The Great Shakeout reminds us we're not yet quake ready

Getting earthquake-ready is a big challenge for some schools.

At 10:19 a.m. Thursday, many schools, businesses and government agencies took a minute to drop, cover and hold. It's practice for what to immediately do in the next earthquake. The annual event has been known for years as The Great Shakeout.

Washington State is considered second most at risk for earthquakes after California. That's not just because of the sheer number of earthquakes, which occur every year, most of them small, but the fact that Washington expects a massive quake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone. That earthquake expected to reach a magnitude 9 or higher and would rank among the worst to hit anywhere in the U.S., Alaska included. Add to that major quake risks along the Seattle, South Whidbey and other faults, and a large population.

Loading ...

But if you thought it was mandatory for schools in Washington State to hold drills like the Great Shakeout, you would be wrong, although most do. Seattle Public Schools require drills, three times a year.

Schools are also not required by the state to meet seismic standards, something which Governor Inslee was briefed on in recent weeks as he called for a greater ability for the state to survive and bounce back from natural disaster.

This week the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which studies the earthquake risks, is calling on the state legislature to help finance the completion of a state seismic risk assessment.

DNR is seeking $$531,200 in supplemental operating funds and $481,200 on a continuing basis to complete a seismic inventory of critical facilities, along with finishing tsunami inundation mapping of low laying coastal areas considered only 50% complete.

But another $1.4 million would study the seismicity of soils statewide. Of the state's 39 counties, only five have had a school seismic safety analysis: Thurston, Grays Harbor, Chelan, Okanogan and Walla Walla counties.