Conference to Focus on Minimizing Aftermath of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tsunamis

Nine years ago a tornado swept through Edmonton killing 26 people,
half of whom died in a mobile home park in the northeast end of
the city.

According to PhD candidate Laurie Pearce of UBC’s School of Community
and Regional Planning, it took almost one hour before rescuers realized
that the mobile homes had been wiped out.

“Communications from the top part of the city were cut off and
response teams went to the industrial centre and residential areas
to the south,” said Pearce.”If they’d properly completed a hazard
and risk analysis they would have known that the mobile home park
was incredibly vulnerable.”

Pearce will make a presentation about who is most vulnerable during
a natural disaster at Pan Pacific Hazards ’96, an international
trade show and conference taking place July 29-Aug. 2 at the Vancouver
Trade and Convention Centre.

Pan Pacific Hazards ’96 — focusing particularly on earthquakes,
volcanoes and tsunamis–has been organized as a major Canadian contribution
supporting the United Nations International Decade for Natural Disaster
Reduction (IDNDR).

The conference includes 300 key speakers from 20 countries who
are experts in topics ranging from business recovery challenges
in the aftermath of a major earthquake to the importance of telecommunications
in disaster preparedness programs.

Among the trade show’s more than 80 exhibits are a simulated earthquake
experience in the `Quakey Shakey Van’ from the Los Angeles Fire

For her own research, Pearce has examined hundreds of natural and
person-induced hazard scenarios with an aim to developing programs
to reduce “social vulnerabilities.”

Some examples of social vulnerabilities are: inability to read
English; dependency of senior citizens and young children on others
for help; citizens in poor health, on medication or suffering from
respiratory diseases; and people with little or no money to cope
after a disaster strikes.

In the case of the Edmonton tornado, Pearce said most of the people
killed in the mobile home park were low-income seniors over the
age of 55 or youths under 18.

“I’m alerting people to things that they might not think of right
away in the event of a disaster so that vulnerabilities are built
into preparedness programs,” said Pearce. “Certain groups have to
be targeted for assistance before and after a disaster strikes.”

The conference, organized in part by UBC’s Disaster Preparedness
Resources Centre, will be open to the public on July 31.