View the printer-friendly version of this release.
Province of British Columbia
NEWS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
2015JAG0073-000405
March 26, 2015
Ministry of Justice
Government takes continued action on earthquake preparedness

VICTORIA – Following today’s release of the Earthquake Consultation Report, the Province will continue taking significant strides toward improving disaster preparedness in B.C.

It’s clear, both from consultation chair Henry Renteria’s report and from previous reports on the subject, that more must be done at the individual level, and at all levels of government if B.C. is going to be adequately prepared for a major earthquake or other catastrophic disaster.

That’s why, in response to the recommendations in today’s report – and those from previous reports – the Province has begun or will begin shortly taking many important steps to prepare British Columbia in the event of ‘the Big One’.

Notifications:

  • An upgrade to the Provincial Emergency Notification System (PENS), implemented only three weeks ago, provides new efficiencies to get tsunami notifications more quickly into the hands of emergency managers in B.C.'s coastal communities and media so that they may alert citizens faster.
  • Participation in the development and implementation of the Alert Ready national public alerting system allows authorized users, such as Emergency Management BC (EMBC), to formulate and post alerts to a dedicated system for mass broadcast by media.
  • This spring, the Province will begin undertaking an analysis of the future of 911 call answer service throughout B.C. This will include consulting various stakeholders on how best to leverage emerging communication technologies, and to streamline and co-ordinate a sustainable, resilient, provincewide system of emergency communications services. 

Preparedness:

  • Increased capacity for provincial level emergency logistics and operational co-ordination.
  • Increased capacity to support future provincial-level catastrophic event training and exercises.
  • The launch of a public education campaign this spring to inform and empower British Columbians to be prepared for emergencies and disasters, in collaboration with local authorities, First Nations and emergency management professionals.
  • Increased focus on prevention and mitigation across government which is reflected, for example, in the evolution of the current flood protection program into a broader mitigation approach.
  • The first iteration of the British Columbia Earthquake Immediate Response Plan has been prepared in co-operation with key stakeholders, with its anticipated release to the broader public later in 2015.
  • Provision of $50,000 to Ocean Networks Canada to support research for tsunami inundation maps, to assist long-term planning in vulnerable coastal communities in British Columbia.
  • Providing tsunami preparedness tips and information on the Emergency Info BC blog, along with details on how to sign up for tsunami alerts and connect with EMBC’s social media channels. Through this blog, individuals can also access a variety of preparedness-themed awareness campaigns.
  • Updates to the Earthquake and Tsunami Smart Manual, which includes important information for British Columbians to help get themselves prepared for a major earthquake or tsunami. It is available online at: http://bit.ly/1E0ZFDa

As mentioned, these actions respond both to recommendations from the 2014 Auditor General’s report Catastrophic Earthquake Preparedness as well as to the Earthquake Consultation Report. While a number of short- and medium-term actions, like those above, could be undertaken immediately, government recognizes that others in these reports still require a long-term approach.

Beyond this, government has taken other steps to prepare British Columbians and the infrastructure in our province for a major earthquake or other disaster. Infrastructure funding to help schools, bridges, hospitals and other critical buildings withstand an earthquake continues at a rapid pace, unmatched previously in the history of B.C. For example:

  • B.C. is committed to strengthening existing bridges and has invested $61 million in bridge seismic retrofit projects since 2001.
  • B.C. has replaced many older bridges that are on the seismic retrofit program with new, robust bridges, such as the Port Mann Bridge, built to meet stringent seismic standards.
  • Recently announced that BC on the Move has committed $180 million over the next three years to repair and replace provincial bridges.
  • Since 2001, government has spent or committed $2.2 billion to seismically upgrade or replace 213 high-risk schools:
    • As of January 2015, 145 schools have been upgraded or replaced, 11 schools are currently under construction, and nine schools are moving toward construction to current seismic standards.
    • It is anticipated government will invest an additional $600 million to address the remaining 126 high-risk schools in the province.
    • Once completed, approximately 150,000 B.C. students at about 339 high-risk schools throughout the province will be safer.
  • In the last 12 years, the Province has spent over $9.1 billion on new and renovated health capital projects in B.C. – all of which have been built and renovated to current seismic requirements.
    • Examples of recent projects in hospitals with seismic upgrades include the Langley Memorial Hospital, St. Paul’s emergency department renovation, and the radiation room at Queen Victoria Hospital in Revelstoke among others.
  • BC Hydro is investing $1.9 billion over the next 10 years in dam safety and seismic upgrades around B.C., including $700 million on Vancouver Island dam safety projects.
    • In December 2014, BC Hydro released a seismic study that better identifies hazards to its facilities in the event of a major earthquake.

Quotes:

Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton –

“We know that emergency preparedness is a shared responsibility that starts with individual British Columbians and our families. This can be as simple as the $5, $10 or $20 purchases to build our own earthquake kit, taking time to develop an emergency plan with our family, or meeting with our neighbours to make plans for how we would work together in the event of a disaster.

“That said, we recognize that it is imperative that our government lead by example and put in place necessary supports and levers to help communities and families prepare for and recover from a disaster.

“The work to improve our emergency preparedness continues through infrastructure funding, improvements to alerting systems, hiring new staff, and creating awareness materials to reach British Columbians where they live. Take, for example, the Provincial Emergency Notification System which, with its updates earlier this month, is now able to provide emergency managers throughout B.C. with faster access to the information they need to warn and protect the people in their communities.

“This is just one of many improvements being made as our government continues to increase our capacity to plan for and respond to potential disasters and helps ensure the safety and resilience of British Columbians.”

Peter Anderson, associate professor, school of communication, Simon Fraser University –

“There is a lot of great work underway and the Province should be commended. The modernization of the PENS alerting system speaks to the critical importance of communicating to emergency responders and key media so they can share information and keep people safe during a disaster. We all know emergency preparation is a shared responsibility, and while the Province has taken some significant steps recently, I know British Columbians – myself included – can also make a difference by having an earthquake kit, an emergency plan with our families and being ready to help out our neighbours in any disaster.”

Quick Facts:

  • In the event a tsunami watch, advisory or warning is issued by the National Tsunami Warning Centre (NTWC), PENS is activated by EMBC and relays this critical information to local governments, emergency officials, select media, first responders like police and fire departments, as well as partner agencies like the coast guard and military. PENS can initially transmit approximately 600 automated voice notices and 450 emails. These are then further redistributed by partner agencies, including ministry social media channels, Environment Canada’s Weatheradio, marine radio, and a number of other agency systems.
  • The upgraded PENS will reduce the time required to issue a notification to local authorities by 50%, offer greater reliability with fail-safe redundancies, and help target specific stakeholder audiences to ensure the people most directly affected receive notifications the fastest.
  • The PENS system is just one mechanism for alerting individuals in an emergency. The Province also uses social media channels including the Emergency Info BC and DriveBC websites and Twitter feeds, as well as Facebook and Twitter channels for wildfire information, and through partner agencies like Environment Canada, the River Forecast Centre and the National Tsunami Warning Centre, delivers RSS notifications and online emergency information.
  • Additionally, in 2015, B.C. will be participating in the roll-out of the national Alert Ready system that will deliver emergency alerts through broadcasters.

Learn More:

Emergency Management BC: http://www.embc.gov.bc.ca/index.htm

Emergency Info BC: http://www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca/

Auditor General’s “Catastrophic Earthquake Preparedness” report: http://bit.ly/1ptM4re

Earthquake Consultation Report: http://bit.ly/1CMRrNL

Earthquake and Tsunami Smart Manual: http://bit.ly/1E0ZFDa

EMBC Strategic Plan: http://bit.ly/1BnaQjC

Emergency alerts and information are also delivered via:

Social media resources to promote Tsunami Preparedness Week in your community:

 
Media Contact:
 
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Justice
250 213-3602
 

 
Connect with the Province of B.C. at: www.gov.bc.ca/connect