Government of Canada Helps Protect Canadians with Earthquake Early Warning System
January 26, 2023 Victoria, British Columbia Natural Resources Canada
Across Canada, natural disasters like floods, landslides, wildfires and earthquakes are affecting the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Canadians.
Today, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, along with Bowinn Ma, British Columbia Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness, announced that British Columbia is installing up to 50 earthquake early warning sensors in high seismic risk areas. These sensors will connect to the national Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) system that will be operational in 2024, supplementing and complementing several hundred sensors already installed by Natural Resources Canada.
The system will give seconds to tens of seconds of warning before the strongest shaking arrives at coastal communities in British Columbia and will assist in the protection of critical transportation infrastructure in British Columbia. In the spring of 2022, the first sensors for the national EEW system were installed at the BC Ferries’ terminal at Horseshoe Bay as part of a suite of initiatives being brought forward by the Government of Canada to strengthen the safety, security and resilience of Canada’s emergency readiness infrastructure.
Building on NRCan’s long history as the authoritative source for earthquake information for Canada, NRCan’s EEW system will provide notification of earthquakes through a network of sensors and alerting systems for at-risk areas around the country. The EEW system provides seconds to tens of seconds of notice before strong shaking starts, warnings that can help reduce injuries, deaths and property losses. It will be used to generate alerts for critical infrastructure, industry and the public, helping to protect people, communities, infrastructure and the environment during an event where every second counts. When the full system is operational in 2024, more than 10 million people in Canada living in the most earthquake-prone regions of the country will receive Earthquake Early Warning alerts, providing a few precious seconds to take action: usually to drop, cover and hold on.
Alerts from the EEW system could also be used by infrastructure safety systems to take action automatically, such as:
● Triggering trains to slow down
● Stopping traffic from driving onto bridges or into tunnels
● Diverting incoming air traffic
● Allowing surgeons to stop surgery
● Closing gas valves
● Opening fire hall and ambulance bay doors
The EEW system is part of a number of investments across multiple departments that represent the federal government’s commitment to meeting shared priorities under the Emergency Management Strategy for Canada (EMS). This strategy was developed in partnership with provincial and territorial governments and in consultation with diverse stakeholders and Indigenous organizations. In Budget 2019, the Government of Canada committed to invest $151 million over five years, with $9.2 million ongoing to support the federal implementation of the Emergency Management Strategy.
The Government of Canada along with provinces, territories and Indigenous partners will continue to engage and work together to strengthen mitigation, preparedness and response efforts to natural disasters such as earthquakes and ensure the safety of everyone who lives in at-risk regions of Canada.
“Being situated in the most earthquake-prone area of Canada, British Columbians know that earthquake preparedness will save lives, protect key infrastructure systems and reduce property damage. Our government will continue to invest in emergency preparedness initiatives like the Earthquake Early Warning system to better protect Canadians and communities across the country from natural hazards.”
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson
Minister of Natural Resources
“The Cascadia Megathrust Earthquake that occurred on January 26, 1700, was one of the world’s strongest earthquakes, causing widespread destruction to coastal Indigenous communities and producing a tsunami that swept across the Pacific Ocean. An early earthquake warning system is critical to our ability to help British Columbians mitigate the impacts of another major seismic event. By installing these sensors, we will help provide critical seconds of notice in the event of an earthquake, so that people, businesses and automated systems can take protective action.”
British Columbia Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness
There are approximately 5,000 earthquakes across Canada each year. Earthquakes can damage infrastructure, destroy buildings, cause power outages, displace communities, and even lead to fatalities.
Earthquakes in Canada are most common along the Pacific Coast of British Columbia with approximately 20 percent also occurring along the St. Lawrence River and Ottawa River valleys.
Starting in 2024, Canadians living in seismically active areas will be able to receive an emergency notification or alert that an earthquake has occurred and that they should take immediate steps to protect themselves from potential strong shaking.
The Canadian National Public Alerting System (NPAS) is a federal, provincial and territorial system that provides emergency management organizations throughout Canada with the capability to warn the public about imminent or unfolding hazards.
On January 26, 1700, the west coast of North America experienced a massive megathrust (magnitude 9) earthquake with a subsequent tsunami.
If a similar megathrust earthquake were to occur today, the National EEW system could deliver up to four minutes of warning before the strongest shaking begins to coastal communities in British Columbia.
Natural Resources Canada
Office of the Minister of Natural Resources
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