This map show seismic hazards in Canada, with Salmon Arm being in the light blue – or lowest – category of risk. (National Resources Canada image)

Homeowners pass on earthquake protection

Vernon’s 4.5 magnitude quake in 1936 last sizable one to shake community

When they heard – or heard about – the earthquake in Salmon Arm Saturday night, a few local insurance agents thought their phones would be ringing Monday morning.

But they were wrong.

Next to no customers called to inquire about earthquake insurance – not if they could purchase it nor if they were already covered.

“We’ve had maybe about three people inquire about it since Sunday,” said Kara Sterling from SASCU Insurance Wednesday. “It’s not very common for this area. We have people from the Coast that purchase it up here because they’re used to having it at the Coast.”

Read more: Vancouver Island homeowners buy more earthquake in insurance than the rest of BC

At Johnston Meier Insurance, branch manager Geordie McLennan reports no inquiries.

“We thought we might have a couple of people calling in,” he says, explaining staff were laughing when they polled themselves and discovered that the guy who moved from Vancouver was the only one with earthquake insurance.

McLennan notes that to get a mortgage on the Coast, you not only have to show that you have fire insurance, you have to show that you have earthquake too.

Jacquie Gaudreau, branch manager at Hub International, said they’ve maybe had one call all week about it.

“On Saturday night we all thought to ourselves, the phones are going to ring off the wall on Monday. It’s not been what we’d anticipated. We kind of laughed about it.”

Read more: Shuswap earthquake minor compared to 6.0 shaker of 1918

Taimi Mulder, earthquake seismologist with the Geological Survey of Canada, says damage to buildings can start with a 5.5 magnitude quake, usually near the epicentre.

“2.2 was a long way from a magnitude 5.5,” she says, explaining that the scale is logarithmic, and a three is 100 times stronger than a two.

Still, she mentions that in 1936, Vernon experienced a 4.5 magnitude quake.

Dishes broke in Vernon and plaster cracked. In Mara, bricks dislodged from a chimney. Notch Hill residents reported four chimneys collapsed. No word on if anything was damaged in Salmon Arm.

Read more: Earthquake jogs memory of meteor strike

“The (Canadian) building code has changed a lot since then,” Mulder says. “Seismic provisions went in in 1985. Typically, buildings built after 1985 should be fairly safe.”

She says provincial building codes have to be as stringent as the national code.

“In general, I think it’s unlikely that area could experience significant damage from an earthquake in that region,” she says, with a caveat. “I have to add qualifying phrases because Mother Nature has her own plans.”

In terms of publicly owned buildings, Maurice Roy, manager of permits and licensing for the City of Salmon Arm, states:

“The buildings you are referring to are governed by Part III of the BC Building Code. They are all designed to withstand a seismic event based on our specific seismic exposure. Salmon Arm is located in a very stable area so our seismic classification is very low. So, to answer your question, those buildings have been designed to withstand the expected earthquakes in our area.”


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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