The 9.0 earthquake that devastated British Columbia over 300 years ago was supposedly catastrophic. First Nations history reveals that the earthquake caused an ocean wave that washed out an entire village in Pachina Bay, leaving no survivors. The impact overall stretched from Vancouver Island to northern California. CBC recently released a podcast that walks the listener through what to do in the event of an earthquake. Earthquakes are certainly on people’s minds, especially with the second large earthquake in five years in Japan. It provokes the question: how ready are our schools? How ready are we?

Since 300 years ago, there has been a string of aggressive earthquakes, but none as violent as the occurrence on January 26, 1700. British Columbia is ‘conveniently’ located near the Ring of Fire on the Pacific Ocean. The tectonic plates that connect together on the ring often cause volcanic eruptions or earthquakes. The plates are always moving, even if we don’t notice. Every once in a while, the plates will get stuck together, and the amount of time spent stuck generates energy for seismic waves. Think of it as stress; it builds up considerably until it breaks apart. The ‘breaking apart’ releases the seismic waves, therefore creating an earthquake.

With all of this discussion about the possibilities of a horrendous earthquake, schools and businesses are taking positive steps toward being prepared. In an average Riverside emergency kit, there are first aid supplies, food rations, heat-reflective blankets, and trash bags. In some, there will be a deck of playing cards or a small game. All of those supplies are essential if students are stuck outside for a long time.

One school in District 43 recently had their emergency necessities stolen. Irvine Elementary is ranked as H1- meaning that if an earthquake were to hit the school it might not be repairable afterward. “Riverside is built to earthquake code, so it does not require seismic mitigation,” said Ms. Pam Becker, a vice principal at Riverside Secondary. Irvine’s classification poses a safety risk to the children currently attending and brings up the argument about what is the province is doing to prevent life-threatening damage because of weak buildings.

The Seismic Mitigation Program was created by British Columbia’s government a few years ago. The focus is to repair and rebuild any schools that would be seriously damaged in the event of a strong earthquake. As of October, 224 schools have been completed or are in progress. There are 118 remaining schools to be dealt with in this program. Irvine Elementary is one of the 42 schools that are still in the planning stage of this massive project. “Seismically, I believe that we are prepared,” said Ms. Bree Mireau, a science teacher at Riverside Secondary.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, a 9.0 earthquake in British Columbia will cost about $75 billion in overall damages. Buildings, power lines, and water lines are expected to cause the most devastation in the event of a catastrophic earthquake. With all of this talk about how destructive this earthquake will be, are BC residents prepared? The answer should be “yes,” but surveys say that only two-thirds of the province is ready.

Feature image courtesy of