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Earthquake safety lacking at Langara

No seismic drills worry faculty and students

The seismically unsafe chimney on top of Building A. The college has known about its structural weakness for seven years. Photo: Christina Dommer.
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Reported by Christina Dommer

Some faculty and students at Langara College say the school’s procedure for earthquakes lack the coordinated drills necessary for serious seismic activity.

English professor Sean Gray feels that most teachers’ preparedness for seismic emergencies come from the initial instruction upon being hired.  

“There’s not a whole lot,” Gray said.  “There’s basically a couple of documents that we can refer to on the myLangara website.”

The risks at Langara

B.C.’s Juan de Fuca Plate has seen six earthquakes over a 4.0 magnitude in February according to the United States Geological Survey.  

A year ago, The Voice reported the chimney on Building A could collapse during an earthquake.  A analysis from Weiler Smith Bowers Consulting deemed the chimney seismically unsafe seven years ago and it has still not been renovated.

The Langara facilities department was unavailable for comment on the status of the chimney.

Uneasy students

Fine arts student Owen Patterson said he will be falling back on the earthquake drills he learned in grade school. He finds Langara’s emergency procedures obscure.

“I’m not really aware of any sort of escape plans or any kind of places to go, things to do in case of an emergency,” Patterson said.

For international students, who didn’t grow up practicing earthquake drills, it’s even more unclear.

Although accounting student Sayyaf Mohamed knows about tsunami drills from his grade school in Sri Lanka, he is not very familiar with proper earthquake procedure.

“We [talked] in one class, I think one English class,” Mohamed said. “We were just talking about what to do and they were giving some sheets, but I don’t remember exactly.”

Other educational institutions take action

In comparison, UBC and Kwantlen list instructions to wheelchair users in an earthquake, while Langara does not. SFU provides laboratory earthquake safety information, and participated in the annual ShakeOut BC, a province-wide earthquake drill in October last year.  VCC’s nursing students even took part in a disaster simulation after an earthquake drill last year.

A Vancouver school board facilities plan released last week named 30 schools at risk of being shut down for being structurally unsafe in event of an earthquake.

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