Report gauges Canada’s readiness for increase in earthquakes, wildfires, pandemics

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The amount of land burned annually in Canada by wildland fires has more than doubled since the 1970s. It is estimated that, by 2100, the area burned could double again, states the new risk report. Photo credit: Niram1/Wirestock Creators, stock.adobe.com

*The following regulatory news article is intended to be an overview of the report or legislation and not a replacement for the actual guidance from the government. For the comprehensive data and all relevant information, please visit the linked source material within the article.

Canada has released its first national risk assessment that details existing measures and resources in place for emergency management systems to tackle the rise in climate crisis-related disasters.

The new National Risk Profile report addresses earthquakes, wildland fires, and floods, with an additional section on pandemics. An update is already planned to include extreme heat events, hurricanes and space weather, which refers to eruptions on the sun that disturb the Earth’s magnetic field.

The report, which serves as a communication tool for increasing disaster risk awareness, preparedness, readiness and response, arrives in conjunction with the announcement of training 1,000 firefighters, launching a national earthquake warning system in 2024, and creating an online flooding portal.

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“When we understand the risks we face, we can better protect ourselves and our communities from them,” announced Bill Blair, Minister of Emergency Preparedness, in a statement. “The National Risk Profile is a foundational piece of emergency preparedness work that draws upon scientific evidence and stakeholder perspectives to support decision-making that will strengthen Canada’s emergency management and resiliency to climate-related risks and disasters.”

The profile utilizes two methodologies, including an All-Hazards Risk Assessment and an Emergency Management Capability Assessment.

Earthquakes

In terms of earthquakes, the report projects that a severe earthquake in British Columbia of a 9.0 magnitude could result in some $75 billion in losses. A similarly devastating event in the Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa corridor could result in $61 billion in losses. The most active region in eastern Canada is the Charlevoix Seismic Zone, located in northeastern Quebec.

On average, more than 5,000 earthquakes are recorded each year in Canada, of which about 50 are felt, the report states.

Natural Resources Canada is implementing a national early warning system for seismic events to launch in 2024.

“Anyone living or working in a structure that was constructed in an earthquake-prone region before seismic provisions were included in local building codes is at greater risk,” according to the report.

Wildfires

When it comes to wildfires, the new risk profile says they are expected to increase in the future for a number of reasons. These include population and industrial growth in forested areas; longer fire seasons due to climate change; as well as changes in land use and management practices that have created more sources of ignition for wildfires.

The amount of land burned annually by wildland fires has more than doubled since the 1970s. It is estimated that, by 2100, the area burned could double again, states the report.

The report also identified several gaps in Canada’s wildland fire resilience, including gaps in scientific knowledge and wildland fire management tools and technologies. For example, the report recommends enhancing wildland fire prediction and remote sensing to improve early warning systems for communities and fire management agencies.

The report suggests officials are working on improvements to air quality and wildland fire smoke alert and messaging systems.

Flooding

Flooding is one of the most imminent concerns in the report, as some 83% of Canadians live in urban areas and about 80% of highly-populated metropolitan areas are located wholly or partially in flood zones.

“Given the vast array of damages that result after a flood, it can be challenging to estimate the overall economic impacts of flooding, including factors such as loss of business and impacts on agriculture,” states the report, which points out that even simple basement floods cost an average of $43,000 to resolve.

Regardless, the report projects that flooding and its impacts will increase. The Canadian Climate Institute estimates inland flooding costs alone under a reactive approach to flood risk management could rise by approximately $5-8 billion annually by 2050.

The report notes that efforts are currently underway to coordinate national frameworks for “standardized, open, and authoritative” flood maps.

“Where flood mapping has been undertaken, it has focused primarily on present flood hazards, but has not always incorporated the projected change in hazard due to climate scenarios, nor the change in exposure due to investments in mitigating infrastructure,” the report warns.

Pandemics

For the risk category of pandemics, the report says that issues of capacity at hospitals and evacuation centres are priorities. Additionally, the report examines the need for stocking appropriate levels of personal protective equipment and having adequate numbers of mobile health units available.

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