Over 1,850 people in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District have registered to dive under desks as part of a province-wide earthquake drill, The Great British Columbia ShakeOut on Oct. 18.
The drill follows on the heels of the Resort Municipality of Whistler's Hazard, Risk and Vulnerability Assessment report released over the summer that found Whistler is located within seismic zone four, considered at high-risk for earthquake damage.
The report identifies five hazards to Whistler with a rating of high. These include: earthquake, wild fire, volcano, interruption to water supply and snowstorm.
Garry Rogers, a seismologist for the Geological Survey of Canada confirms that Whistler is indeed at risk of an earthquake. Rogers said the probability of an earthquake occurring with shaking strong enough to cause damage in Whistler is 15 to 20 per cent in the next 50 years.
Rogers said the last major earthquake in B.C. occurred just off the coast of Vancouver Island on June 23, 1946 with a magnitude of 7.3. However, he believes Whistler residents should be more concerned about closer range earthquakes than ones originating in the Pacific Ocean.
"In Whistler a smaller earthquake close to town would be more damaging than a larger earthquake off the coast of Vancouver Island. Whistler will feel a large earthquake, but damage would likely be limited. However a smaller earthquake nearby or under foot would create more damage."
"There aren't any active faults on land in British Columbia that we're aware of," said Rogers. "It's not like California where active faults are visible on the desert floor. Here we can't see any faults, but it doesn't mean they aren't there. For example in Christchurch, New Zealand scientists weren't aware of an inland fault so close to the city until the shaking started. There is a possibility of a fault close by Whistler but we just haven't found it yet."
Rogers insists that residents don't need to live their life in fear of an earthquake, but encourages people to be prepared just in case. He recommends stocking up on food supplies that will last for several days, and to read up on the municipality's emergency program found online at www.whistler.ca.
Schools within the Sea to Sky corridor have a comprehensive emergency program in the event of an earthquake and students are the majority of participants taking part in the ShakeOut earthquake drill.
Whistler Waldorf School students will be taking cover under desks for ShakeOut and in the event of an actual major emergency such as an earthquake, the school has an emergency plan in place. They have a parent call-out list with phone trees for each class, should email or Internet be down. The school also has emergency food supplies including food, water and blankets for all classes, along with first aid kits.
"Essentially we are prepared to care for the children, until parents are able to reach the school to pick them up," says Aegir Morgan, Whistler Waldorf School principal. "In extreme cases, we would arrange billeting within the school families with permission from parents if they are delayed overnight."
Visit www.shakeoutbc.ca for more information on The Great British Columbia ShakeOut.