they will know your last check point and better predict where you might be if stranded.

Daily Vehicle Use:

  • Make a habit to keep fuel levels half a tank or higher start considering half a tank your new “empty”.
  • Carry snacks, spare clothing and water bottles in your vehicle we have assembled our Vehicle Survival Kits to include important items such as: car fuses, high-visibility vest, rain poncho, multi-function army knife, multi-bit screw driver, reflective triangle, food + water rations, emergency blanket, sanitary items, first aid, candles & matches,  among many other items.  Our kit will ensure you are prepared for all road side emergency situations.

Long Period Vehicle Storing:

  • Remove wiper blades and store in vehicle to avoid weathering damage.
  • Get an oil change and top up all fluids- including break, wiper fluid, anti-freeze, etc.
  • Periodically start the vehicle and let it run for at least ten minutes.
  • Thoroughly wash the exterior of your vehicle to remove any harsh contaminates, detail interior and remove all garbage.
  • Using a car cover, pop up shed or a tarp to keep harsh weather conditions from effecting your vehicle.
If you need to pull over to the side of the road, always use your flashing hazard lights, wear reflective or high-visibility clothing when walking around or exciting the vehicle. Be sure to check out one of our retailers to get your vehicle kit, or shop online today!
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