Seismic specialist sends message of self-reliance

February 22, 2012
Raina Delisle
Tags: newsalumni
Teron Moore

Emergency Management British Columbia seismic specialist Teron Moore works every day to help people prepare for the big one. Yet he says his most important message to Canadians is one of self-reliance.

“There are people working at all different levels to develop plans to respond to or recover from earthquakes and to mitigate and prepare for them, but the biggest change happens when individuals take it upon themselves to prepare,” says Moore, who leads the portfolios for volcanoes, tsunamis and earthquakes in B.C.

When Moore was doing his Royal Roads University thesis on earthquakes in Indonesia, he was struck by locals’ ability to prepare and protect themselves in the face of a natural disaster. He also worked as a research analyst for Mercy Corps in West Sumatra, Indonesia. We can learn a lot from countries like Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey, where there may not be the same capacity in government to work on disaster plans and protocols, Moore says.

“Taking responsibility for yourself, your family, your neighbours and your community members is the message that I like to promote over and over again for people in British Columbia.”

Moore helps get that important message out by organizing events such as the Great British Columbia ShakeOut, an annual provincewide earthquake drill taking place in October. In 2011, the event focused on people with mobility challenges. Moore was a member of the organizing committee and worked collaboratively on developing best practices for physically disabled people in the event of an earthquake. The organizing committee also looked at appropriate measures for people in different parts of the province as experiencing an earthquake in Whistler is very different than surviving one in Tofino.

“Part of my job was to make sure we had the best information from scientists and disaster management experts on strategies for less mobile individuals who may not be able to follow the basic drop, cover and hold on protocol in the event of an earthquake,” explains Moore, who grew up in Clearwater, B.C., where he worked as a firefighter for the B.C. Ministry of Forests. Best practices for physically challenged people include finding a safe place away from windows and heavy objects, ducking and covering one’s head.

“In an earthquake in Canada, some of the biggest risks are from broken glass and falling objects,” Moore explains, “not the collapsed buildings you’d see in areas where the building code is not up to the same standards.”

ShakeOut offers an excellent opportunity to communicate with the public about earthquakes and Moore says his experience as a student in Royal Roads’ MA in Disaster and Emergency Management program prepared him to start a dialogue on disaster planning with the public.

“I learned a lot at Royal Roads as far as how to communicate information to the public in a way that’s acceptable,” says Moore, who graduated in spring 2011. “You don’t want to stress people out or put fear into people’s everyday lives because that’s not the way we want the public to live. We live with risk every day and that’s just natural. Earthquakes are scary things and we do have to be ready for them, but we certainly don’t have to live our lives scared of them.”

While most people rarely think about natural disasters, when Moore’s not in the midst of an event like a tsunami warning or a tremor, he’s planning for the next one. (A large part of his job is planning and co-ordinating with all levels of government and the private sector.) So, how does he keep the fear out of his life?

“I like the idea that what I do is helping people,” he says. “It could lead to more safety for people, better programs or better building codes. That’s a very satisfying part of my job.”

“Teron is a great example of what can happen when a keen, bright, committed student comes into the program and stays open to learning a different approach to disaster management,” says Robin Cox, associate professor and head of Royal Roads’ Disaster and Emergency Management program.

Cox says many things make the program unique in Canada. The blended learning model (combining online learning with intensive on-campus residencies) allows students to continue working and apply the theory they are learning in the classroom to their jobs in the field. The cohort approach (small groups of learners with different personal and professional backgrounds go through the program together) also gives students unique advantages over those learning in large lecture halls.

“Students come in from a broad range of disciplines and sectors within and outside of disaster and emergency management,” Cox explains. “They are exposed in a very concentrated and intimate way to a multi-disciplinary perspective on disaster and emergency management. That really is the framework for the 21st century.”

“I think this program is very innovative and on the cutting edge,” Moore says. “It really focuses on bridging the gap between theory and practice. I am happy with it and think it prepared me well for my position.”

Originally appeared in Cumberland Now, Winter/Spring 2012