'As realistic as it can get': Mock disaster zone trains volunteers for the 'Big One' in B.C.

1 / 4

'As realistic as it can get': Mock disaster zone trains volunteers for the 'Big One' in B.C.

'As realistic as it can get': Mock disaster zone trains volunteers for the 'Big One' in B.C.

Dozens of volunteers gathered in Vancouver over the weekend to be trained on how to respond, should the "Big One" hit B.C.

A simulation was held at the city's special disaster training site on Saturday. Actors laid "injured" on ground, buses were covered in rubble and small fires burned to portray what the city would look like after an 8.7-magnitude earthquake.

"This is as realistic as it can get. If you look at the downtown core, how dense it is, the way buildings are constructed ... things will come down [in a natural disaster] — you will see rubble piles," said Emergency Management Capt. Whitfield Crump.

Vancouver's Neighbourhood Emergency Assistance Team (NEAT) is made up of volunteers who are trained to support emergency responders in the face of disaster.

The group holds the simulations once a month. For April, the new Bicycle Emergency Response Team was put to the test.

Amid a disaster, bikes would be able to manoeuvre through the city, even if major roads were destroyed. Cyclists would bring medical supplies, water and other emergency supplies to victims across the city. 

Capt. Brian Bogdonavich with Heavy Urban Search and Rescue said bikes could be a key component of disaster response.

"We expect that, in the downtown core, we won't be able to move fire trucks around," the firefighter said.

The concept for the cycling group is modelled after similar hubs in U.S. cities like San Francisco and Seattle.​

"It's really important that people take responsibility for themselves. We can't assume the city is going to be there when we need them to be," said Vancouver-based volunteer Ann Pacey.

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are also being trained to respond to a megathrust earthquake on the West Coast.

The military plan, code-named Operation Panorama, would see thousands of members deployed to B.C. to help with emergency relief.

There have been no earthquake-related deaths in modern Canadian history, but Vancouver is expected to suffer serious damage and casualties in the event of a catastrophic earthquake.

- READ MORE |How the Canadian Forces plan to react to a 'Big One' in B.C.

With files from CBC's Deborah Goble