The audit, released Tuesday, found that Emergency Management BC (EMBC), the organization tasked with preparing government’s response to such an event, is not adequately prepared for a catastrophic earthquake. The audit also found that neither the Province nor EMBC has made preparing for one a priority.
The office reached similar conclusions in its 1997 report on emergency management. Over the last 17 years, EMBC has not made significant progress. The report outlines numerous areas for improvement in EMBC’s preparedness from risk analysis, plans and procedures and integration of stakeholders, to training and public education.
“Successive governments have decided to allocate scarce public resources to meet more immediate pressing demands, rather than to adequately prepare the province for a catastrophic earthquake that may or may not occur,” explains Jones. “EMBC’s current operating budget for emergency activities is approximately the same as it was in 2006. In addition, EMBC staff is busy with daily emergencies such as floods and fires so catastrophic earthquake planning is done as a side-of-desk activity.”
The report also highlights the need for EMBC to report publically on its level of preparedness so British Columbians can understand the extent of their vulnerability and make informed decisions as to their own level of readiness.
“British Columbians need to take responsibility and prepare for a catastrophic earthquake to protect themselves and their families,” says Jones. Jones identified that preparing for such an event is a shared responsibility, and urges everyone to look at their own situation and ask themselves whether they are ready.
EMBC appears to have taken the report quite seriously and is working to develop and implement strategies to address the deficiencies noted in this report.
The full report is available on the Office of the Auditor General website at: Catastrophic Earthquake Preparedness (www.bcauditor.com/pubs)
THE NDP said that the damning report on the B.C. Liberal government’s failure to prepare for a major earthquake confirms the reason they rushed to appoint former Liberal MLA John Les to a $140,000 patronage job was because they needed a political fixer for a problem they knew was coming.
“The report from B.C.’s auditor general is a scathing indictment of the lack of emergency planning in B.C.,” said New Democrat Public Safety Critic Kathy Corrigan.
“The Liberals knew this report was coming so they scrambled to pull together this earthquake consultation committee to mitigate the political fallout, appointing their Liberal friend to a $140,000 patronage position.
“The only emergency that the B.C. Liberals were prepared for was a political one.”
THE provincial government announced Tuesday that it has accepted and will be taking immediate action on all nine of the Auditor General’s recommendations coming out of the report, “Catastrophic Earthquake Preparedness”.
While complementary, this work will be in addition to and happen concurrently with the consultation and public education campaign already announced to support long-term planning. As well, in response to the recommendations, Emergency Management BC (EMBC) is already developing a long-term plan that sets out provincial goals regarding catastrophic earthquake preparedness, along with a phased approach towards achieving these goals.
Specifically, EMBC will be working with partner agencies on a coordinated and integrated approach, developing progressively more comprehensive plans, including exercises, ongoing public education activities and an annual report on British Columbia’s seismic preparedness.
In British Columbia, emergency management is a shared responsibility between all levels of government, as well as individuals and families, media and businesses. As government takes action to meet the Auditor General’s recommendations, the Province will continue to play a key role in growing preparedness – working with these partners, along with local authorities, Crown agencies, First Nations, volunteers and non-governmental organizations.
Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton said: “A tough report offers a great opportunity – and this one in particular will help us continue to identify what work needs to be done to best prepare B.C. communities and families for a major earthquake.
“We have accepted all nine of the Auditor General’s recommendations; however, ensuring British Columbia is prepared for an emergency cannot be achieved in isolation. That’s why, earlier this month, we announced a consultation that will invite all our partners to work together on seismic preparedness, as well as a public education campaign to help ensure more British Columbians are prepared if the ‘big one’ hits.
“In British Columbia, being prepared for an emergency is a shared responsibility that begins at home with families and communities. Everyone has a role to play. The immediate actions we are taking at Emergency Management BC in response to the Auditor General’s report, along with the consultation and the public education campaign, will all form part of a long-term plan that supports practical and responsible actions for all partners involved in earthquake preparedness and response.”