Earthquakes: nearly 300 schools in British Columbia still at risk

As for the province’s Francophone School Board (CSF), two schools are among the future priorities, École Anne Herbert, in Vancouver, and École Océane, in Nanaimo.

the CSF did not respond to our requests to know when these projects will be finished and how many students are affected. The council’s head of public affairs, Pascale Cyr, nevertheless specifies that it is the Ministry of Education that establishes the priorities for the entire province for seismic renovations, as well as the necessary financial support.

the CSF can not [entamer] renovations [sismiques] until the ministry provides the necessary budget to start the renovations. the CSF made applications for renovation projects [et de] replacement [sismiques] and awaits the support of the ministry. »

A quote from Pascale Cyr, Head of Public Affairs, British Columbia Francophone School Board

BC Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside says retrofitting schools for earthquake risk is a government priority. We are working as hard as possible with school districts to complete as many projects as quickly as possible., she explains. Jennifer Whiteside adds that there hasn’t been a slowdown because of the pandemic.

No fixed date for program completion

While the budget calls for $793 million over the next three years and completion in 2030, Jennifer Whiteside is more evasive. We don’t have a specific schedule because […] some of these projects can be complex.

As of December 31, 2021, British Columbia’s seismic mitigation program has cost just over $1 billion and $994 million is to be paid into it by 2030.

The Minister of Education explains that 2.7 billion dollars have been invested in the construction and modernization of schools, as well as in mitigating the effects of potential earthquakes. They arean unprecedented investment in the history of [la] provinceshe says, which already allows 32,000 students to study in safer schools.

Some projects, says Jennifer Whiteside, are relatively small-scale and cost less than $10 million, while other projects are hugebecause the school has to be completely rebuilt.

On June 6, the province announced the opening of the newly built seismically-designed Skwo:wech Elementary School in New Westminster. This project is valued at $34.98 million, including $12.42 million for the daycare.

It can really vary. In some cases […] we just have to deal with a part of a school or a block of a school. In [d’autres] case, we actually have to replace the whole school. »

A quote from Jennifer Whiteside, BC Minister of Education

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151 schools reassessed after 2015

In 2015, changes were made to the National Building Code, which led to the reassessment of 151 schools, as more intense shaking on Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii and greater impacts in areas with soft soils , particularly in Richmond, had been identified, according to the Seismic Mitigation Program website (New window) (in English).

The National Building Code is updated every five years, says Salman Soleimani-Dashtaki, a research associate in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of British Columbia (UBC). The seismic layouts are also updated every five years and are based on recent seismic activity in the area.

According to Salman Soleimani-Dashtaki, British Columbia guidelines [font partie] of the best guidelines that have been produced in the world. He adds that they even received an award in the United States in 2015.

Haida Gwaii, home of Sk’aadgaa Naay School, is the most earthquake-prone location in Canada. (Archives)

Photo: Radio-Canada

Regarding schools, mostly low-rise buildings [construites] in woodmany steps and technologies are required to bring them up to standard, and setting them up can take years, says Salman Soleimani-Dashtaki.

Not only the structures, but also the elements inside the schools, eg bookcases, blackboards, cables and the like, must be assessed to avoid overhead hazards.

If you do a […] school building structural system renovation [mais que] you don’t pay attention to non-structural components, the building may be standing after an earthquake, but what could hurt people are the books, shelves and cabinets that fly and fall on people. »

A quote from Salman Soleimani-Dashtaki, Research Associate, Department of Civil Engineering, University of British Columbia

Using schools to shelter the population

Ideally, schools should be used after an earthquake to house the general population. In every neighborhood there are often plans of schools trying to use their schools as shelter after an earthquake., explains Soleimani-Dashtaki. The goal, he says, is for the buildings to be 100% operational after an earthquake.

The performance criteria we have adopted for school buildings are primarily what we call damage mitigation. […] This building should be [….] fully functional or operational with minimal effort, minimal inspection and minimal repairs […] so that it can be used as a post-disaster shelter. »

A quote from Salman Soleimani-Dashtaki, Research Associate, Department of Civil Engineering, University of British Columbia

John Cassidy, seismologist at Natural Resources Canada, recalls thatthere were no earthquake drills [ni] renovations when he was in elementary school in British Columbia. Things are really looking up.

The seismologist wants British Columbians to be aware of living in an earthquake zone and to be ready to react. He is delighted that an alert system is being developed to be able to warn the population a few seconds before a tremor.

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