If you live on the west coast of Canada or the US you’ve definitely heard about “The Big One”. It refers to the massive earthquake that’s “supposed to” hit anytime that will cause a tsunami and great devastation. I’ve talked about early warning systems before and how they give you just enough time to take cover before an earthquake strikes. The US is developing one called ShakeAlert and now Canada has installed their first piece of equipment for their early warning system off the coast of British Columbia.
Eight sensors are being placed on the sea floor right by the Cascadia Subduction Zone by Ocean Network Canada which can give as much as 90 seconds of warning. This allows the device to detect any shaking immediately and be able to instantly send the data to officials to provide early warning that could potentially save lives.
The sensors they are installing are Titan accelerometers encased in glass. They are only the size of a toaster and are buried on the sea floor 80 kilometers of shore. The provincial government is helping fund the project as each of these sensors costs $130,000. Three of the eight sensors have already been installed which takes a great deal of effort. The installation process involves three vessels and a team of 150 people and three undersea robots as it involves laying kilometers of cable back to Port Alberni.
This system not only will help save lives but will also play a crucial role in protecting infrastructure by allowing decision makers to shut down gas lines, stop surgeries, and stop bridge and train traffic before the earthquake hits. You can learn more about how you can protect yourself and your home by checking out my post on 10 Easy Ways to Earthquake Proof Your Home.
Early tests have displayed varying warning times but Ocean Network Canada says that the more sensors they have, the more accurate and timely the warnings will be. Similar systems have been put in place in countries such as Japan where earthquakes occur quite frequently. As more sensors are installed, the more scientists have access to valuable data which will help in improving detection even more. Hopefully more countries in earthquake prone areas, especially those in the Ring of Fire will follow suit to help keep more people safe.