RCMP block off access to the waterfront following 2012's 7.7 magnitude earthquake.

B.C. not ready for major earthquake: provincial report

A government report released on March 24 states that B.C. is simply not ready for a major earthquake.

A government report released on March 24 states that B.C. is simply not ready for a major earthquake.

B.C. auditor general Russ Jones penned Catastrophic Earthquake Preparedness, which found that Emergency Management BC (EMBC), the organization responsible for emergency response in the province, isn’t prepared for a disastrous earthquake.

The audit also found the province and EMBC haven’t made preparing for a quake a priority. A similar conclusion was made by the same office in a 1997 report on emergency management, with Jones claiming EMBC has not made significant progress since. EMBC’s operating budget for emergency activities is currently approximately $6.2 million, the same amount provided to PEP in 2006.

“Successive governments have decided to allocate scarce public resources to meet more immediate pressing demands, rather than to adequately prepare the province for a catastrophic earthquake that may or may not occurs,” said Jones.

“EMBC staff is busy with daily emergencies such as floods and fires, so catastrophic earthquake planning is done as a side-of-desk activity.”

The report outlines several areas in need of improvement in EMBC’s preparedness, from risk analysis, to training and public education and from plans and procedures to integration of stakeholders.

The report states that EMBC is lacking critical positions, such as a logistics planner, which constrains the organization’s ability to deliver on its catastrophic earthquake mandate.

“EMBC could improve its catastrophic earthquake planning by applying a more rigorous management framework to identify and help achieve its desired results,” reads the report.

The report recommended the provincial government develop long-term goals for earthquake preparedness, and ensure EMBC has the capacity to address gaps. It advised EMBC to develop a strategic plan to meet the province’s goals, as well as identify, rank and prioritize its own plans to make sure it’s prepared for the big one.

The report also suggested EMBC review its earthquake program to determine gaps and risks to come up with actions to address them.

Other recommendations include how EMBC should work with stakeholders in reviewing and evaluating their emergency plans and conducting exercises to ensure they can deliver proper response.

The final recommendation in the audit was to report on the state of catastrophic earthquake preparedness annually.

Unlike many British Columbia communities, Prince Rupert was prepared during the October 2012 and January 2013 earthquakes and following tsunami scares. Fire chief Dave Mckenzie, who is responsible for Prince Rupert’s emergency plan, didn’t wait to hear from the provincial government or EMBC before putting the plan into action. Mckenzie said the report will help other British Columbian communities be as prepared as Prince Rupert for major earthquakes.

“The government recognizes there is a problem and is trying to resolve how to deal with it to get prepared,” he said.

“It’s a step in the right direction. Earthquakes aren’t going away, so it’s a good thing the government is stepping up to the plate to make people more aware.”

The B.C. government will take immediate action on all of the recommendations, with EMBC already developing a long-term plan that sets provincial goals and a phased approach to achieving them.

“A tough report offers a great opportunity and this one in particular will help us continue to identify what work needs to be done to best prepare B.C. communities and families for a major earthquake,” said Suzanne Anton, attorney general and minister of

justice.

Mckenzie said people need to be ready to be self-sufficient for 72 hours in case of a major earthquake, and should have food, beverages, clothing, cash, batteries and other items in an earthquake kit.