Like most schools in Washington, Stanwood Elementary participated in the “Great ShakeOut” Thursday morning. The statewide drill is a reminder of what to do in an earthquake.
Students and teachers dropped to the floor, got under their desks, and held on to the furniture until the shaking stopped.
The drill at Stanwood Elementary was a little different than the other drills going on at 10:17 a.m. across the state. The school was the first in Washington and Oregon to incorporate the new ShakeAlert early earthquake warning system.
The early warning system could add precious seconds of advanced notice to get under desks or furniture before the actual shaking of an earthquake arrives.
Like most older schools, much of Stanwood Elementary dates back to 1956 and there are unknowns about just how the building would stand up to an earthquake.
On Thursday morning, a team from the Washington Geological Survey, which is part of the Department of Natural Resources, ran a series of tests to help analyze how the soil under the school would perform under various earthquake scenarios.
Structural engineers will then analyze the building for how it would perform in an earthquake. The next step is to determine any retrofits are that are needed, and the funding required for the school to meet earthquake standards.
Stanwood Elementary is in the second wave of 350 schools statewide being evaluated under the School Seismic Safety Program funded by the Legislature. The first wave looked at 222 schools and found retrofits costing as little as $63,000 up to $5 million.
“It really depends on the year [the school] was built, the type of construction, is it unreinforced masonry, is it wood, concrete, and also what ground is it sitting on and how close to some of these major active faults,” explained Corina Forson, chief hazards geologist for the Washington Geological Survey. “So, all of that combined plays into the seismic risk at the school.”
When phase two is finished, 572 schools will have been examined. There are 2,300 schools in Washington, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instructions.
Some school districts, like Seattle Public Schools, are considered up to date with a mixture of new and retrofitted schools.
Other districts, such as the Stanwood Camano School District with 10 schools, are a work in progress. A new high school is under construction and features the latest in earthquake-resistant bracing. However, Superintendent Jean Schumate said the main driver behind replacing the high school was that the old facility was too small and relied on 16 portable buildings. The high school also had security and safety issues, along with aging plumbing, and electrical and heating issues.
The middle school was retrofitted at the cost of $360,000.