British Columbia·Analysis

B.C. earthquake inspires 'we will rebuild' jokes, but few are really prepared

British Columbian are joking about the earthquake that hit before midnight Tuesday, but jokes aside, experts say it's time to get prepared.

Minor B.C. quake shakes some furniture, but experts urge people to consider it a wake-up call

Vancouverites joked about the minor earthquake hours after it hit, but complacency about preparedness troubles experts. (Cassandra Bailey/Twitter)

Hours after a deep underground shift sent a 10-second shudder through the South Coast of B.C., many residents hit social media to make light of the biggest earthquake to hit the region in years.

The tremor, which rattled homes and highrises from Port Angeles to Vancouver at 11:39 p.m. PT Tuesday, was recorded as 4.7 magnitude in Canada and 4.8 magnitude in Washington state.

But that was strong enough to sprout memes over social media under the hashtags #vancouverstrong and #wewillrecover, mocking the quake's minor effects, other than to cause an annoying shutdown of SkyTrain.

Many posted images of tipped chairs, toppled pop cans or felled fuzzy toys with the caption: "We will rebuild."

"It took me a couple of hours to notice the damage in my office," tweeted @Fancysez.

Some even taunted the forces of nature.

"This earthquake was such a tease ... We want the big one! tweeted @TheBroker604.

911 swamped by nuisance calls

But not everybody was so flippant about the tectonic shiver.

While some people joked, others panicked about whether their homes would crumble or a big quake was coming.

In the heat of the moment, Vancouver's 911 system was hit with 247 calls in 15 minutes,

"Most of the calls were informational: Was that an earthquake? What should I do? How bad was that earthquake? Will there be another one? Even some people calling to tell us there was an earthquake," said Jody Robertson of E-Comm.

Nobody should be calling that number if it is not an emergency, said Robertson.

"I can appreciate that it was a frightening experience, but there are so many other ways to get information."

How to respond

So were the 911 callers overreacting? And were the jokers being too glib?

"A little bit, yeah, but it's important to realize it could have been a much larger earthquake," said Prof. Carlos Ventura, director of engineering research at UBC. 

Ventura said the shake-up is a reminder to turn attention to preparation, particularly at home, where people need to be ready for the big one to hit.

Despite past warnings, "People are not interested," said Jackie Kloosterboer, who runs the City of Vancouver's education program on earthquake preparedness.

It's really scary ... People are not interested ... I think people are complacent.–Jackie Kloosterboer, author of My Earthquake Preparedness Guide

Kloosterboer said only about 20 per cent of people are prepared, and even an earthquake like the one near Victoria does not seem to wake people up.

"I think they are complacent. We get little shakers. We've never had the big one people talk about," she said.

"My phone is going to be ringing off the hook next week," she said, but then interest fades away quickly and people end up doing little to prepare.

"It's really scary. The city provides free sessions on earthquake preparedness that we do in our community centres and we cancel a lot of them."

Kloosterboer warns that Tuesday night's quake may have been a piece of cake, but next time might be different if the big one hits.


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