SFU students need to take earthquake preparedness seriously before an emergency situation

Major earthquakes cannot be predicted, making up-to-date emergency plans and kits vital

The worst time to be thinking about building your emergency kit is during a high-magnitude quake. Illustration by: Momo Lin/The Peak

By: Jamie Hill, SFU Student

Recent tectonic activity has put emergency preparedness back on the minds of British Columbians — and that’s an important opportunity to revisit how prepared we are for earthquakes.

Two major earthquakes hit southern California on July 4 and 5, damaging buildings, cutting off power and communication, and forcing many residents to evacuate their homes. Around the same time, B.C. was also treated to shaky ground with three consecutive earthquakes near Bella Bella. Though these minor earthquakes on our coast were unconnected to those in California, they’re an important reminder for those of us who aren’t prepared for a major earthquake here in the Lower Mainland. Prepared or not, it’s time to remind ourselves that we live on unstable ground. 

Although B.C. is within the Ring of Fire, an area notorious for its earthquakes, many British Columbians aren’t fully prepared for the risks of a destructive quake. According to a 2017 survey conducted by the provincial government, only 13% of B.C. residents have a “complete” emergency plan. Of Vancouverites who don’t have a plan in place, around a quarter blame laziness.

These emergency plans are especially important for SFU students, who may find themselves on a campus that is unfamiliar or far from home when an earthquake occurs. Imagine being on Burnaby Mountain when the “big one” hits: How would you protect yourself? Where would you go once the earthquake has passed? Without transit or cell service, how would you get down the mountain? How would you get in contact with your loved ones?

Luckily, preparing for an emergency doesn’t have to be difficult. Look through SFU’s earthquake procedures and participate in the ShakeOut BC Annual Earthquake Drill. Explore information specific to your city or your accessibility needs. If you can, prepare an emergency kit with enough supplies to last you through the first few days after a significant quake. Most importantly, make a plan with your loved ones and roommates about what to do in an emergency, so you know how to get in contact with each other and where to meet if communication has been cut off. 

Students rarely plan a week in advance, let alone for an emergency, but going unprepared can have disastrous consequences in the event of a high-magnitude quake. It’s also worth noting that it’s hard to predict when a major earthquake is coming, even though we’re due for one, which means updating your supplies and emergency plans over time is vital. 

These recent local quakes were minor; treat them as an opportunity to prepare for the ones that aren’t.