Apathy and earthquakes don’t mix

Photo Credit: Rachelle Tjahyana
Photo Credit: Rachelle Tjahyana
Photo Credit: Rachelle Tjahyana

I’ll admit, I haven’t yet taken the time or $20 to make my own earthquake survival kit. It’s a simple thing to do, really. Nothing a sheer half hour spree at Canadian Tire couldn’t accomplish: flashlight, first aid kit, radio, bottled water.

So why haven’t I yet? I’ve been aware of the possibility of a massive-scale earthquake for ages — even before I rolled into this city. Come to think of it, hundreds of earthquakes greater than magnitude 1.5 hit the West Coast last year alone. BC’s Pacific Coast, according to Natural Resources Canada, has the highest potential to be struck by an earthquake — more than any other place in the country.

The recent disaster in Nepal has sent BC media reeling with fresh warnings of our continent’s impending doom: the big one, the lurking monster that bubbles menacingly beneath the ocean surface, and potentially only for another 50 years. The question clearly isn’t ‘if’ an enormous earthquake and its offspring tsunami will come roaring over the coast, it’s ‘when.’

Yet amidst the constant Internet babble, the newspaper warnings, the editorials, flyers, and radio announcements, Vancouverites, along with the rest of the province, continue to sit with their thumbs up their butts. It’s not that we aren’t aware, we just don’t care. And I mean we really don’t care.

Not one person I know living in the Lower Mainland (myself included!) is prepared for a possible disaster similar to, or even worse than the terror that struck Nepal.

“Yeah right, it’ll happen in like 5,000 years,” my roommate scoffed the other night.

“Yeah right, it’ll happen in like 5,000 years,” my nonchalant roommate scoffed in our kitchen the other night. “Scientists never seem to know what they’re talking about.” A blatant air of doubt has clearly helped to foster our widespread apathy towards the issue, an apathy also rooted in our subconscious denial.

I got to work. I go to school. I go for runs. I sleep. My life occurs in a city that’s solid and secure every single day. It rains, it shines, then it rains a lot more. This is normalcy, nothing will change. How could it? Life is perfect here. Our uncertainty toward our current predicament has led us to be inactive; we’re sure that something terrible could never happen to us, and in turn we become falsely optimistic. Ho hum!

Well sorry to bombard you all with pessimism but here are a few factual projections. According to CBC, if a 7.3-magnitude earthquake were to hit the District of North Vancouver alone, hundreds would die, 2,000 would need emergency attention, and another 1,300 would be homeless for over a year. If this study included the entire city, there would be thousands more casualties. A south coast tsunami would cause $75 billion in damages to infrastructure according to Insurance Bureau of Canada, and could destroy hundreds of businesses and interrupt essential services. Vancouver Island would be pretty much ‘SOL,’ and our North American economy could be set back for a decade.

That’s quite a hefty sum to be apathetic towards, wouldn’t you say? How about you, provincial government? Your Emergency Management BC team has been criticized on multiple occasions for its lack of adequate earthquake response plans, procedures, and public awareness programs.

Politics aside, let’s do away with our doubt, denial, and laziness, and do ourselves a personal favour. Preparing physically and financially for this kind of disaster will only require a minuscule amount of our time and could possibly save our lives.

Have you ever heard of earthquake insurance? It exists. Google it.