Seismic Mitigation Program

Last updated: August 27, 2020

The safety of B.C. students is vital. Government is continuing to work on a comprehensive school seismic mitigation program to make schools safe in the event of an earthquake.

The Ministry works with the Engineers and Geoscientists BC (EGBC) to assess seismic risks to public schools. The EGBC have developed the Seismic Retrofit Guidelines (SRG), by which all seismic assessments are completed.

Professional engineers, trained in the application of SRG, asses the risk of damage to a building in the event of an earthquake and apply a seismic risk rating. This rating is the foundation for making decisions about how to mitigate risk in a school building.

Since launching the Seismic Mitigation Program (SMP), the Ministry of Education has spent over $1.8B to complete high-risk seismic projects throughout the province with approximately $1 billion approved since September 2017.

The Ministry of Education currently has another $925M allocated for high-risk seismic projects in our 3-year capital plan.

2015 National Building Code changes

Changes to the 2015 National Building Code (NBC2015) reflected significantly increased assumptions for ground force motions from a Cascadia Fault subduction event off the west coast of Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii.  Specifically, the expectations are for more intense shaking on Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii (more than 2x the intensity in some regions) than previously assumed, as well as greater impacts in areas with soft soils, specifically Richmond.

Given the changes to the NBC2015, the Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (EGBC) needed to update the province’s award-winning Seismic Retrofit Guidelines to create a 3rd Edition (SRG3). Throughout 2018, all Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii and Richmond schools were reassessed using the updated SRG3 to determine a current risk rating for each school. The results of these reassessments are now incorporated in the Ministry’s Seismic Mitigation Program Status Report. The Ministry is now working closely with school districts to prioritize and sequence seismic mitigation projects, so all schools can be mitigated as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

The new guidelines mean some schools that were previously mitigated have been returned to the list, but only for those blocks of the schools that were not previously mitigated due to a low risk under the previous guidelines.  The previously mitigated blocks remain safe for students and staff.

The schools added because of SRG3 have not become less safe with these updated guidelines. Rather, the changes to the NBC2015 and SRG3 reflect a better scientific understanding from seismic experts and the National Research Council, ensuring schools are assessed more accurately.

Improved scientific research and more accurate assessments brought about by the 2015 National Building Code and SRG3 will allow government to continue progress to ensure B.C. students and school staff learn and work in seismically safe schools.