As the Geological Survey of Canada previously reported, more than 4000 earthquakes are recorded in the nation each year. Around a quarter of those happens in the western areas alone.
While only 1.3% of the 4000 earthquakes are big enough to be felt, most occur along the Cascadia subduction zone just off the coast of BC. This is the fault line where the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate sinks below the North American plate. Being so close to this boundary, BC is considered as one of the most vulnerable and seismically active regions in all of Canada.
Earthquakes can have enduring and destructive effects; megathrust earthquakes, which happen at subduction zones like the one near BC, often trigger tsunamis and result in further devastation. With BC at high risk, it’s vital to frequently rehearse what to do during an earthquake so you are ready if you are ever caught in one.
Remember the survival steps
When an earthquake strikes, you must react quickly to minimize risks of injury and death. Once you feel the ground shaking, immediately:
Drop, cover, and hold on if you’re physically able to.
- Drop to the ground on your hands and knees. If you use a cane, lower yourself to the ground as much as possible and keep your cane near you.
- Cover the back of your head and neck and take shelter under something sturdy, such as a desk or table.
- If you are inside and cannot find one near you, crawl to a corner or wall inside the building while continuing to protect your head and neck.
- If you’re outside, find an open area away from buildings, trees, power lines, streetlights, and other potential hazards.
- Hold on to the legs of the desk or other sturdy objects until the shaking has stopped for a full minute.
Lock, cover, and hold on if you use a wheelchair or a walker.
- Lock your wheels in place after getting to a safe area (find options under “Cover” in the list above) and stay seated. If your walker does not have a seat, use it to get as low as possible to the ground.
- Cover the back of your head and neck. For further protection, cover these areas with a book, pillow, bag, briefcase, coat, or anything else you have.
- Hold on to something sturdy until the shaking has stopped for a full minute.
Pull over, stop, and put on your handbrake if you are in a car.
- Pull over to a clear location. Avoid bridges, overpasses, power lines, and other potential hazards.
- Stop the car. Remain seated with your seatbelt fastened.
- Put on your handbrake and stay inside the vehicle until the shaking has stopped for a full minute.
Pack an earthquake emergency kit
Having an emergency kit prepared will allow you to stay self-sufficient until the earthquake passes and help arrives. Include enough necessities to last at least three days. Store this kit in a place you can easily access, even during a power outage.
Here are some basic supplies to include:
- Water – each person should have at least six litres (two for each day spent in an emergency); pack more if possible
- Non-perishable foods – canned or dried foods, granola/energy bars, and a manual can opener
- First-aid supplies
- Your emergency plan – this should detail what you and the people you live with should do in an emergency
- Cash – ideally, at least $30 in $5 and $10 bills
- Supplies for sanitation – hand sanitizer, wet wipes, garbage bags, toilet paper, soap, toothbrushes, and toothpaste
- Battery-powered or wind-up radio and flashlight, with extra batteries
- Phone charger or power bank
- Seasonal clothes and blankets
Remember that while these are the main essentials, you may need to adjust and pack according to your personal situation. Additional items include medications, extra pairs of glasses or contact lenses, infant formula and diapers, and equipment for people with disabilities. Your to-pack list may also grow if you have any pets. Assess what you need and how much space to allocate for them. If you live with others, you may want to pack the items in separate grab-and-go bags for individual use.
It’s always important to be informed and prepared so you know what to do when an earthquake happens, especially due to the higher risk BC faces. For more information and to keep updated about earthquakes in BC, visit the Natural Resources Canada website (earthquakescanada.nrcan.gc.ca/index-en.php).
BC, Emergency Management. “Build an Emergency Kit and Grab-and-Go Bag.” Province of British Columbia. Province of British Columbia, July 15, 2022. www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-management/preparedbc/build-an-emergency-kit-and-grab-and-go-bag.
Canada, Public Safety. “Earthquakes – What to Do?” Public Safety Canada, January 15, 2015. getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/rthqks-wtd/index-en.aspx.
Government of Canada, Natural Resources Canada. “Frequently Asked Questions about Earthquakes (FAQ).” Government of Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Hazards Information Service. Government of Canada / Gouvernement du Canada, March 1, 2019. earthquakescanada.ca/info-gen/faq-en.php.
Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “Get Prepared for an Earthquake.” Province of British Columbia. Province of British Columbia, July 15, 2022. www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-management/preparedbc/know-your-hazards/earthquakes-tsunamis/earthquakes.