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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A comparison of earthquake preparedness plans in three British Columbia school districts Baldwin, Pamela M.


This thesis examines disaster policy at the local government level. Specifically, earthquake preparedness planning in three British Columbia school districts is examined. The disaster policy cycle and seismic risk in British Columbia are also addressed. Prior to the late 1980's, the Vancouver, Coquitlam and Langley school districts had not adopted specific measures to prepare for an earthquake. The Loma Prieta earthquake in California in 1989 increased earthquake awareness in British Columbia substantially. Thus, the Vancouver, Coquitlam and Langley school districts were faced with the same problem: the formulation and development of earthquake preparedness plans. One might expect that since all three school districts were faced with the same problem that a convergent approach to earthquake preparedness planning would be taken. However, the case studies reveal significant divergence in terms of earthquake preparedness. In relation to earthquake preparedness planning in the three school districts case studies, four factors are analyzed: amount of money spent, centralized approach versus decentralized approach, reliance on external expertise and thoroughness of the plan. Four possible explanations for the divergence of earthquake preparedness plans at the school district level are discussed in this thesis. These explanations are influence of interest groups, influence of key personnel, availability of community wealth, and magnitude of risk. The data base of for this thesis consists of the earthquake preparedness planning experience in the Vancouver, Coquitlam and Langley school districts. Relevant school district managers, staff, teachers, school administrators and parents were interviewed. Interviewees were chosen to represent departments or committees that were directly responsible for disaster preparedness or had some stake, direct or indirect, in the issues posed by earthquake preparedness. Documentary sources, government reports and statistics and newspaper articles were also used. Several conclusions can be drawn regarding emergency preparedness at the school district level. First, if magnitude of risk is significant and recognized, then the natural disaster problem has a greater chance of being addressed in an adequate manner. Second, if interest groups focus on a natural disaster problem, then there is more likelihood of more thorough action being taken than if interest groups were not involved. Third, current fiscal restraint indicates that funding, both public and private, will affect the thoroughness of emergency preparedness planning. Fourth, the preferences and actions of government officials cannot be ignored in regard to emergency preparedness planning. The degree to which natural disaster problems occupy the scope of government officials' preferences and actions will determine the extent to which disaster policy receives attention in many instances.

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