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B.C. seismic upgrades face numerous challenges 0

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Victoria has entrusted civil engineers at the University of B.C. to monitor a growing network of seismic sensors measuring the integrity of the province’s public buildings. Carlos Ventura, civil engineering professor explains the monitoring instruments strategically placed throughout the province during a demonstration at the Applied Science building at the University of B.C in Vancouver, B.C. on Thursday January 23, 2014. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

Victoria has entrusted civil engineers at the University of B.C. to monitor a growing network of seismic sensors measuring the integrity of the province’s public buildings. Carlos Ventura, civil engineering professor explains the monitoring instruments strategically placed throughout the province during a demonstration at the Applied Science building at the University of B.C in Vancouver, B.C. on Thursday January 23, 2014. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

Earthquake monitoring specialists can now measure in real time which buildings and infrastructure are being damaged the most during a major earthquake.

While it’s still not a perfect science, recent advances could allow firefighters and other emergency officials to get to structures before they’re in danger by identifying the heaviest affected areas in the event of “the big one.”

University of B.C. civil engineers are being tasked with monitoring the structural integrity of the province’s public buildings in the event of a seismic calamity. Efforts are being made to update old monitoring sensors — installed decades ago — with new ones at public buildings, bridges and major structures to report data in real-time.

Approximately one-third of provincial monitoring stations are yet to be linked, UBC civil engineering professor Carlos Ventura said.

The old devices are designed to survive an earthquake for data retrieval, similar to aircraft ‘black boxes.’

“The idea is to take advantage of the technology, the Internet, connect all the sensors … to transfer information as fast as possible before power is lost, or information is lost, because you lose power and communications,” Ventura said.

His team has been provided $200,000 in annual funding to continuously monitor public buildings in B.C. If a quake is strong enough to trigger at least five sensors, the province’s entire network goes active and alerts are sent to the Ministry of Transportation.

According to the B.C. Ministry of Transportation, many existing sensors — each about the size of a shoebox — are present in such places as the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert, since those areas are “active” with seismic activity.

The sensors are supposed to work together to create a “shake map” that allows the government to monitor where a quake hit and what it’s affecting.

Upgrades, however, can only proceed as fast as the money allotted.

Most upgrades have been provincially funded and there’s no new federal money on the way, Ventura said, despite Natural Resource Canada’s role in monitoring topographical data. 

Shake maps are available online at bcsims.ca.

 

 

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