From Landslides To Tsunamis, State Details Disaster Threats To Schools | KUOW News and Information

From Landslides To Tsunamis, State Details Disaster Threats To Schools

Nov 26, 2014

The Washington state education department has released a report detailing the natural disaster risks for schools across the state.

Along with familiar risks like earthquakes and wildfires, the list of natural disasters that threaten Washington schools includes things you may not have known to worry about.

Like tsunami indundation in Seattle.

In Auburn and Puyallup, it’s lahars – mud flows from volcanic eruptions.

"Up 'til now, this state really has not assessed natural hazard risk to schools. A lot of the county mitigation plans have also not addressed schools," said Robert Dengel, who co-authored the report for the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

"So we saw a real need here to not only assess the damage that could occur in a given natural hazard, but also create a framework to help mitigate those risks."

The report lists hundreds of individual schools statewide along with with the natural disaster threats they face, and what they can do to improve safety.

For instance, in Kent School District, along with general earthquake risk, certain schools are at risk for wildfire, lahar, or flooding. One district elementary school is listed at “high risk” for landslide.

Spokesman Chris Loftis said the district hasn’t developed a specific landslide mitigation plan for that school, but he says parents should rest easy because of the dedication districts have to safety.

"I think our schools are among the safest places your child or you can possibly be because we have that constant point of vigilance," Loftis said.

Dengel said the state’s nearly 300-page report took three years to produce, and was funded by about $1 million in federal grants. The money also paid for natural disaster preparedness projects in a group of districts that face some of the highest threats.

After a draft hazard mitigation plan was issued in April, Dengel said the state updated the report as a result of this year's massive landslide in Oso and devastating wildfires in Central Washington.