A catastrophic “earthquake” struck Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) Tuesday morning, causing extensive damage and threatening lives.
Fortunately, the 8.0-magnitude quake took place inside a simulator in the parking lot of the school’s Surrey campus, and everyone at the university was safe.
However, the experience was meant to create awareness around the possibility of the “big one” hitting the Lower Mainland and to allow students and staff to experience what a serious quake would feel like and how they could best prepare.
According to studies by the Geological Survey of Canada and Natural Resources Canada, there is a 30-per-cent chance an earthquake strong enough to cause significant damage will strike the southwestern region of B.C. in the next 50 years.
In partnership with the Insurance Bureau of Canada (ICB), KPU brought the Shake Zone mobile earthquake simulator to the campus during Emergency Preparedness Week (May 1-7) to help promote the importance of preparing for emergencies and natural disasters, said Kyle Klein, KPU’s manager of emergency planning.
Each year, approximately 4,000 earthquakes are recorded across Canada, with the majority centered off the west coast of British Columbia and southern Ontario and Quebec.
While noting that most earthquakes cause only minor damage, ICB Western Pacific Vice-President Bill Adams knows a major quake could happen at any time.
“At some point a big one will hit. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when,” he said.
For KPU staff member Nancy Dhillon, spending a couple of minutes inside the “Shake Cottage” was an eye-opening and scary experience (check out video at surreyleader.com).
“It made me start thinking about my own safety and my kids’ safety, my family’s safety and what I could do to prepare,” said Dhillon. “Having an action plan at home, at work, on the road… I’m really going to start thinking about it more seriously.”
The idea of bringing the simulator to KPU was not only to raise awareness about earthquake preparedness, but to encourage everyone to be prepared for all natural disasters in general, said Klein.
“The main purpose of the Shake Cottage is so that people really understand what it feels like to be in an earthquake of that magnitude and really understand the importance of drop, cover and hold on,” he said. “From the reactions coming from the participants, I think we’re really achieving those results.”
As part of their overall emergency plan, KPU recently upgraded the emergency communication systems at its Surrey, Cloverdale Richmond and Langley campuses, along with installing outdoor sirens and indoor alert beacons and signage.