Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Learning From Haida Qwaii Quake

7.7 Quake Left Balancing Rock 'Unmoved'
Caused No Physical Or Structural Injuries

CBC television aired a story about the Haida Qwaii earthquake which measured 7.7 on the Richter scale recently. The story centres around scientific investigations into the quake to try and learn the how and why of the quake.

What is described as the largest Canadian earthquake in a generation was 80 km from a populated centre, measured 7.7 on the Richter scale resulted in no physical or structural injuries. There was and continues to be psychological 'injuries' as a result which arguably are based in fear of what could happen, not what did happen.

The facts are that the area was hit by a 7.7 magnitude earthquake, and counting the smallest 'quakes' during this event, scientists claim anywhere from 2,000 - 3,000 quakes have occurred, none of which have resulted in physical injury but have resulted in mental issues for some.

Fear, not fact has claimed victims after this quake.

Fear Is Powerful

Fear of course is a good thing, it keeps some of us from jumping out of airplanes or taking a board and riding 20' surf or engaging in other risky activities some would claim are what makes life worth living. It can also become an instrument which can result in irrational behaviour, there are many examples of people who perished when they succumbed to panic, brought on by fear, whereas the calm rational person was able to survive the same circumstance.

The fear of what 'could' happen should Colliery Dams fail is what has driven council to accept the opinion of staff to destroy the Colliery Lakes. There seems to be little rational thought applied to the real likelihood of this actually happening, or for that matter being able to withstand  should a seismic event occur.

Fear is an often used tool in the hands of marketers and opinion makers everywhere. Fear of loss is a great motivator which sales people have known for years and is often, albeit subtly used to convince others to agree with them.

The decision to destroy Colliery Park Lakes is solely based in fear, fear of loss of life, fear of property loss and finally fear of litigation. Whether a calm, rational person would agree with the opinion being championed by the city manager is a question that needs asking and answering.

Example Of Fear Being Used To Sway Opinion

City staff is quoted in the local media as saying there is a 40% chance the dams will fail within 50 years. However, if you read the report it is said there is a 15% - 40% chance of failure in 50 years, but that statement is prefaced with the phrase 'could be'. Other studies claim a 1.6% chance in 50 years, contained in the same report.

Put another way, the city used statistic could also be phrased as there is an 85% chance the dams will not fail in 50 years, or using the 1.6% chance you could say there is a 98.4% chance the dam will not fail.

A Contradiction?

City staff are saying these reports show a 40% chance of failure in 50 years which means you could also say that within the next 10 minutes there is a 40% chance of failure, which would be true, as the next 10 minutes will occur within the next 50 years.

Yet, they say the dams are stable and there is no need to evacuate from the area or stop developing property in the flood zone. Something staff has approved in spite of being aware of the seismic hazard assessment claiming a risk in the area.

So, has fear led to some irrational behaviour on the part of city staff and city council which has led to a fear driven (panicked) conclusion ?


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