Monday, November 5th is World Tsunami Day, and while this isn’t much of a day to celebrate, it highlights potentially dangerous hazards around the world. Tsunamis don’t typically affect London, but the cause of most tsunamis can indeed be felt in our region – earthquakes.
The most common areas of seismic activity in Canada are the West coast and the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, but there are some places under Lakes Ontario and Erie that cause the occasional rumble in London, says Dr. Katsu Goda. Goda is the Canada Research Chair in Multi-Hazard Risk Assessment; originally from Japan, he currently calls Western University home.
Goda says that earthquakes can have a moderate impact on Canadian cities like London with some older infrastructure. “It’s those masonry buildings that are heavy,” he says. “The earthquake’s shaking force, which is essentially mass times acceleration, so the heavier mass has more forces affecting the building, and there’s no reinforcement. It might create a moderate disaster, but I wouldn’t expect a significant one.”
But he says that the overall risk for London is low in comparison to other regions in Canada. “Compared to the Quebec region, the seismicity rate itself is much, much lower. Of course, there is a possibility that a magnitude of 6 could happen anywhere around the world, but the chance, based off the current statistics, is low.”
Earthquakes may be a low risk for London, but the Emergency Operations Centre keeps an eye on any hazards that we might encounter. They have a list of 50 hazards ranked from most to least dangerous based off probability and severity, which is updated every year.
Amy Leggate is a Technologist at the Centre, and she says London’s level of risk would be low for earthquakes because they have a high impact but a low probability. As a comparison, extreme temperatures and heat waves rank right next to earthquakes on the list, as they have a high probability but a low impact. “Tornadoes are #1 on the list because there’s a high probability and high impact,” Leggate says.
The Centre trains many groups throughout the city to ensure that everyone is prepared for whenever disaster strikes, says the facility’s Manager, Henry Klausnitzer. “Just looking at the Peterborough floods that have happened a few times over the years, we use that same, real-life scenario, and placed it over London. Preparing for an exercise like that helps us when something similar actually happens in London,” he says.
The Emergency Operations Centre tackles the prevention, mitigation, and preparedness of all hazards that might affect the city. London may not get very wet during this year’s World Tsunami Day, but Londoners can feel secure knowing our officials are as prepared as possible.