North Shore Emergency Management has installed 20 earthquake seismic sensors in key municipal buildings across North Shore to record the level of ground-shaking during an earthquake.
Installed at the base and the top of eight municipal buildings in West Vancouver and North Vancouver, the sensors will assess the maximum level of ground-shaking each building could withstand.
The sensors have been installed in Parkgate Community Centre, DNV Operations Centre on Crown Street, Delbrook Community Centre, RCMP building on Lonsdale, CNV work yards on Bewicke Avenue, West Vancouver municipal hall, West Vancouver Recreation Centre and Gleaneagles Community Centre.
The project is the first of its kind in North Shore, according to Fiona Dercole, the director of North Shore Emergency Management.
“We know that buildings have different levels of vulnerabilities, so we needed to learn how the earthquake will affect the buildings and how they will perform during the event of an earthquake,” she said.
That information can help determine which one of those buildings would be best suitable to move people to in case of an earthquake.
The sensor is the size of a cell phone and is plugged into a wall from where it records and relays data to cellular network embedded over a platform.
The sensors were provided by Safehub, a California-based company.
“The sensors measure the response of buildings to the earthquake in terms of movement of the ground and movement of the building itself. We then correlate these recorded movements with previously determined building-risk information to estimate damage in the buildings,” said Andy Thompson, the CEO of Safehub.
Since the sensors are active and collecting data all the time, they allow the comparison of the natural frequency of the building before and after the earthquake to help assess potential loss in the integrity of the building.
Alerts and information from the sensors are sent within minutes via text and email messages, and presented on a web-based dashboard.
“That can help local governments prioritise the assessment of buildings, support engineers on the ground with critical information, and provide situational awareness for government officials,” Thompson said.
Some municipal buildings in North Shore will have two or even three sensors. NSEM secured the funding for the sensors from UBCM. The local governments also pitched in to make the project work.
NSEM director Dercole said this was a pilot project that could be possibly extended to more bridges and other sensitive infrastructures in North Shore.
“We know that there will be damage during the earthquake and some areas of the community would be impacted more than others and we may need these buildings for displaced residents,” Dercole said.
These sensors would provide better situational awareness at that crucial time, she added.
Earthquakes are a common occurrence in the province, and an average of 3,000 are reported every year, according to the Government of BC. Most, however, are too small to be felt but an earthquake strong enough to cause structural damage can occur once in a decade, and there is a good chance it could be “the big one”.