IBC VP addresses BC’s billion-dollar earthquake risk

During the 11th Annual Great British Columbia ShakeOut province-wide earthquake drill event that was held last October 20, over 639,000 individuals from across the province participated. To say the event was a resounding success would be an understatement.

But how real is the threat of earthquakes in BC? Insurance Business spoke with Aaron Sutherland, vice president of Western and Pacific at the Insurance Bureau of Canada, to talk about the significance of the ShakeOut event, and how the public can prepare for the growing threat of a tremor.

Can you tell me about your current role and responsibilities?

I am IBC’s Vice-President, Western and Pacific, and lead our government relations and consumer advocacy on behalf of Canada’s private home, business and auto insurers. Improving our resiliency to earthquakes and other natural disasters is a national priority for Canada’s insurers. We believe the annual ShakeOut event – the world’s largest earthquake preparedness drill – plays a big role in that.

In addition to my role at IBC, I am also Vice President of the BC Earthquake Alliance – the organizing body that organizes ShakeOut every year.

What is the state of earthquake preparedness in BC?

IBC represents Canada’s home, business and private auto insurers, and our industry is a passionate advocate for emergency preparedness. In fact, it’s one of our strategic priorities. IBC spends a great deal of time analyzing the risks of natural disasters – particularly as they relate to climate change.

British Columbia is the most seismically active province in all of Canada.

Earthquakes are very common off the coast and should be a stark reminder that Southwestern British Columbia remains at significant risk of an earthquake. In fact, there is a one-in-three chance that a major quake will strike the area within the next 50 years.

BC has had more than its share of disasters in recent years: from the heat dome and devastating wildfires we saw last summer, to the torrential rain and flooding events we experienced in the autumn. While these emergencies required urgent attention in response and we continue recovery efforts, we can’t overlook the ongoing risk of a major earthquake – and we must prepare accordingly, both physically and financially.

Every year, we encourage British Columbians to participate in ShakeOut to review and update emergency preparedness plans and supplies, and to secure their homes or other spaces in order to prevent damage and injuries. We saw nearly 650,000 British Columbians and millions of people worldwide participated in this year’s ShakeOut, which continues to be the world’s largest earthquake preparedness drill.

Apart from practicing drills and preparing an emergency plan, what are some other things that BC residents can do to prepare for an earthquake?

We know that our families, communities, and businesses need to be better prepared than they are today. In that vein, we encourage everyone to participate in events like ShakeOut to help build their muscle memory on what to do should the shaking start. But that’s only part of the challenge, so we also encourage consumers to talk to their insurance representatives about the financial protection that earthquake insurance can provide.

Earthquake insurance covers the loss or damage to your property and its contents caused by the shaking of the earth. Coverage for earthquake damage is not included in a standard home insurance policy, but can be purchased as an add-on to your existing policy, and is also subject to a higher deductible.

In certain circumstances, homeowners who are unable to return to their homes as a result of insurable damage may be entitled to additional living expenses. Earthquake coverage is also available for your place of business. In the event earthquake damage impedes your business operation, business interruption insurance can also be purchased.

If you have any questions, we encourage you to reach out to your insurance representative. They are on your side and are there to help answer your questions.

How can insurers help in protecting their customers from the risk of earthquakes?

Our industry is advocating for a solution that brings public and private resources together. Since November 2019, IBC has authored an Options Paper, a Market Report, and a Solutions Paper around this very issue. On top of this, IBC commissioned a survey and report from KPMG on the state of the Earthquake Insurance market. IBC holds regular touchpoints with Finance Canada and is working in partnership with ICLR (Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction) to create a baseline earthquake insurance pool for consumers.

Many of us have different contributions to make – whether you’re a first responder, a business owner, a government representative or a private citizen wanting to protect yourself, your family and your property.

We encourage everyone to register for the next ShakeOut event. This year, nearly 650,000 British Columbians, and millions of people worldwide, registered and participated in the world’s largest Earthquake Preparedness drill. The time to prepare for natural disasters – and in this case, earthquakes. In an emergency, we need to stay calm and act quickly. This opportunity to practice the Drop, Cover, and Hold On response can create muscle memory, which can help us react quickly enough to find a safe space during an earthquake.

We are grateful to have the support of the province in promoting earthquake preparedness among British Columbians.



Over 56.4 Million Participants Worldwide
Participants in BC Last Year:725 Thousand
Map with clickable regions of British Columbia
Who's Participating? Click on a region on the map of BC to see the region specific participation tally.
176 Days Until the 2024 ShakeOut
Current BC Wide Total 9,937
Cariboo 973
Kootenay 20
Lower Mainland 5,101
Nechako 1
North Coast 1
Northeast 0
Thompson Okanagan 91
Vancouver Island / Coast 3,733