Vancouver Island without an integrated earthquake warning system

Vancouver Island without an integrated earthquake warning system

This post was updated September 26, 2017 to clarify an earlier version

Seismologist Gary Rogers explains how Tuesday’s Mexico City earthquake can happen on the west coast of B.C.

“The setting in Mexico City is very similar to the setting that we have here,” Rogers said.

Tuesday’s quake originated on a fault within the Cocos plate, which is on Mexico’s western edge.

“Mexico has had warning ever since, after that big earthquake in the 1990’s,” Rogers said. “And again, they are just targeting to be effective with big earthquakes offshore.”

But there is no integrated public warning system in place in BC, yet.

There is a patchwork of early warning systems already online in the province. One is B.C.’s Smart Infrastructure Monitoring System, with 100 stations strategically placed throughout critical buildings such as schools and fire halls on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.  These sensors would give twenty seconds warning in the event of an earthquake.

Some private companies offer warning systems for sale to homes and businesses as well. But so far the various systems don’t work together to provide advance notice of impending shaking to everyone in harm’s way.

Benoit Pirenne is with Ocean Network Canada.  The UVic-based centre began installing sensors in the waters in and around Vancouver Island more than a decade ago to collect research and detect a major earthquake in the Pacific Ocean, and the BC government gave $5-million in funding to expand the sensor network in 2016.

“All these sensors, all the sights that you see on the map of Vancouver Island, either in red or in green, represent the sensors that will help us pinpoint earthquakes as soon as possible,” Pirenne said.

The network of sensors will be able to detect an earthquake occurring in real time.  It won’t be finished until 2019.

“The advantage of having your sensors as close as possible to the action, is to maximize the time that we can provide Vancouver and Victoria with an alert,” Pirenne said.



Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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