Enhanced earthquake alert capability is behind an Ocean Networks Canada initiative that will see new sensors installed across Vancouver Island including Port Alberni.
The new senors will be land-based instead of in water, and will aid in detecting a particular energy burst that preceded earthquakes.
“They will try to sense the P-wave that precedes the shaking during an earthquake, so that we can alert communities of oncoming earthquake or tsunami,” said Benoît Pirenne, associate director of digital infrastructure for Ocean Networks Canada.
ONC may be installing a couple of new earthquake sensors in Port Alberni. If so, they will be located at or near the ONC shore station on Mallory Drive. Installation is set to be done over the next two years.
The land-based sensor is approximately 10cm across and needs to be installed on a surface with Internet connectivity. “We need lots of those sensors across Vancouver Island to pickup this faint signal reliably,” Pirenne said.
The detection would be automated, something that is key. “This works only as long as all of that is fully automated with no person in the decision path,” he said. “If you have 10-90 seconds, you can’t expect a person to verify the info and pass on the information.”
Early detection could potentially mean a 10-90 second warning before a big quake or tsunami. This could save damage in the city, Port Alberni Fire Chief Tim Pley said.
“Assuming the turn-around time was immediate and reliable you could turn off things like Hydro and gas and save fire and electrical damage,” Pley said. “You could also activate warning systems before they are potentially damaged and rendered in-operational.”
ONC is also planning discussions with the Ministry of Education about testing sensors near schools. Talks to date have been cursory only and no agreement has been reached yet about this, Pirenne said.
“That would allow us to cover a lot more places around the island if we could take advantage of those buildings to install our sensors,” Pirenne said.