British Columbia

Is B.C.'s government ready for an earthquake?

Minister maintains B.C. has implemented measures since auditor-general's report said it was unprepared

October 17, 2016

Crews practice at a simulated collapsed hospital during earthquake rescue training. (Tim Weekes/CBC)

After a 2014 report from B.C.'s auditor general that declared the province was not adequately prepared for a catastrophic earthquake, the province says it is now attempting to remedy the situation.

One of its first initiatives was to appoint Naomi Yamamoto as a dedicated minister of state for emergency preparedness in 2015.


Yamamoto said the province has done many things since the report was released, including: creating an immediate response plan, holding a large scale mock emergency exercise in Port Alberni, introducing a disaster training program for school children and spending billions on seismically upgrading buildings and bridges.

"There's a lot of work to do still," Yamamoto said. "We need to really up that bar."

Changing attitudes

One of the key areas the province is focusing on, Yamamoto said, is education.

Her department has launched the Master of Disaster program, an earthquake-preparedness curriculum for children in Grade 6.

"We're focusing on the kids and hoping that they take that home to talk about being prepared," she said, also acknowledging that more should be done to educate adults.

She said part of the problem is that British Columbians have been lulled into a false sense of security.

"What is hard for us in British Columbia or in the Lower Mainland, we don't get these constant reminders that you get in California, that you get in Chile, that you get in Japan," she said.

She said despite provincial measures, survivors are going to have be to be responsible for taking care of themselves in the first days following the earthquake, as help may not be able to get to them depending on the damage.

That means having enough food, water and medical supplies to last a minimum of 72 hours but ideally a week or two, she said.

Are schools ready?

Students take cover under their desks during an earthquake drill. Many B.C. schools are in the process of seismically upgrading their infrastructure to withstand an earthquake. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Another key area Yamamoto said the provincial government is working on is ensuring infrastructure — particularly schools — is seismically ready.

"We have invested over a billion dollars. There are over 150 high-risk projects in schools that are completed," she said. "There's over half a billion allocated to projects in the next three-year capital plan."

Despite this, she said, there are 70 schools in the process of being upgraded and many more that need to be upgraded.

With files from The Early Edition

To hear the interview, click on the link labelled Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness Naomi Yamamoto on B.C.'s earthquake plan

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