Cascading hazards highlighted at ShakeOut event

Simon Fraser University Earth Sciences experts invite students to learn about earthquake and other hazard monitoring tools on October 20 as part of the 11 annual Great British Columbia ShakeOut.

Test out a Raspberry Shake citizen science seismometer, a GeoSLAM handheld laser scanner and wirelessly connected 3D glasses that show how detailed mapping of faults and unstable slopes can be visualised.

The in-person event starts at 10 a.m. and will be held at the Leslie & Gordon Diamond Family Auditorium. Participate in the earthquake drill at 10:20 a.m. practicing internationally recognized -Drop, Cover and Hold on- procedures with an alert notification appearing on SFU-managed devices, the SFU Snap app and digital screens.

Earthquakes can cause cascading hazards

It is important to protect yourself when the ground shakes and to prepare a kit to survive in the days after a major quake. Earthquakes can cause what experts call -cascading hazards- including tsunamis, liquefaction, fires and landslides.

There have been a few recent examples of the lingering devastation landslides can cause. The landslides that resulted from the November, 2021 atmospheric river blocked major highways, destroyed bridges and cut off Vancouver from the rest of Canada by road and rail.

Unstable slopes are more vulnerable to the extreme rainfall events intensified by climate change. Brent Ward, Earth Sciences professor and co-director, Centre for Natural Hazards Research says it is likely that British Columbia would experience similar landslides in the event of a major earthquake.

-Here in the Lower Mainland, we-d be worried about some of the steeper slopes in the North Shore, the escarpments in Coquitlam, Port Moody and Tsawwassen and certainly all of our mountain corridors,- explains Ward. -The Hope Princeton Highway, the Coquihalla and Highway 1 - those transportation routes all go through steep mountainous terrain that is prone to landslides.-

Another major landslide occurred in the remote area of Elliot Lake in 2020, causing a local tsunami in Elliot lake and sending a wave of water and debris into Elliot Creek and Bute Inlet - damaging salmon habitat. In this case, the rock slope was likely weakened by a receding glacier, says Earth Sciences Associate Professor Sergio Sep¨lveda.

-Even if a landslide occurs far away from populated areas it can have a huge impact on wildlife. When you change the amount of sediment in streams it may affect the fish in the river, other wildlife in the area and even agriculture,- he explains. -Large landslides can also dam or block rivers completely.-

Sep¨lveda is from Chile, where he studied and experienced several earthquakes including one registering 8.8 in magnitude. He holds the FRBC Chair in Resource Geoscience & Geotechnics at SFU. His advice for what to do when the -big one- hits?

-Don’t panic. Try to get away from windows, shelves or anything on the ceiling that may fall. Take cover and wait. Stay inside if you can because outside power cables will be coming down and debris could be falling from roofs or balconies. If you-re outside look for open spaces- Sepulveda says. -Keep calm, the intense shaking from the big Cascadia earthquake we are waiting for may last for a few minutes.-

In addition to preparing an earthquake kit, he adds that families need to decide on a meeting place to reunite in the case of a major earthquake, which could destroy telecommunications infrastructure.

SFU Burnaby is this year’s host venue for the ShakeOutBC earthquake drill, an annual initiative led by the BC Earthquake Alliance and the Insurance Bureau of Canada. Show us your best -Drop, Cover, and Hold On- @SFU ’s social channels with the hashtag #SFUshakeout.

Register for ShakeOut and learn more about how to be prepared for an earthquake.