Participation increasing in annual earthquake drill

Victoria residents are becoming more aware of the potential natural disasters that could occur in the area.

Victoria residents are becoming more aware of the potential natural disasters that could occur in the area and are preparing for such events, according to the B.C. Earthquake Alliance.

As part of the sixth annual ShakeOut BC drill this week, for two minutes, thousands of British Columbians will drop to the floor, take cover under a desk or piece of furniture, and hold on as part of the province-wide earthquake drill.

There are more than 730,000 residents, businesses and schools registered for the drill across the province, with roughly 206,000 people registered from Vancouver Island.

Rob Johns, emergency coordinator with the City of Victoria, said there’s been a steady increase in the number of people participating each year.

“Victoria does have a one in three probability of a damaging earthquake occurring over the next 50 years, so the earthquake risk is real,” he said. “We’ve learned from communities around the world that have had earthquakes that people who are more prepared, do better, they’re generally safer and they recover faster from the event.”

The drill also reminds organizations and residents to check their emergency plans and supplies, and educate staff on evacuation and first-aid procedures during an earthquake.

“We live in a beautiful area of the world, but there are risks in the areas that we live and quite frankly, the culture of our residents is such that we enjoy the beauty but ignore the risks, and so changing that culture to understand that we need to prepare ourselves for an event is key,” said Dave Cockle, Oak Bay fire chief and president of the B.C. Earthquake Alliance.

He added social media has been a key tool in getting information out, but also reminds people to be prepared at home.

“What we’re preparing for is the everyday one,” Cockle said. “There’s still going to be significant damage to our building and infrastructure because it was built, some of it, 100 years ago. We have an inherent opportunity to prepare ourselves and plan for the future.”

CFB Esquimalt will also utilize its mass notification system (MNS) for the shakeout. The audible siren, which sounds much like an emergency vehicle, will last approximately one minute, beginning at 10:14 a.m. A short voice message will accompany.

The Pacific Coast is one of the most earthquake prone regions in Canada. In the last 70 years, the offshore region to the west of Vancouver Island has had more than 100 earthquakes of magnitudes five or greater.

ShakeOut BC takes place on Thursday, Oct. 15 at 10:15 a.m. It is the largest earthquake drill in Canadian history. To register, visit shakeoutbc.ca.