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Tornado prompts concerns about disaster preparedness in B.C. schools

The ever-present threat of natural disaster is a major concern for Vancouver schools in the wake of the catastrophic Oklahoma tornado that has killed 24 people to date.

Patti Bacchus, Vancouver School Board chair, said she thought immediately of B.C. schools while watching footage of the destruction in Oklahoma Monday.

“We know we have a significant risk of a fairly serious earthquake striking the area, and we aren’t prepared for that,” she said.

B.C.’s seismic mitigation program began in 2004, and 213 schools have been upgraded or replaced since then, at a cost of $2.2 billion. Bacchus said there is still more work to be done.

“They’re expensive projects, but those are schools that have been assessed by engineers to be at high risk of significant structural damage and in the worst case, collapse in the event of an earthquake,” she said.

Timing is the real concern, and Bacchus said a lack of urgency in upgrade approvals needs to be change.

“It is slow, we’re taking a real gamble. We’ve been lucky so far, but we can’t count on luck,” Bacchus said.

Bacchus said she has heard of parents wanting to move their children to schools that have the seismic upgrades.

Laurie Boyle said she feels more confident sending her children to Lord Kitchener Elementary after it was replaced in November of last year.

“It’s a big relief because the old school was a real dump. It didn’t feel safe,” she said. “The anticipation of getting [a new school] was a bit agonizing, but now it’s just a big relief, it’s all over with. And hopefully it will stand up to an earthquake if one happens.”

There are still more than 100 schools across B.C. on the waiting list for seismic upgrades.


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Shifting ‘vibration isolation’ technology from table tops to data centers

Shifting ‘vibration isolation’ technology from table tops to data centers

Talk about a specialized niche. WorkSafe Technologies, of St. Charles, MO, produces devices and contraptions that are intended to isolate natural vibrations in the Earth and protect equipment and property that might otherwise be damaged or destroyed by such vibrations.

WorkSafe for decades has built tabletops and carts — they prefer to call them “platforms” — on which sensitive or valuable instruments and equipment can be placed, and safeguarded, even when the ground beneath them begins to shake violently.

For instance, when the ground beneath a census office building in New Zealand vibrated during an earthquake, recalled WorkSafe’s Mike Reilly, the equipment sitting on his company’s platforms survived nicely. “Everything on our base was intact,” Reilly told Government Security News at the GovSec security show in Washington, DC, on May 14. “Everything else was destroyed.”

Similarly, when a 9.0 earthquake struck Nigata, Japan, houses, offices and property sustained major damage. “But, everything we had survived,” Reilly bragged. “In fact, in Japan, we’ve become the de facto standard.”

For decades, WorkSafe has been manufacturing relatively small platforms. Now, it has set its sights on bigger installations, and a far bigger overall market. The company is now trying to bring its vibration isolation technology to the booming world of data centers. Rather than allow an earthquake or other natural disaster to roll through a data center and shock rows and rows of server racks that each house terra bytes of precious data, WorkStation is morphing its platform version into a system of isolators that can be installed beneath the floor of a data center, and effectively prevent vibrations from disturbing the computer equipment.

Reilly told GSN that his company currently is running a Beta site for this technology in California.

The isolation technology is remarkably simple. Essentially, it consists of a series of round ball bearings that are placed in a cone-shaped container, such that the balls naturally roll towards the depressed center of the container. During an earthquake-inspired vibration, the platform sitting on top of the ball bearings is effectively isolated from the vibrations by the rapid and smooth re-positioning of the ball bearings. Miraculously, the equipment sitting on top of the platform is safeguarded.

Currently, WorkSafe has completed about 80,000 installations, said Reilly, mostly of its “platform” product. Time will tell whether the company can introduce its concept into the data center world, and receive an equally warm welcome.


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Earthquake rattles residents in Ontario, Quebec

Buildings were evacuated and people were shaken from sleep on Friday morning after an earthquake struck near the nation’s capital.

Earthquakes Canada reports a 5.2 magnitude earthquake hit near Shawville, Quebec – about an hour‘s drive from Ottawa – shortly after 9:45 a.m.

The agency also reports a 4.2 magnitude aftershock struck less than 10 minutes later.

It might not have been a big quake, but it sure felt like it to David Reid, mayor of Arnprior, Ont., a town located across the Ottawa River, approximately 21 kilometres from the epicentre.

He says he felt like he was standing “right over top” of the quake as it rumbled the ground under his feet for about 15 to 20 seconds.

“All of a sudden the earthquake hit and I must say, it felt like I was standing right over top of it,” Reid told CTV Ottawa on Friday. “This, to me, was the strongest I’ve felt.”

Kevin Newman, host of CTV’s Question Period, said he felt the floor of his office overlooking Parliament Hill ripple under his feet.

“We felt it here,” he told CTV News Channel on Friday. “These are quite common here in Ottawa. There was a little bit of a rippling of the floor underneath your feet as it went by. And you sort of go, ‘Did the cement ground just move?’ And, in fact, it had.”

Before the quake had even been confirmed, Twitter erupted with reports of shaking and building evacuations.

@MeghanFurmanCTV tweeted: “Tremors felt in Kitchener. Regional building evacuated. #earthquake”

@KeeganAtors tweeted: “felt the earthquake in Ottawa too ! Shook my entire apartment building ! #scary” tweeted

Several people said they were shaken awake by the rumbling.

@_jessgouveia tweeted: “That earthquake actually woke me up…

@jaclyntess tweeted: “Nothing like getting shook awake by a casual earthquake”

The quake was felt as far away as Toronto.

The last major quake in the region – measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale – hit less than three years ago on June 23, 2010. That quake’s epicentre was near Buckingham, Que., about 56 km north of Ottawa.


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