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Sensors to be Installed to Provide Early Warnings During Earthqakes

A network of early warning sensors will be installed in BC to alert people when an earthquake is underway.

Their purpose is to warn people before the most powerful seismic waves arrive at coastal communities, providing a few seconds to take action that can help reduce injuries and death, and generate alerts for critical infrastructure and industry.

Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources, and Bowinn Ma, British Columbia Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness, announced in Victoria yesterday that British Columbia is installing up to 50 earthquake early warning sensors in high seismic risk areas.

They will connect to the national Earthquake Early Warning system that’s expected to go into operation next year, supplementing several hundred sensors already installed by Natural Resources Canada.

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The government says alerts from the EEW system could also be used by infrastructure safety systems to take action automatically, such as:

  • Triggering trains to slow down
  • Stopping traffic from driving onto bridges or into tunnels
  • Diverting incoming air traffic
  • Allowing surgeons to stop surgery
  • Closing gas valves
  • Opening fire hall and ambulance bay doors

There are about 5,000 earthquakes across Canada each year, mostly along the coast of British Columbia.

On January 26, 1700, the west coast experienced a magnitude 9 earthquake that was followed by a tsunami.

The federal government says if a similar megathrust earthquake happens, the system could deliver up to four minutes of warning before the strongest shaking begins in coastal communities.

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When the full system is operational, more than 10 million people in Canada in the most earthquake-prone regions will receive Earthquake Early Warning alerts.

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