New approach gives school officials affordable and accurate ways to judge earthquake risks to buildings
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New approach gives school officials affordable and accurate ways to judge earthquake risks to buildings 
 


* WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES *
* OFFICE OF SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION *
* WASHINGTON MILITARY DEPARTMENT, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIVISION *

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
                                                                                                         
October 5, 2011

New approach gives school officials affordable and accurate ways to judge earthquake risks to buildings

A federally funded pilot project examining earthquake hazards to school buildings in Washington State has produced a model process that could help the state and cash-strapped school districts target hazard mitigation funds to the buildings most in need.

Funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at no cost to the schools involved, the project report, “Providing Safe Schools for Our Students,” concludes that the proposed process is cost-effective enough to make it possible to assess and rank the earthquake vulnerability of school buildings in Washington State. The undertaking could be done for a total cost of $10 million to $13 million over an 8- to 10-year period. Ultimately, the new process would expedite efforts to reduce the risk to students, teachers, and administrative personnel from earthquakes.

“In these tough budget times when trust revenues are stretched thin, we now have a cost-effective and scientifically sound process to move ahead to find out how prepared Washington school buildings are to withstand an earthquake,” said Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands.

“The process that’s been identified is the result of great and thoughtful work by many agencies,” said Randy Dorn, Superintendent of Public Instruction. “Having this in place now will help prepare our schools and our students sooner, rather than later, in case there is a natural disaster.”

The new process greatly improves on a current structural earthquake risk assessment that relies mainly on cursory, less accurate, and incomplete visual inspections. The new process would take less than a day per school site without disrupting classes or other indoor activities and involve highly-trained professionals, such as structural engineers and geologists.

The multi-agency Washington State Seismic Safety Committee, which authored the report, says the increased speed and accuracy of the new process would make it possible to assess every public school building in the state at a cost of $3,500 to $4,500 each. By avoiding multiple inspection visits sometimes required under the currently used Rapid Visual Screening method, the new approach would save money but not sacrifice accuracy. Assessments using the new process would be more cost effective and provide more valuable information.

Conducted during 2010, the School Seismic Safety Pilot Project assessed the seismic vulnerability of several buildings in the Walla Walla and Aberdeen school districts – two areas with known earthquake faults. Partners in the pilot project included the Washington State Military Department’s Emergency Management Division, Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR)–Division of Geology and Earth Resources, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Washington State Seismic Safety Committee, the Structural Engineers Association of Washington, and the Washington Association of Building Officials.

Published by DNR, Providing Safe Schools for Our Students describes how new technologies for above- and below-ground imaging helped experts more quickly and accurately assess and rank earthquake dangers to children in the school buildings studied.

The direct web link to the report is:
http://www.dnr.wa.gov/Publications/ger_ofr2011-7_school_pilot_project.pdf

DNR: State’s geologists
DNR is led by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. In addition to managing more than 5.6 million acres of state-owned lands and serving as the state’s wildland fire department, DNR houses the Washington State Geologist. The department regulates surface mining reclamation and provides technical assistance to citizens, industry and government on geologic hazards, forest stewardship, and other issues.

About OSPI
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K-12 education in Washington State. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.

OSPI does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual preference/orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.

For more information, visit the OSPI website at http://www.k12.wa.us .

Washington State Military Department, Emergency Management Division
Our mission is to minimize the impact of emergencies and disasters on the people, property, environment and economy of Washington State.

Media Contacts:
Bob Redling, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Senior Communications Manager, 360-902-1149, bob.redling@dnr.wa.gov
Nathan Olson, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Communications Manager, 360-725-6015, Nathan.olson@k12.wa.us
Mark Clemens, Washington Emergency Management Division, Public Information Officer, 253-512-7006, m.clemens@emd.wa.gov  

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dnrnews@dnr.wa.gov

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