Canada’s west coast is getting a new earthquake early-warning system.
By Erica Gies
It’s an ordinary Tuesday morning in Vancouver, British Columbia, and people are heading to work on the SkyTrain. The train pulls up to the station … and waits. Down the street, the doors of a firehall clang open automatically. At the hospital, a surgeon gets an alert and pulls her scalpel away from her patient. On the street, cellphones begin to squeal and display a message: “Earthquake! Earthquake! Drop, cover, hold on. Expect strong shaking.” Sirens sound across the city.
This scenario hasn’t happened yet, but within the next few years, it could, says Teron Moore, an earthquake and tsunami emergency planning expert at Ocean Networks Canada (ONC). In 2016, motivated by the destruction wrought by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the BC government earmarked nearly CAD $5-million for ONC to develop an earthquake early-warning system for Canada’s West Coast. The prototype system, expected to be deployed by spring 2019, will give people up to 90 seconds of warning for an earthquake and several minutes for a tsunami.
Ninety seconds may not sound like much, says Kate Moran, president and chief executive officer of ONC, but “you can do a lot in a few seconds.”