This Thursday, Oct. 17, a simulated earthquake will hit Whistler, causing simulated damage to local infrastructure and simulated casualties. And not just Whistler — some 400,000 people across B.C. are expected to take part, as well as close to 20 million people worldwide.
The event is held each year to encourage businesses, governments, schools and other organizations to test their earthquake readiness, and to ensure everybody knows what to do if a real earthquake occurs. Individuals and families are also invited to participate, practicing survival techniques and ensuring their recommended three-day survival kit is stocked and ready to go.
A bulletin put out by the municipality confirms that earthquakes are “one of the highest risk hazards for the Whistler area,” while Geological Survey of Canada Seismologist Gary Rodgers said Whistler has a similar level of earthquake risk to Christchurch, New Zealand. Christchurch had a quake event in 2011 that killed 185 people and caused around $12 billion in damage.
Most experts also agree that it’s not a case of “if” but rather “when” the province will be hit. B.C. regular experiences minor earthquakes and last year’s 7.7 shaker off the coast of Haida Gwaii in October was the second-largest quake recorded in Canada. However, that quake was not a “megathrust” quake, which occurs when a tectonic plate is pushed under another plate. When that happens, an earthquake measuring 8.0 to 9.0 on the Richter scale could occur. The last one of that scale for the region likely occurred in 1700, and experts believe that we’re “due” for another. On the geological timescale that means a major quake could occur tomorrow or 700 years from now.
Residents are reminded to follow the “Drop, Cover and Hold On” safety protocol in the event of an earthquake. Drop to the ground, crawl under something sturdy like a desk, table or inside corner of a building and hold on until the shaking stops. As well, people should be prepared to survive three days on their own, and have an escape kit in case they have to vacate their homes.
For more, visit www.whistler.ca/events/great-bc-shakeout-earthquake-drill.