Century-old Vancouver elementary school invited to test new early warning device for earthquakes

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      A new early warning device for earthquakes is proposed for field testing in B.C. schools.

      Up to 41 schools in the province may be involved in the UBC research.

      One of the schools invited to participate in the study is the General Wolfe Elementary School in the Riley Park neighbourhood of Vancouver.

      The new system can provide students a warning of between five seconds to three minutes before the ground starts shaking, according to a Vancouver school district staff report.

      The system will deliver the warning through a public address, giving students enough time to drop to the floor, take cover under a desk or table, and hold on until the shaking stops.

      “After the researcher’s application is approved through the district’s standard Research Proposal process and meets required conditions, district staff are eager to see the pilot system in action and learn first-hand of the strengths and limits of these potentially life-saving warning systems,” the report noted.

      The report is included in the agenda Wednesday (May 17) of the Vancouver school board.

      The document stated that the new system is to be installed at the basement of the school. 

      The report noted that older sensors are fitted underground.

      Compared to the older gadgets costing about $25,000 each, the new instrument is only $1,000 a piece, according to the staff report.

      General Wolfe elementary was built in 1910.

      The two-storey brick school with a wood-frame annex at the rear is included in the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

      According to the register, the school was one of the 12 earliest schools built in the  then Municipality of South Vancouver between 1910 and 1914 as part of "an aggressive building campaign launched in response to the burgeoning population".

      According to the staff report, the parent advisory committee of General Wolfe elementary received a written invitation from UBC for the school to participate in the field test.

      The district will review the research proposal upon receipt of the application.

      If the project is approved, the staff report said that the device will be installed by Vancouver school board electricians.

      The report noted: “All involved recognize that this is a research field test and neither the researcher nor the district provide any guarantee that the system will provide early warning in the event of an earthquake.”