What is an earthquake and why do they happen?

Earthquakes are most easily described as a shaking of the earths surface. This shaking is caused by geological processes beneath the earths surface. The process is explained more thoroughly as through the theory of plate tectonics. To learn more about plate tectonics and the geological causes of earthquakes click here.

How are earthquakes measured?

Earthquakes are measured using the Richter scale. This scale measures the magnitude of how powerful an earthquake is. To learn more about earthquake measurement and recording click here.

Can earthquakes be predicted?

No, at this time science is unable to predict earthquakes. There is ongoing research looking at possible methods for predicting earthquakes but there is currently no reliable measure. However, it is important to know that while we cannot predict earthquakes, we can measure the probability and likelihood in which earthquakes will affect a given region. For a complete map of the hazard zones for BC from Natural Resource Canada click here.

What is the earthquake hazard for Vancouver Island?

The earthquake hazard for Vancouver Island is high. This is due to Vancouver Island being a part of the Cascadia Subduction zone. What this means is that the tectonic plate that Vancouver Island sits on (Juan de Fuca plate) is colliding with and subducting under the North American plate. The subduction zone means that there is a heightened potential for earthquakes. Further, within this region, there is a risk for a megathrust earthquake. Megathrust earthquakes occur on average once every 500 to 600 years. These earthquakes have historically been rated with high magnitudes of 7,8 and 9.

What do I do when an earthquake happens?

When you feel an earthquake it is important to stay inside and follow the following three steps:

  1. Drop under heavy furniture such as a table, desk, bed, or other solid furniture.
  2. Cover your head and torso to prevent being hit by falling objects
  3. Hold on to the object that you are under so that you remain covered. Be prepared to move with the object until the shaking has concluded.

What do I do if I am outside?

If an earthquake happens while you are outside the best thing to do is stay outside. Go to an open area away from buildings.

What do I do if I am in a vehicle or driving?

If you are driving, pull over to a safe place that does not block the road. Avoid areas that could collapse such as bridges, overpasses, cliffs, hillsides, and buildings. Stay in your car.

What do I do after the earthquake?

After an earthquake has happened the best thing to do is stay calm and be prepared for aftershocks. If you are able to help others do so. Follow your emergency preparedness plan. If your home is structurally safe to be in stay inside. Do not waste food or water as supplies may be limited in the event of a severe disaster.