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Richmond will not sink in event of a big quake: City

RICHMOND (NEWS1130) – The City of Richmond says it has worked hard to upgrade infrastructure and prepare for a catastrophic earthquake.

After a provincial audit found Emergency Management BC has not made earthquake planning a priority, Richmond’s city communications manager is debunking a couple of myths and talking about what more can be done in his city and across the region.

Ted Townsend admits Richmond does have specific challenges, but it is not below sea level (though some areas are only just above) and the entire city will not sink in a big quake.

“There’s sometimes this myth that liquefaction is going to be all-encompassing in Richmond, but the likelihood is that it will be more sporadic, in various locations throughout the city. But that doesn’t mean we’re not preparing for that,” he tells News1130.

“We’ve had modern building standards in place that are designed to stabilize any land that we build on, whether it’s the City or private builders. We’re working to address that particular challenge as best we can.”

Townsend says Richmond has well-developed plans and preparedness programs and has worked hard at upgrading infrastructure.

“We recognize we have risks here that we can address. One of the things we have done over the last decade is a very extensive building program to replace all of our fire halls and our police headquarters to make sure that all those facilities are ‘post-disaster rated.’ We continue to look at upgrading our dikes and other critical civic infrastructure to make sure we can achieve high standards in withstanding earthquakes or other threats.”

BC’s Auditor General warned yesterday that the province still isn’t adequately prepared for major quake. While Townsend calls Richmond’s approach to earthquake preparedness “aggressive,” he says more can be done.

“We’ll certainly use the Auditor General’s report and recommendations to further strengthen our planning. We are part of a regional and a provincial planning regime. If an earthquake strikes, it’s certainly not going to hit just one community; it’s going to hit many communities. So, we need a strong local, regional and provincial planning regime in place. We work closely with the province and will continue to do so,” he says.

Would Townsend like to see the province could do more?

“I think the Auditor General certainly identified the need to do more. We’ll work closely with our partners in emergency planning and preparedness throughout the province to achieve that.”

The Office of the Auditor General made similar conclusions about BC’s poor state of earthquake preparedness 17 years ago in a previous report. Current AG Russ Jones says little has changed since then.