Bill Adams of the Insurance Bureau of Canada says insurable natural disaster costs are rising rapidly. (Black Press)

Emergency preparedness fund increases

Earthquakes, flooding biggest risks facing B.C.

Flooding and a major earthquake are the biggest risks facing B.C. residents, and the only response is to be as ready as possible.

That’s the assessment of Bill Adams, regional vice-president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, as he praised the B.C. government for increasing its financial commitment to disaster readiness.

“We cannot prevent extreme weather or earthquakes, but we can and we should understand the risks better and take prudent action to mitigate those threats,” Adams said at a funding announcement at the B.C. legislature Wednesday. “We must emphasize prevention over reaction, and improve the capacity of our communities, our families and our neighbours to build increased resilience.”

The province is dedicating $80 million to the cause in the coming fiscal year, up from $65 million this year. That includes $20 million for structural flood protection projects, as well as evacuation and flood risk assessments in communities around the province.

Adams said a changing climate has contributed to increased extreme weather events, with insured losses from natural disasters now costing more than $1 billion a year in Canada.

But the biggest threat to B.C. is a megathrust earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone off the coast of Vancouver Island. The last big one was in January, 1700, wiping aboriginal villages from the B.C. map and sending a massive tidal wave that struck Japan nine hours later.

People on the outer coast could have as little as 15 minutes to move inland, and the Lower Mainland would suffer extensive damage from the shaking.

Organizations receiving funding for preparation in B.C. include:

• Canada Task Force One, the heavy urban search and rescue unit based in Vancouver, $1 million

• Salvation Army of B.C. to provide and retrofit mobile feeding vans and train volunteer and emergency program co-ordinators in communities, $700,000

• B.C. Search and Rescue Association, for a pilot project to develop portable communication networks, $500,000

• Avalanche Canada, to provide daily forecasts and education, $500,000. Avalanches are the deadliest natural hazard in Canada, and 80 per cent of fatalities occur in B.C.

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