BC Construction Roundtable event review, by guest blogger: Tracey Rossignol

BC Construction Roundtable
Event Review by Guest Blogger: Tracey Rossignol

As a consultant I get to attend a pretty diverse group of networking events from marketing to women in leadership to entrepreneurship to blogging.   And with one of my clients I get to add engineering and architecture events to that list.  In June this included a very interesting event called Shaken not Stirred! How will the Lower Mainland Survive an Earthquake?


The BC Construction Roundtable and sponsor Glotman Simpson Consulting Engineers put together a diverse group of speakers to give perspective to members of the construction, engineering and architecture industry on what to expect if an earthquake happened here in Vancouver.  The panel included experts on seismicity, insurance, emergency planning, effects of earthquakes on economies and effects on buildings and infrastructure.

The event was moderated by Rob Simpson, Partner at Glotman Simpson Consulting Engineers and the panel included:

  • Lindsay Olson, Insurance Bureau of Canada
  • Garry Rogers, Geological Survey of Canada, Pacific Geoscience Centre
  • Mike Andrews, Emergency Management British Columbia
  • Heidi Sieck, Citywide Post-Disaster Resilience and Recovery Initiative and Emergency Planning Team at City and County of San Francisco
  • Debra Walker, Commissioner at City and County of San Francisco, Building Inspection Commission
  • Carlos Ventura, UBC Dept. of Civil Engineering

I was a bit nervous about attending this topic, but I came away more fascinated about the topic than scared.  Although I will admit that I went home and reviewed our home emergency plan and updating our emergency provisions.  After all emergency response starts with us.

Some highlights from the presentations:

InsuranceLindsay Olson gave a great perspective on earthquakes from the Canadian Insurance Industry.  Preparedness is a key focus for the Insurance Bureau of Canada and ensuring they help people protect themselves.

I learnt a few things here.  In Canada consumer have access to 2 type of earthquake insurance:

  1. Fire following earthquake – part of your basic home and business property policy
  2. Shake endorsement (damage from earth movement) – this is an option on your policy.  And yes, the first thing I did when I got home was double check that this option is still on my policy.

Ten year old government data tells us that approximately 50% of households had earthquake insurance – this includes tenants and homeowners.   That means a lot of BC households will not be insured when an earthquake hits.

The other big lesson for me is that at this time there is no flood insurance available in Canada at this time. Flood, in this case, is defined as water over land, not water damage.  This means there is no insurance available for tsunami damage at this time in Canada.

The Earthquake Expert – It is easy to tell that Garry Rogers loves loves loves his job and is exceedingly passionate about earthquakes and volcanoes.   And unlike many experts he knows how to translate his technical expertise into real life examples we can all understand.  He also had a great sense of humour which made his presentation all the more enjoyable.  There was a lot of talk about risks and hazards, and yes Vancouver is high in both.  He talked about the history of earthquakes in BC and showed some very cool looking diagrams.  He broke down the three types of earthquakes and gave us real life examples of each.  The magnitude of an earthquake is only one factor in understanding an earthquake and the type of damage it can do you. You also need to look at distance from epicenter, how shallow, duration, etc.

Another key lesson is that building codes are meant to protect life safety and that buildings are built to withstand ground shaking not a specific magnitude.

Emergency Management – Next up was Mike Andrews from Emergency Management British Columbia.   Mike gave a great overall review of types of emergencies that their team plans for, the levels of response and at what level of government.  But the most interesting thing for me was the top 3 priorities in a response:

  1. Provide for the safety and health of responders
  2. Save lives
  3. Reduce suffering

It makes logical sense that you wouldn’t send responders into an unsafe situation, so I’m not sure why I was surprised that this was their first priority.

Mike also walked us through definition and examples of critical infrastructure.  As well as information on planned disaster response routes.

The San Francisco Experience – The event was very fortunate to have Heidi Sieck and Debra Walker from the City of San Francisco area to share their experiences.  They spoke about their experience working with the Citywide Post-Disaster Resilience and Recovery Initiative.  San Francisco has a lot of experience in developing resilience plans and had some interesting learning’s to share.   First they spoke about how they were able to learn from cities like New Orleans on the need for more post-disaster resilience and recovery planning.  This helped jump start their program.  And now they are hoping other cities can learn from their experience.  Their presentation explained resilience and some of the many government bodies that have been involved in building their program.  They provided great references to specific initiatives and how they are working to educate the public – an all important element for success.

Interesting the one tidbit that ran through pretty much everyone’s presentation is that unreinforced masonry creates a lot of damage during an earthquake – think falling down chimneys.  This was one area where a lot of time and effort has been spent in San Francisco.

Overall they hoped that if another municipality can be saved some pain learning from their experience then they want to help.

The last speaker of the day was Carlos Ventura from UBC Dept. of Civil Engineering. Carlos was recently presented with the H.A. Krentz Research Award, in appreciation for his contributions made to the engineering profession and research on “tension-only brace system for earthquake resistance of low-rise buildings”.  He did a great job of summarizing a busy morning and ended with a great quote.


“Natural hazards are inevitable.  Natural disasters are not.”

John Filson, USGS retired

New York Times

December 27, 2004


I’ll admit my brain was pretty full by the end of the morning. But I came out feeling empowered to make sure our family has a plan.

All the presentations can be found at  I did also live tweet the event from the glotmansimpson account.  It was a bit challenging to follow my own live tweet tips when tweeting such a technical topic. Check it out and let me know how I did.  Hashtag #bccr!/GlotmanSimpson


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