I wrote this report when I was in university. I just came across it again on this day of September 6, 2014, and thought it was kind of funny, because it was like I had to learn and report on everything that could possibly go wrong if there were an earthquake in my neighbourhood. At the time I was living in Burnaby, near Vancouver. So this report was specific to that area.
However, I think this is a good read for many of us. It wasn’t until I took the course in emergency preparedness (it was all about communication in disasters), that I learned how seriously an earthquake could affect us here in Vancouver. I’ve had this conversation with friends and family before. Hardly anyone gets the real picture when I discuss this. Our toilets probably won’t work. We will need to turn off our gas. No electricity will be present. And you shouldn’t expect someone to come save you for at least 72 hours (so I was told) if you need help after an earthquake hits.
Anyway, I found the earthquake report I wrote in university, and thought I’d publish it because after all, I have an “Anything Goes” category on my blog.
This is written academic style, so references are cited at the end, in case you’re wondering.
Earthquake awareness in Burnaby’s Douglas-Gilpin community
This report will look at potential hazards that may impact the city of Burnaby, B.C., in the event of a major earthquake as well as the social vulnerability of the people who live there. In particular, it will focus on the Douglas-Gilpin community, as outlined on some of the maps provided. The point of reference for this assignment will be a two-kilometer radius. It should be noted that although the Douglas-Gilpin community is highlighted on the provided maps, the area is not representative of a two-kilometer radius from the aforementioned address. The outline on the maps was used in accordance with the City of Burnaby’s official boundary of the Douglas-Gilpin community, of which my neighbourhood is a part. An approximate two-kilometer radius from this reference would stretch approximately as far as Boundary Road to the West, Brentwood Town Centre to the North, Kensington Avenue to the East and Dover Street to the South. For purposes of this assignment, ‘Douglas-Gilpin community’ will refer to the actual two-kilometer radius.
Burnaby is located at the heart of the Lower Mainland between Vancouver, New Westminster and Coquitlam. Burnaby is a growing urban centre home to landmarks in the Lower Mainland including Metrotown, BCIT, SFU and Burnaby Lake Regional Park. Both the Trans Canada Highway and SkyTrain cross through Burnaby. Burnaby is home to several businesses, including Telus, Kodak and industrial warehouses and distribution centers such as the Saputo Dairy factory (Draft Burnaby EDS, 2006). Burnaby has a significant amount of waterways and lakes, including Deer Lake and Burnaby Lake. To the North flows the Burrard Inlet. Burnaby covers 98.6 square kilometers (City of Burnaby, n.d.).
Burnaby has a population of 205,261, making it the third largest cluster of people in B.C. (City of Burnaby, n.d.). In 2001, citizens between the ages of 35 to 44 comprised the largest group of the population, followed by those between 25 and 34 and 0 and 14, suggesting a strong concentration of relatively young and growing families. The smallest age group is between 55 and 64, as it has been since 1991. However, the number of citizens above the age of 65 fares well with the other age groups, suggesting a significant number of elderly and retired in relation to the rest of the population (City of Burnaby, n.d.). Maps are provided to show the dispersion of age groups between 5 and 19 and above 65. Another map also shows the dispersion of all age groups in Burnaby.
Water, gas and electricity
Water comes to Burnaby from three sources: the Seymour, Coquitlam and Capilano reservoirs, with most coming from the first. The city has 678 kilometers of water main under its wing, along with 36, 000 water services (City of Burnaby, n.d.). Burnaby contains two lakes, Burnaby and Deer Lake, plus a number of waterways. Most waterways are located in the Northeast corner of the city on Burnaby Mountain. The waterway closest to the Douglas-Gilpin community is Beaver Creek. Deer Lake is located in the two-kilometer radius around 4989 Fulwell Street, while Burnaby Lake brushes its border. To the North is the Burrard Inlet (see ‘Burnaby Hydrology and Waterways’ map). In the event of an earthquake soil near waterways can liquefy, creating landslides and floods that would cause damage to buildings and other infrastructure that sit on weak ground. The Burrard Inlet is likely to behave this way should the Lower Mainland be hit with a major earthquake. This would affect Burnaby as potential floods make their way to Port Moody (Wood, 2005). According to the map provided showing Burnaby’s contours, the Douglas-Gilpin community sits at a valley beneath Burnaby Mountain, which could have more devastating implications for this area compared to other parts of Burnaby should flooding or landslides occur due to soil liquefaction.
The threat of a flood or landslide could mean damage to manmade structures such as gas pipelines and electricity wires that would create, at the least, a temporary delay in services. According to Terasen Gas,
“In other areas where major earthquakes have occurred, natural gas delivery systems similar to the Terasen Gas pipeline network have withstood ground movement extremely well. Most disruptions of gas service and other underground utilities have occurred because of landslides or the collapse of pipe-supporting structures such as bridges” (Terasen Gas, 2006).
This, of course, has yet to be tested should a major earthquake hit Vancouver. The water supply to the entire Vancouver area, including Burnaby and the Douglas-Gilpin Community, can also have effects on the underground electrical wires throughout the city. BC Hydro provides a more dramatic picture of what could happen in the even of an earthquake:
“In high-density city areas and many residential subdivisions, electrical distribution wires are in cable tunnels below the pavement…Underground systems are designed to withstand enormous stress but earth movement can crack tunnels plus nearby sewers, gas pipes and water mains. This can produce a hazardous mixture of explosive and toxic gases plus dangerously high-water levels. If cables fail under these conditions, they can produce explosions or fire that damage insulation and energizes all the metal inside the vault” (BC Hydro, 2006).
As seen on the map provided, Burnaby is full of manholes where operations of underground electricity are maintained (2006). This could mean a potential threat of a substantial number of fires in the event of an earthquake. As noted by Ustik, broken water containers could mean that fires will continue burning for longer periods of time due to lack of immediately available water to put them out (Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts, 1998).
Business and industry
In Burnaby are located eight heavy industry sites, most of them petroleum companies, including the controversial Chevron refinery (Draft Burnaby EDS, 2006). Five of these heavy industries are located on the shore of the Burrard Inlet. This is significant should flooding actually occur during an earthquake as harmful chemicals may be released. The Chevron plant has already created concern for Burnaby residents. In the 1990s, a spill of a chemical now being banned in the US affected an area as large as 22, 500 square feet and deep as 100 feet. Since then, other research has been done, suggesting that contaminations were more common than previously known and that, though they may be decreasing, speculation has it that chemicals are only being directed to the Burrard Inlet (Knox, 2003).
Due to Burnaby’s convenient location between Vancouver’s major urban centre and surrounding suburbs, many light industry companies have settled in the city to make transportation of goods an easier task. These companies include the Saputo (the old Dairyworld) milk factory and Summit Logistics, the warehouse and distribution centre for Safeway (Draft Burnaby EDS, 2006). The location of these factories and warehouses would be significant in a major earthquake if there were a need for goods to be transported to other parts of the Lower Mainland. This essay will discuss transportation and emergency routes later.
Information, technology and communications have come to characterize Burnaby’s business sector (Draft Burnaby EDS, 2006). Among those located in the city are major and leading companies such as Telus, Rogers Communication, Fido Solutions, Nokia, Kodak and Norstat International. Along with these, Burnaby is also the site of the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), which sits in the Douglas-Gilpin community, and Simon Fraser University (SFU). Although these sites may not be hazards in themselves, a severe disruption could be caused if the buildings housing these innovative companies and institutions were damaged, and if that damage were to affect integral equipment, such as computer networks, that are essential to maintaining communication in the event of an earthquake. It should also be noted that information technology is an emerging sector in Burnaby while communication is a transforming one (2006). Damage to these businesses in Burnaby could mean a huge loss of economic investment and inconvenience to the Douglas-Gilpin community and elsewhere.
Burnaby is connected to the Trans Canada Highway at four locations, including some in the Douglas-Gilpin community. This route is central to connecting various communities to each other in the Lower Mainland. In the event of an earthquake, traffic accidents could impede hasty communication and coordination of delivery of items that may need to be transferred for emergency purposes. It could also make it difficult for family members to connect with each other or to find other places to stay should their home be unlivable after a major earthquake. However, the Trans Canada Highway is not a designated disaster response route by government. In Burnaby, the closest disaster response route to the Douglas-Gilpin community is Boundary road, which is two kilometers West of 4989 Fulwell Street. Other disaster response routes can be seen on the provided map from the Ministry of Transportation (Government of British Columbia, n.d.).
Eleven SkyTrain stations serve Burnaby (Draft Burnaby EDS, 2006). These can be viewed on the provided map outlining Burnaby’s public transportation system. Information could not be found on the Translink Web site as to safety measures undertaken with regards to infrastructure of the SkyTrain or any emergency planning information to do with earthquakes. The Expo line and the Millennium line both run through Burnaby, the former opening in 1986 and the latter in 2001 (Railway Technology, 2006). It is unclear whether either of these lines will sustain an earthquake, but it is likely that the older one may be more cause for worry due perhaps to outdated seismic codes or aging equipment.
Burnaby also has train tracks that run through the Douglas-Gilpin community and a CNR Tunnel that runs underground from the Second Narrows railway bridge to Gilmore Avenue, just north of the two-kilometer radius from 4989 Fulwell Street (McKenzie, 2005). The CNR Tunnel was built in 1969, which means that it might not meet current seismic standards. However, the strength and durability of the tunnel is unknown and extensive information about the tunnel was beyond the scope of the researcher for purposes of this assignment. However, in contemplating potential hazards, it is plausible that the tunnel could become a danger if there were a rail accident involving chemicals inside of it during a major earthquake. This also goes for any rail lines that are above ground, as most seem to pass through highly populated areas in Burnaby, including the Douglas-Gilpin community, either business or residential.
At-risk populations and community capacity
Children and under-age young adults
There are six elementary schools in the vicinity of the Douglas-Gilpin community (including the two kilometer radius from 4989 Fulwell Street). These include Douglas Road, Gilpin, Inman, Cascade Heights, Brentwood Park, and Parkcrest. There are also two secondary schools, Burnaby Central and Moscrop. In the event of an emergency, especially an earthquake, the Burnaby School District appears well prepared to care for the students under their supervision. Not only does the school district have a district wide emergency plan, the Burnaby Earthquake Emergency Plan (BEEP), but each school is also responsible for preparedness in the event of an emergency. Earthquake drills are performed at least once a year and in some places (not listed) the district also has plans to care for those not able to leave the area for an extended period of time, though details on how long school provisions will last is not specified (Burnaby School District, 2006).
The Province of British Columbia has plans to upgrade schools that are not up to current seismic standards. A total of 95 schools where assessed and deemed to be in priority need of upgrading. The current plan is to upgrade those ‘priority’ schools within the next 15 years. Douglas Road Elementary is on the list of Burnaby schools to be upgraded in this time period (Province of British Columbia, n.d.). In addition, the Burnaby School District provides the following information on its Web site about the current structure of its schools:
“All new capital and renovation work in the district includes a structural upgrading component. In addition, the government currently provides some annual funding for non-structural seismic upgrading (such things as upgrades and improvements to roofs, ceilings, light fixtures, shelving and millwork, as well as the anchoring of portable classrooms)” (Burnaby School District, 2006).
The location of schools and the age distribution of this population group can be found on the provided maps.
The Douglas-Gilpin Community has a care home for the elderly located at 4279 Norland Avenue. The care centre is called Dania Society and has four buildings, each to meet different levels of care (Dania Society, 2006). The buildings cover 7.5 acres of land – a significant area for Burnaby’s aged population, which can be viewed on the maps provided. Dania Home is a building with 73 beds for those in need of care around the clock (2006). It is staffed with nurses, which means that elderly victims in that facility will have medical care after an earthquake should the need arise. However, there are three other buildings, one being an Assisted Living facility with 24-hour support and the other two senior’s apartment buildings. The society was founded in 1941 and the apartment building, Carl Mortensen Manor, with 49 units, was built in 1993 (2006). It is not noted whether seismic upgrades have been completed on the buildings. It may be that shelter will need to be provided to seniors in the event that any of the Dania buildings, especially the older ones, are unsafe after a major earthquake.
Single Parent Families and Low Income Households
The Douglas-Gilpin community does not seem to have a significant amount of low-income or single parent families. The higher numbers of this category in this community are mostly located along Canada way and closer to Brentwood Town Centre to the North. It should be noted that part of this population includes the area where the Dania Society is located. These details can be seen on the maps provided.
Should the need arise for families to receive care beyond their own capacity, the city has facilities that may be of aid to them. Part of Burnaby’s Emergency Social Services plan is to have nearby schools and recreation centers act as shelters for those left homeless after a disaster, and this is especially true for high schools (Burnaby School District, 2006). The schools that are available to the Douglas-Gilpin community have been noted above, however it is likely that the Douglas elementary school will be unavailable for such needs if a major earthquake were to occur before it is seismically updated. In either case, families should be ready to take care of themselves for 72 hours before such aid can be made available. After an emergency event, each building designated to be a shelter will need to be assessed and volunteers coordinated before it can be deemed suitable for this purpose (2006).
It should also be noted, while assessing community capacity to handle a major quake, that the Douglas-Gilpin community is home to the Burnaby branch of the Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints located at 5280 Kincaid Street. For religious reasons, Mormons are actively taught to be “self reliant” and to prepare for emergencies by maintaining extensive food storage systems in their homes (Provident Living, 2006). The religious group maintains a Web site, providentliving.org, with comprehensive information on food storage advice and instruction, home food preparation, emergency planning and maintaining financial sufficiency. The site even includes a video! (2006). The fact that a Mormon branch exists in the Douglas Gilpin community suggests that there must be a community of emergency-prepared Mormons in the area. The Mormons are advised to have at least a year’s supply of back-up food in their home (2006), and in an emergency, it may be that this group will be a resource of essential items to the community. If not that, then at least it can be assumed that that part of the population will not need assistance, and more government resources can be allocated to helping those desperately in need in the event of a major earthquake.
English as a Second Language
The Douglas-Gilpin community mostly has English as their native tongue. The Northern part of this district and some small areas to the West have strong concentrations of non-native English speakers. However, though the numbers are not very strong, they are still notable. The map provided shows where these populations are dispersed around Burnaby and the Douglas-Gilpin community. In the even of an emergency, vital communication will need to be delivered to these populations. Translation will be required if necessary, however, based on personal observation, it is usually children of these families who have been integrated into the B.C. school system that are able to take responsibility of most English communication for their families. One cause for concern, however, is that these populations may not have grown up in a seismically sensitive area, and may not be aware of Earthquake preparedness procedures, or how to protect themselves in the event of an earthquake (i.e. the common ‘stop, drop and cover’ taught in B.C. schools). They may also not have local family members to go to if their home is unsafe to live in after an earthquake. These populations may be hit the hardest in the event of a major earthquake and measures will need to be taken to care for them. In this respect, non-profit organizations such as Immigrant Services Society, the Afghan Association or the Uganda Cultural Association (all located in Burnaby) (iconvilliage.com, 2004) will become essential.
Additional community capacity
Burnaby, like all other municipalities in British Columbia, is equipped with an emergency coordinator and emergency planning committee responsible for designing strategies for “mitigating against, preparing for, responding to, recovering from emergencies and disasters” (City of Burnaby, n.d.). Police and fire teams are also operative within Burnaby and can be located on the community map provided. On a higher level, the British Columbia Provincial Emergency Program has several disaster plans in place and available to the public via their Web site. The Earthquake Response Plan, however, is dated 1999 and is currently under revision (Provincial Emergency Program, 2006).
Burnaby is also home to several non-profit organizations, including Immigrant Services Society, St. Leonard’s Youth and Family Service Society and the United Way of the Lower Mainland, to name a few (Draft Burnaby EDS, 2006). Burnaby also has educational institutions outside the School District that may serve as reception centers after an earthquake (2006). BCIT sits in the Douglas-Gilpin community and its large campus may serve as a place for pitching tents if homes are unavailable to citizens. Also, many church buildings are located in Burnaby. At least seven of these buildings are in the Douglas-Gilpin community and can be found on the community map provided. The Douglas-Gilpin community is also at an advantage by having the Burnaby General Hospital in its district, so help will be close at hand.
To finalize this discussion, recommendations will be made to the City of Burnaby and the Douglas-Gilpin community. It is first recommended that active action be taken to involve the community in emergency planning education. In particular, for those immigrant populations, it could be efficient to use the non-profit organizations servicing them to communicate the need to be prepared in the event of an earthquake in B.C. Every household should learn how to turn off their gas and water to prevent fires and flooding after an earthquake due to soil liquefaction. Learning from the Mormon church in regard to food storage may also be useful in teaching citizens how to prepare for an emergency. A working group should also be set up, so that the Douglas-Gilpin neighbourhood is prepared to assist each other in the event of an earthquake. For example, if one neighbour has children who are in school during the day but works far away, arrangements could be made to have another neighbour pick up the children and care for them until parents can make their way back to the community.
On a larger scale, I follow the recommendations of Adam Ustik, which he made to members of parliament in 1998 (Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts, 1998). A first aid course should be implemented as part of the B.C. school system and be required for graduation. Also, all those wishing to obtain a drivers license must also complete a first aid class or similar orientation to safety practices. This will ensure that there will be some in every community who will be able to aid those in need of medical attention when professional help is unable to reach them immediately (1998).
BC Hydro. (2006). Earthquake Safety. Retrieved October 20, 2006 from http://18.104.22.168/safety/emergency/emergency657.html
Burnaby School District. (2006). Emergency Planning. Retrieved October 22, 2006 from http://www.sd41.bc.ca/staff/emergency_planning.htm
City of Burnaby. (n.d.). Burnaby Emergency Program. Retrieved October 23, 2006 from http://www.burnaby.ca/residents/safety/emrgnc.html
City of Burnaby. (2006). Draft Burnaby Economic Development Strategy 2020. Retrieved October, 20, 2006 from http://www.city.burnaby.bc.ca/business/profile/bnbyed.html#draft
City of Burnaby. (n.d.). History of Burnaby. Retrieved October 20, 2006 from http://www.city.burnaby.bc.ca/visitors/about/hstryh.html
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Providence Living. (2006). Food Storage and Emergency Preparedness. Retrieved October 22, 2006 from http://www.providentliving.org/channel/0,11677,1706-1,00.html
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Railway Technology. (2006). Vancouver SkyTrain Light Rail Network, Canada. Retrieved October 22, 2006 from http://www.railway-technology.com/projects/vancouver/
Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts. (November, 1998). Transcripts of Proceedings (Hansard). Issue No. 45. Retrieved October 23, 2006 from http://www.leg.bc.ca/CMT/36thParl/CMT12/hansard/t12_1124.htm
Terasen Gas. (2006). Pipeline Safety. Retrieved October 20, 2006 from http://www.terasengas.com/_Safety/PipelineSafety/default.htm
Wood, D. (2005). Waiting for the Big One. Discover Vancouver. Retrieved October, 20, 2006 from http://www.discovervancouver.com/gvb/big-one.asp