Earthquake facts: Learn the risks

Some of the world's largest earthquakes have occurred in British Columbia. Research shows that there is a 1 in 4 chance that we will have another major earthquake within the next 50 years.

But did you know that there is a minor earthquake in the Lower Mainland almost every day?

Here's why...

What causes earthquakes, anyway?

The earth's crust is divided into huge pieces, called tectonic plates. 

Earthquakes happen as these huge plates slip past or under one another and release stress. This stress causes the ground to move and shake.

What this means for Vancouver

Here in Vancouver, we are near the edge of two of these plates: the massive North American plate, and the smaller Juan de Fuca plate.

The Juan de Fuca plate is moving towards and under the North American plate, in an area known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone. This zone can produce very large earthquakes (called "megathrust quakes") which may register greater than magnitude 9.0.

But that's not the only kind of earthquake we can expect in Vancouver...

Smaller but potentially more damaging earthquakes can happen in the Strait of Georgia, or deep under the Coast Mountains.

What will happen when an earthquake hits?

The last earthquake in our area to register magnitude 9.0 or larger happened in 1700. It is just a matter of time until the next one occurs.

When it does, we can expect damaged buildings and infrastructure, flooding, fires, and thousands of people forced from their homes.

Our transportation systems will be disrupted, and there will likely be interruptions in our electricity and telecommunications systems, too.

A recent study from the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) estimates that the cost of a megathrust earthquake off the coast of BC would be as high as $75 billion. A smaller earthquake closer to Vancouver could cause even greater damage.

You can find out more about earthquakes from Natural Resources Canada.

How we prepare

Earthquake Preparedness Strategy

We have developed a strategy to better understand the risk and reduce the impact of an earthquake in Vancouver.