Project aims to pinpoint spots to head off hazards

Map will help streamline evacuation in an emergency

by Hilary Thomson staff writer

Gargantuan traffic jam or orderly exit--what would happen if more than 40,000 students, faculty and staff had to evacuate the campus in an emergency?

UBC's Office of Disaster Management aims to find out with the hazard evacuation mapping project.

Creating a map that identifies locations of potential hazards on campus, developing evacuation routes and educating the campus community about how to leave Point Grey in an emergency are the current focus of project activities.

"We want to be pro-active in our emergency preparedness," says Mark Aston, manager of Environmental Programs. "Even a small-scale evacuation can be inconvenient without adequate planning. A large-scale event can be catastrophic."

Hazard mapping assistant Johannes Schumann, a UBC Geography graduate, has gathered information to produce an "aerial snapshot" of the campus that identifies potential hazards and evacuation routes.

Schumann has identified campus sites that have particular risks such as flammables, chemicals and other hazardous materials. He has layered that information onto a map showing roadways, power lines and the network of underground water, gas and sewer pipes.

The map organizes the campus into six zones and shows 14 points where volunteers will be positioned to direct traffic.

Emergencies such as gas leaks and earthquakes are also taken into account in determining hazards.

General hazard statistics such as locations and types of materials are being entered into a software program that will produce a computer model of hazards and exit routes. The model can be easily updated and used in planning before and during an emergency.

Evacuation route planning must be flexible enough to take into account the location of the hazard and to make way for incoming traffic.

"There's a common misconception that the familiar yellow and black triangular disaster response route signs show the way out in an emergency," says Aston. "In fact, those routes are blocked--they're for emergency responders only."

About 32,500 vehicles are on campus daily.

Because UBC is not governed by the Greater Vancouver Regional District it requires its own emergency procedures and resources, including an evacuation plan, says Aston.

The plan will serve the entire campus, including Acadia Park and Hampton Place and incorporate the needs of residents of the University Endowment Lands.

The next step is to get feedback on the plan from both campus and community emergency personnel, educate the campus community about evacuation routes and procedures and recruit volunteers to serve as directional point staff in an evacuation.

More than 95 people recently volunteered as part of the Emergency Social Services (ESS) program at UBC.

The program is designed to provide food, shelter, water and clothing in the event of a large-scale emergency or disaster. Volunteers would help provide translation and counselling services and organize feeding stations and shelter.

more information

To become an emergency volunteer contact Pierre Tanguay, ESS volunteer coordinator at
604-822-2990. For information about the plan check the Web site at or call the Office of Disaster Management at 604-822-1237.