Software maps earthquake risks in Greater Victoria

Source: Times Colonist
Author: Sarah Petrescu

Software maps earthquake risks in Greater Victoria

A Victoria geographer is launching an online tool today that allows home and business owners to generate earthquake hazard reports for their property based on public data.

“There is a lot of general information about how to prepare for an earthquake, but not much that targets what the impact could be on them,” said Ben Kerr, founder of Quakey Victoria.

Kerr said he wanted to debut the service alongside the annual provincewide earthquake drill which will see thousands of students, workers and families stop, drop and cover this morning as part of the ShakeOut B.C. campaign. The region has a one-in-three probability of a major earthquake in the next 50 years.

“The idea is to give people more information to use when they come up with family response plans and preparedness,” Kerr said.

He is also the chief executive of Foundry Spatial, a map-based online service that uses data for water resource management.

He founded the company in 2009 and it’s grown to employ eight people and serve mostly government clients.

Kerr said he wanted to create a similar model for the public to generate a report about what threats a catastrophic earthquake might pose to their property that was easy and inexpensive (under $20).

His company created Quakey Victoria, which allows clients to type in an address and get a 20-page report detailing the risk of the ground underneath. This includes the risks of ground motion, amplification and liquefaction, as well slope information and tsunami risk. The report also offers tips on how to prepare.

Kerr helped develop the provincial earthquake hazard data for Greater Victoria and Richmond, which are the foundation of the mapping program.

“The situation here varies in every area,” said Kerr, noting the high-risk zones are found spotted throughout the city rather than in one major area.

“Places built on rock are in the best situation, whereas sand and clay have the greatest amplification of shaking.”

The report does not look at factors above ground, such as building structure or materials.

“We have a substantial earthquake risk here, but our construction methods are pretty good,” Kerr said. “Wood frames hold up well.”

Tanya Patterson, the City of Victoria’s emergency program co-ordinator, said the recent major earthquakes in Mexico led to a spike in interest about local preparedness and workshops.

“It definitely increases awareness and gets more people asking questions,” said Patterson, who will be at Victoria City Hall today for the earthquake drill.

Stop, drop and hold or cover is the standard method to reduce injury during a major quake. Mexico City held an earthquake drill hours before it was struck with a magnitude-8.0 temblor on Sept. 19, which was credited with saving many lives.

Patterson said there will also be an earthquake preparedness information booth at city hall and the ShakeZone earthquake simulator — a ride-like trailer that mimics the shaking of an 8.0 quake.

For those who can’t take part in the ShakeOut events today, Patterson suggested visiting for more information and signing up for Vic-Alert. The program sends users an email, text or call when there is a public emergency or hazard in their neighbourhood. This can include natural disaster, as well as gas leaks and missing children. Patterson said it has been utilized six times in the past seven months.

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