Emergency Management Exercise Program

Emergency Management B.C. (EMBC) is the lead agency for the development and coordination of provincial-level exercises in order to validate plans, test procedures and provide realistic training for staff, as well as to test facilities, equipment and resources. Exercises also foster relationships, confirm expectations and maintain rapport with key partners.

Exercise Coastal Response

The coast of British Columbia is vulnerable to a catastrophic earthquake, with the potential for major impacts to public health and safety, significant loss of life and billions of dollars in damage to critical infrastructure. Aside from an actual emergency event, exercises offer the highest degree of realism to test the province’s operational readiness for a catastrophic earthquake.

Exercise Coastal Response was held from June 7 to 10 in the Port Alberni region. It was B.C.'s first ever full-scale earthquake and tsunami response exercise and tested and acted upon critical elements of the B.C. Earthquake Immediate Response Plan (PDF) in preparation for a real event.

Frequently Asked Questions

Exercise Coastal Response 2016 was based on a magnitude 9.0 earthquake resulting from a rupture of the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the coast of southwestern B.C. In this exercise scenario, strong shaking lasting several minutes would occur in areas of Greater Vancouver, Greater Victoria and central Vancouver Island, causing some destruction in the major urban centres and widespread damage in the Port Alberni valley. The earthquake would also generate a tsunami on the west coast of Vancouver Island minutes after the initial shock.

A strong and effective provincial response to a catastrophic earthquake hinges on B.C.’s ability to coordinate with internal and external agencies at all levels. The purpose of Exercise Coastal Response 2016 was for Emergency Management BC to bring together some key stakeholder groups – multiple levels of government, various jurisdictions in Canada and the U.S., and a number of provincial ministries, First Nations, Crown corporations and first responders – in a coordinated and integrated way to activate the B.C. Earthquake Immediate Response Plan (PDF). The goal was to exercise elements of this plan and strengthen relationships among and across partners and stakeholders to enhance operational coordination. 

Lying mostly offshore, the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) is an interface between two plates; it is a giant fault— approximately 1,000KM long. The set of tectonic plates to the west are sliding (subducting) beneath the North American Plate. The movement of these plates is neither constant nor smooth: the plates are stuck, and the stress will build up until the fault suddenly breaks. This last happened in January 1700. The result was an earthquake on the order of magnitude 9.0, followed within minutes by a large tsunami—much like the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011.

The world’s largest quakes occur along subduction zones. Dubbed great earthquakes, the magnitude of these events ranges from 8.0 to 9.0+ (the largest on record was a magnitude 9.5 quake off the coast of Chile in 1960). Their characteristics include prolonged ground shaking, large tsunamis, and numerous aftershocks.

Cascadia Subduction Zone

image c/o Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup

Start by visiting PreparedBC, British Columbia's one-stop shop for disaster readiness information. Here you will find information on the risks we face in the province, as well as how to prepare as an individual, with your family and as a community.

Feedback received from Exercise Coastal Response is currently being analyzed by the participating ministries and agencies. The process will be led by EMBC and will compare actual performance against expected outcomes to determine what changes should be made to procedures, plans, staffing, equipment, communications, organizations and interagency coordination defined in the B.C. Earthquake Immediate Response Plan (PDF). This detailed, final analysis of the exercise process is now underway and will result in the provincial Improvement Plan, to be released in 2017.