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Led by BC Housing, project developed framework that can be used in event of natural disaster or emergencies

On Oct. 15 at 10:15 a.m., British Columbians will join millions of people around the world to practise how to “drop, cover and hold on” during the 2020 Great British Columbia ShakeOut earthquake drill.

The annual event prompts us to review our own personal emergency preparedness. On a wider scale, disaster preparedness in the province has been improved with the help of a team of experts, including those at the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC).

JIBC faculty and staff are among those who helped research and develop a system to support the quick assessment of buildings that have been damaged due to a disaster to ensure the safety of their occupants.

“The project brought together local experts and those from around the world to draw out wise and informed practices which can help communities stay safe and recover more effectively following a disaster,” said Pete Learoyd, a Program Director with JIBC’s Emergency Management Division. “The research project went beyond the assessment of buildings to explore the broader systems of support and management that are needed during a disaster to ensure homes and communities are safe for citizens.”

The project was spearheaded by BC Housing, and the late Steven Bibby who until his passing earlier this year served as the provincial agency’s Director of Security and Emergency Services, leading its emergency management, business continuity and security programs since 2005. Mr. Bibby was the Co-Chair of the BC Post-Disaster Building Assessment Advisory Committee.

BC Housing partnered with JIBC, Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia, and the Architectural Institute of British Columbia. The project was conducted through JIBC and supported by both the Office of Applied Research & Graduate Studies and the Emergency Management Division. The collective expertise of the group helped develop the Post-Disaster Building Assessment (PDBA) Framework and Recommendations that communities across Canada can use in planning their response to natural disasters or other major emergencies.

The framework helps communities establish, in advance of a disaster, who specifically will be responding and ensure they have the necessary tools to perform building safety assessments. The rapid assessment process is aimed at helping people return to their homes and workplaces as soon as possible with safety a topmost concern, allowing communities to recover more quickly after a major emergency.

“This project drew on both local and international experts and experience to develop rich and practical approaches to post-disaster building assessment in British Columbia,” said Dr. Ron Bowles, Interim Dean of JIBC’s Office of Applied Research & Graduate Studies. “BC Housing has successfully incorporated the resulting PDBA process into their training and operations. One of the interesting and satisfying aspects of this project is that the experts we consulted in developing the B.C. PDBA framework are now using the B.C. Framework to inform their own systems.”   

The framework and tools build on what was learned from the responses to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, several earthquakes in New Zealand and Italy, and other emergencies in British Columbia and Alberta. The PBDA process has already been used in the response to flooding in Grand Forks in 2018, allowing people to return to safe buildings sooner while identifying those which were unsafe for occupancy.


Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) is Canada’s leading public safety educator with a mission to develop dynamic justice and public safety professionals through its exceptional applied education, training and research. JIBC offers internationally recognized education that leads to certificates, diplomas, bachelor’s degrees and graduate certificates; exceptional continuing education for work and career-related learning and development; and customized contract training to government agencies and private organizations worldwide. Our education provides professionals with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to excel at every stage of their career contributing to safer communities and a more just society.