Washington needs to strengthen its school buildings to withstand the next earthquake, according to a new report sent to the governor and legislature by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.
Many of the 222 public school buildings inspected by geologists over the past year would not be safe to occupy after a powerful earthquake, the report shows.
“We need to be vigilant and take steps now to help keep our kids safe,” Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said in a statement. “Taking proactive steps to prevent damage is always smarter and more cost-effective than paying to react and rebuild after disaster strikes."
In a separate plan, Seattle Public Schools listed their buildings with unreinforced masonry – known to be a concern in earthquakes – and included projected improvement dates. Read that full plan here.
The DNR study is the first statewide look at the seismic stability of the Washington State schools.
Many Washington schools were built before the statewide building code was adopted in 1975 and are vulnerable to earthquakes, according to DNR staff. Washington has roughly 200 schools within one mile of a known fault, and roughly 70 percent of the state's schools are located in areas of high seismic risk, DNR staff said.
Assessments for more than 4,000 additional public school buildings are expected to continue through 2021 with an additional $2.2 million in funding from the state Legislature.
Video of the 7.1 Nisqually Earthquake that hit Western Washington on February 28, 2001 is above and linked here.
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