British Columbia

Shakeout on SkyTrain: B.C. practises what to do when an earthquake strikes

Across the province, more than 889,000 British Columbians are expected to take part Thursday morning in the province’s largest earthquake drill.

Great B.C. ShakeOut earthquake drill takes place across province Thursday morning at 10:18 a.m.

The Canada Line will soon have in place an earthquake early warning system created by Ocean Networks Canada. (CBC)

It's been a year since most British Columbians last practised how to "drop, cover and hold on" during an earthquake drill.

Many will get a refresher Thursday morning at 10:18 a.m. with the Great B.C. ShakeOut.

Across the province, more than 889,000 British Columbians are expected to take part in the province's largest earthquake drill.

"It's tough to think about the possibility of an earthquake impacting you and your family, it's hard to imagine and scary to think about," said Jennifer Rice, parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness.

"But knowledge is the key to safety, and that's why once again we're asking British Columbians to imagine an earthquake scenario."

Early detection 

Part of the knowledge is being able to predict, and prepare, before the world starts shaking.

Ocean Networks Canada created an early warning system to pick up on an earthquake's waves of energy and first ruptures in order to send a warning to the rest of the region.

"If that earthquake is right under your feet, no matter how good your earthquake detection system is, you won't get a warning," said Teron Moore, a researcher with Ocean Networks Canada.

"But if that earthquake is offshore, let's say 100 kilometres or so, you could get upwards of 60 seconds or more."

Researchers put eight seismic sensors along the ocean floor and 32 land-based sensors on Vancouver Island.  

If an earthquake strikes, people should drop to the ground, take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture or interior wall away from windows and try to stay protected from falling debris until the shaking stops. (The Canadian Press)

Earthquake practice on a SkyTrain

The Canada Line control centre, part of the SkyTrain system, is one group working with Ocean Networks Canada for advanced warning.

Ronald Powell, the general manager of the Canada Line, is running earthquake simulations using the early warning system.

"It enables us to work down a priority list of tasks that we can take on the Canada Line to ensure that we've given as much protection and additional safety to not only the passengers but our own workers," Powell said.

One of the main goals will be to get the trains to stop as close as possible to a station.

"We don't want trains stopped under False Creek in a large earthquake, we don't want trains on a bridge," he said.

"Structurally, we may have integrity but operationally, that's not necessarily the best place to be."

The earthquake detection sensors have been installed, but the system isn't expected to be completely up and running until March of next year.

For more on earthquake preparedness, listen to Faultlines, an original CBC Vancouver podcast. 

With files from The Early Edition and Megan Batchelor.

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