Earthquake drill fails to register in Chilliwack

Chilliwack seems unshaken by the possibility of a major earthquake hitting the region.

Chilliwack seems unshaken by the possibility of a major earthquake hitting the region.

On Jan. 26 at 10 a.m. more than 340,000 registrants from B.C., including municipalities, schools, businesses, organizations and individuals, will be participating in the inaugural Great British Columbia ShakeOut earthquake drill.

But very few are from Chilliwack.

As of Thursday, the only places registered were St. Mary’s elementary, Tyson elementary, RCMP Pacific Regional Training Centre, Chilliwack Society for Community Living and O’Connor Motors.

The ShakeOut is a 60-second earthquake drill designed to increase awareness on how the public can better prepare and protect themselves from a large earthquake. It will be the largest earthquake drill to ever take place in Canada.

“We need to do more to heighten the awareness of our general public on the earthquake risk,” said Heather Lyle, co-chair of the BC Earthquake Alliance Society, which organized the event.

The City of Chilliwack, however, felt there wasn’t enough time to plan the event.

“The timing was not conducive for getting the word out,” said Jim MacDonald, emergency program coordinator for the city.

MacDonald said an event like this requires a constant bombardment of public education in order for the community to buy in.

“I didn’t want to do it half-baked,” he said.

But the thing with earthquakes, they’re not scheduled, they just happen.

And in B.C. the risks are significant, said Lyle.

B.C. is the most earthquake-prone region in Canada where upwards of 3,000 small-scale earthquakes occur annually.

“They’re less than three or four on the magnitude scale so you don’t really feel them, but the fact is we are part of the Ring of Fire,” said Lyle.

The Pacific Ring of Fire is a string of volcanoes encircling the basin of the Pacific Ocean where shifts and faults in the earth’s crust lead to frequent earthquakes.

In 1949, the Queen Charlotte Islands suffered an 8.1-magnitude earthquake, the largest earthquake in Canada to date. In 1990, the Fraser Lowlands experienced a 4.9-magnitude earthquake with several aftershocks. And in 1996, a 5.5-magnitude earthquake east of Seattle was felt in the Lower Mainland.

“We could be faced with a significant mega-thrust earthquake,” said Lyle.

Being prepared is key.

The ShakeOut is promoting the “Drop. Cover. Hold on.” technique where if an earthquake struck, you drop to the ground, take cover under a sturdy desk or table, and hold on to the furniture until the shaking stops.

It’s also advising people not to seek safety in a doorway as door frames in modern houses are not built to withstand a major earthquake and do not provide protection from falling objects.

For the Chilliwack Society for Community Living it was a no-brainer to get involved.

The non-profit organization supports adults and children with developmental disabilities. It operates out of several facilities throughout the city. And while it’s held earthquake drills at individual sites, it’s never done a mass drill through all the sites at the same time.

“We want to see how well we respond as an organization,” said Jeff Gilbank, CSCL director.

“Our hope is for our staff and clients to learn what to do in a more intuitive sense, instead of running for the manual, because in a real earthquake, they’re not going to be able to do that.”

Anyone interested in participating can register online at www.shakeoutbc.ca.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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