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B.C. at significant risk if catastrophic earthquake hits: Report

B.C. Auditor General Russ Jones says British Columbians are at a significant risk if a catastrophic earthquake were to occur today.

In a new report Jones says Emergency Management BC, (EMBC), which is tasked with preparing the government’s response to an earthquake, is not adequately prepared and that neither the province nor EMBC has made preparing for one a priority.

Last year, the Insurance Bureau of Canada released a study that suggested we are not prepared physically or financially for a major earthquake in British Columbia.  It estimated the total economic loss after a magnitude 9 earthquake in the region off the coast of Vancouver Island to be $75 billion.

A 1997 report from B.C.’s Auditor General reached a similar conclusion on emergency management and the A.G.’s new report states over the last 17 years EMBC has not made significant progress.

“Successive governments have decided to allocate scarce public resources to meet more immediate pressing demands, rather than to adequately prepare the province for a catastrophic earthquake that may or may not occur,” says Jones. “EMBC’s current operating budget for emergency activities is approximately the same as it was in 2006. In addition, EMBC staff is busy with daily emergencies such as floods and fires so catastrophic earthquake planning is done as a side-of-desk activity.”

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READ MORE: City of Vancouver reveals earthquake preparedness plan

The report appears to have got the attention of the EMBC. The A.G.’s office says the agency is taking it seriously and is working to develop and implement strategies to address the emergency planning shortfalls.

The full report is available on the Office of the Auditor General website at: Catastrophic Earthquake Preparedness.