Local Government Profile
Hazard and vulnerability profile
The District of North Vancouver is sandwiched between the
Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountain range along the SW
coast of British Columbia, Canada. Particularly during fall and
winter seasons, intense storms stall over the area, depositing
heavy precipitation before rising up over the mountains and
moving into the interior of BC. The storms often arrive with
strong winds, warm temperatures and significant amounts of
precipitation. Critical weather conditions for landslides are an
extended period of rainfall causing ground saturation
combined with intense rainfall (>7mm per hour). It is not
unusual to receive 100mm+ precipitation in a 24 hour period.
Two major watersheds supply Metro Vancouver's drinking
water. The highest peaks in the area approach 1500 meters
elevation, the lowest areas are at sea level, over a distance of
only a few kilometers resulting in generally steep terrain.
Many small creeks drain from the mountains into the ocean.
The District forms part of Port Metro Vancouver, with heavy
industry and transportation corridors located along the ocean
front. Residential and commercial development has occurred
on several debris fans. Most of the easily developed areas
have been developed. As population continues to slowly
grow, there are two options or a combination of both: urban
density will increase and/or development will push into the
surrounding mountainous terrain. The urban-wildland
interface area is steep and forested. While the climate is
generally wet, forest understory has built up ladder fuels,
increasing the potential magnitude of forest fires. Situated
within the Cascadia subduction zone, the District of North
Vancouver is vulnerable to earthquakes. Geologic evidence
indicates that megathrust earthquakes have occurred every
300-800 years along the SW coast of British Columbia.
Geological Survey of Canada conducts extensive research and
monitors seismic activity, see
- 1995 major debris flow occurred on MacKay Creek in 1995,
causing significant damage to residential properties.
- 2005 landslide claimed the life of a woman sleeping in her
home and seriously injured her husband.
- 2006 windstorm caused damage resulting in $10 million in
clean up costs.
Landslide, debris flow, earthquake, flood, forest fire, severe
Disaster Risk Reduction Activities
Essential 1. Organization and Coordination
An emergency management working group meets regularly
and includes stakeholders from various municipal
departments, health authority, neighboring municipal
government, school district, first responders (Police, Fire ,
Ambulance), public safety lifeline volunteers (Search and
Rescue, Emergency Social Services, Amateur Radio
Operators, Emergency Preparedness Educators), social
services agencies, etc. Municipal and Regional emergency
plans outline roles and authorities to prepare for, respond to
and recover from a disaster. Department emergency plans
identify specific tasks and areas of responsibility to carry out
the operational aspects of emergency management.
A natural hazards task force was formed in 2007.The task
force is comprised of eight volunteer District residents with
the mandate to recommend to Council the community's
tolerable level of risk of from natural hazards. The task force
received presentations from subject matter experts in the
topics of natural hazards, risk assessment models, mitigation
methods, financial and legal considerations. The task force
sought public input through a variety of public consultation
processes and, after much deliberation, made their
recommendations to Council. Those recommendations form
the District's current policy for risk tolerance. Hazards and
risks are carefully considered when granting building and
development permits. Risks are compared with the risk
tolerance criteria and further reduced to as low as reasonably
practicable. Read more at www.dnv.org/hazards
The District works closely with the Association of Professional
Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia, sharing best
practices and assisting in the development of guidelines for
The District works with residents, private corporations and
neighbouring government land owners to collectively reduce
risk from landslides and forest fires by taking action to
improve drainage on slopes and create defensible spaces
along the urban-wildland interface area.
Essential 2. Assign a budget
An annual budget is assigned to the Natural Hazards
Management Program to assess and manage risks. An annual
budget is also assigned to the North Shore Emergency
Management Office to develop municipal emergency plans,
provide education for public, businesses and municipal staff,
and to maintain the Emergency Operations Centre facility in a
state of readiness.
Incentives are available to homeowners living on the crests of
slopes to upgrade storm drainage systems (connecting hard
surface drainage to the municipal storm drainage system).
The District funds a "Geotech-on-Demand" service, where
property owners can request the services of a qualified
professional to conduct a brief geotechnical or
hydrotechnical assessment of their property and provide
minor general guidance on next steps in reducing risk. This
service is also used to assist in communicating the more
technical aspects of risk assessment reports generated by the
Essential 3. Prepare risk assessments
An overview hazard, risk and vulnerability assessment was
completed in 2005.
Since then, the District has undertaken
detailed risk assessments across the region on both private
and public land for landslides, debris flows and forest fires.
Detailed flood and earthquake risk assessments are currently
underway. The District is working with the University of
British Columbia's Earthquake Engineering Research Facility
and the Geological Survey of Canada to better understand
the potential impacts of earthquakes to our built
Hazard and risk information is available to the public via the
District's website, www.dnv.org/hazards and also spatially via
www.geoweb.dnv.org under the Hazards application. As new
assessments are completed, notification is sent to property
owners, public meetings are held and records are added to
the District's natural hazard database. The District works
closely with the real estate community to ensure that full
disclosure occurs when properties are transferred to new
The North Shore Emergency Management Office has
prepared region-wide pandemic and evacuation plans in
additional to all-hazards municipal emergency plans.
Essential 4. Invest in and maintain infrastructure
The District utilizes tools developed by the Government of
Canada to measure the importance and vulnerability of
critical infrastructure. This information is shared among a
large number of stakeholders in the region to understand
interdependencies. hazard mitigation and upgrades to
municipal infrastructure is completed on a systematic basis,
based on priorities determined through risk assessments.
Forest fire fuel treatments and seismic upgrades have
recently been conducted in areas surrounding critical
infrastructure (water and sewer service delivery systems,
municipal facilities). Upgrading infrastructure will be
challenging in the years to come because infrastructure is
aging rapidly and local governments lack the financial
resources to keep up with the need for replacement.
Essential 5. Safety of school and health facilities
Schools and health care facilities are not under the mandate
and jurisdiction of local government. However, the District
works closely with these agencies to better understand
strengths, vulnerabilities and anticipated needs in a disaster.
Participation in joint exercises and emergency planning
initiatives have strenthened these relationships.
Essential 6. Apply and enfore realistic, risk - compliant building
regulations and land-use planning principles
Procedures are in place to ensure that qualified professionals
assess applications for proposed development, taking into
consideration natural hazards and risks. A policy for risk
tolerance criteria was recently adopted and applicants are
required to meet the criteria for new and re-development.
A new Official Community Plan is under development that
includes Development Permit Areas for natural hazards to
further regulate development in hazard areas. The District
has partnered with Natural Resources Canada in an
integrated risk assessment for natural hazards project. This
four year project aims to refine a framework for local
government land-use decision making, taking into account
climate change and natural hazards.
Essential 7. Education programmes and training
A variety of emergency preparedness workshops are offered
to the public and business community through the North
Shore Emergency Management Office. Extensive information
regarding hazards and risk reduction is available on the
Districts's website, brochures and workshops. The provincial
government develops educational information available to
the public at www.pep.bc.ca.
The District is working with a local teacher to develop natural
hazards cirriculum for high school students.
Essential 8. Protect ecosystems and natural buffers
64% of the District is wilderness. Forest ecosystem mapping
and an ecosystem-based management framework were
recently developed to assist the District in meeting one of the
key goals of our Official Community Plan: "to conserve the
ecological integrity of our natural environment, while
providing for diverse park and outdoor recreational
activities". This topic is discussed in detail at
www.identity.dnv.org. Policies and bylaws are in place to
protect the natural environment that include limiting
development near streams, strict regulations regarding
removal of trees, and requirements for managing surface
Essential 9. Early warning systems and emergency management
The District of North Vancouver has implemented a debris
flow warning system, based on current and forecasted
meteorological data combined with statistical analysis of
historical events, to predict when debris flows are unlikely,
possible, likely or very likely to occur. The system is updated
hourly, and available between October - April each year via a
telephone line and the District website. A similar warning
system is in place for forest fires, updated daily. Emergency
exercises are held periodically, for example, a full scale, multi
agency interface fire exercise "Operation Dry Lightning" was
held in 2008.
The North Shore Emergency Management Office coordinates
a telephone-based rapid notification system and ensures that
the Emergency Operations Centre is maintained in a state of
readiness. The District will participate in ShakeOut 2011, a
drill where residents, businesses and staff are encouraged to
drop, cover and hold.
Essential 10. Needs of survivors
The North Shore Emergency Management Office has a plan in
place for Recovery Centres, aimed at coordinating the short
term social needs of our community post-disaster through
the Emergency Social Services volunteers, group lodging
facilities and recovery centres. This plan needs further
development to plan for mid and long-term recovery needs.
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