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public safety

"For the last 14 years I had been a stay at home mom and a soccer mom of three kids," says Lori Alhadeff. "On Valentine's Day my daughter was brutally shot down and murdered and I became a school safety activist."

That day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, when a 19-year-old former student killed Alyssa Alhadeff and 16 other people, changed many lives.

And it pushed the question of school safety once again to the front and center.

After years of debate, the Portland City Council on Wednesday took a big step towards making the city’s old brick buildings more earthquake-safe.

Ocean Shores, Washington, has no natural high ground inside its city limits. On Tuesday night, residents will meet with government and university experts to discuss whether to build a tsunami evacuation platform as in a few other Northwest coastal towns.

UPDATE (1:40 p.m. PT) — Salem has issued yet another drinking water advisory Wednesday for the city’s vulnerable populations – just four days after lifting an initial advisory that prompted Gov. Kate Brown to issue an emergency and activate the National Guard.

The new advisory is based off of water samples taken on June 3-4. 

A scene from a simulation by the Washington State Department of Transportation of what could happen if a massive earthquake hits the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
YouTube/WSDOT

There will be a time — it could be tomorrow, it could be 100 years from now —when the ground beneath us will start to shake.

Buildings will crumble. Roads will be destroyed. And then a 60-foot wall of water will crash onto the Washington coast line.

A federal watchdog agency said Wednesday that it's hard to prove that Hanford’s Waste Treatment Plant is safe. 

Nearly 20 percent of people in Washington and 15 percent in Oregon speak a language other than English at home. Emergency managers from around the West are grappling with how to reach people in foreign languages in the midst of a disaster. A new Washington state law seeks to raise the bar.

A photo posted on the Facebook page  of Bellevue's Low Price Guns store.
Facebook Photo/Low Price Guns

Kim Malcolm talks with Jason Cazes, owner of Low Price Guns in Bellevue, about why he's decided to not sell long guns, which include military-style assault weapons, to people under the age of 21. 

Washington State Troopers try to keep counter-protesters back from a protest by the conservative group Patriot Prayer, Thursday, June 15, 2017, at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

A federal judge has temporarily blocked the University of Washington from charging the UW College Republicans group a $17,000 security fee for a rally on campus this weekend.

The College Republicans have invited the head of the conservative group Patriot Prayer to speak in Red Square at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Several groups have said they plan to protest the event.  

Washington state's Department of Transportation has unilaterally decided on a pre-condition before passenger trains resume service on the Point Defiance Bypass. That's where Monday's deadly derailment happened.

An unreinforced masonry wall fails a shake test at the University of British Columbia
Courtesy of UBC

Seattle has 1,100 old brick buildings that are especially vulnerable to collapsing in a big earthquake. Few have been retrofitted to withstand a major seismic event.

Now researchers at the University of British Columbia say they’ve come up with a cheap, fast way to reinforce such buildings: spray them with bendable concrete.

Crews at the Hanford Site in southeast Washington state are running through rehearsals and last minute details. In early October, they’ll begin pouring grout, a kind of thin cement, into a partially collapsed tunnel full of highly contaminated radioactive waste.

Last week’s earthquake in Mexico provided another reminder about the risks of poorly reinforced buildings. According to government studies, there are literally thousands of older brick and concrete buildings in Oregon and Washington that could collapse in a strong earthquake.

A scene from a simulation by the Washington State Department of Transportation of what could happen if a massive earthquake hits the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
YouTube/WSDOT

Seconds before last week's 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico City, people got an alert that the ground was about to start shaking. The Sistema de Alerta Sismica Mexicano, or SASMEX, gives people a chance to get under a desk or leave a building before the shaking begins. 

Intelligence experts say North Korea is several years or more away from having the capability to threaten the U.S. West Coast with a nuclear missile. But recent sabre rattling was enough to make Washington state senators hold a hearing Wednesday about preparedness.

In the event of a nuclear strike there are state laws that literally ban Washington state officials from doing a part of their job.

The state of Oregon forecasts up to 1 million people may pour in to watch the total solar eclipse on August 21. Emergency planners in central and eastern Oregon are hoping eclipse chasers will fill out a short online survey to help them staff up appropriately.

Having a phone in your hand while driving could cost you $136 under the new law.
Flickr/Ricardo Velasquez https://flic.kr/p/bh7gq8 (CC BY-ND 2.0)

A change in a Washington state law aims to crack down on distracted driving. It takes effect on July 23.

About 20 percent of baby food samples tested over a decade-long period had detectable levels of lead, according to a new report from Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit group.

The group evaluated data collected by the Food and Drug Administration from 2003 to 2013. This included 2,164 baby food samples. They found 89 percent of grape juice samples, 86 percent of sweet potatoes samples and 47 percent of teething biscuits samples contained detectable levels of lead.

The director of Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services, Nick Lyon, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office over the Flint water crisis. Both are felonies in Michigan.

The state's chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, will be charged with obstruction of justice. Four other officials, including the former Flint emergency manager and former director of public works, were also charged with involuntary manslaughter.

We all know that cellphones and driving can be a dangerous mix, and yet a quick glance at the sound of a ping can be irresistible to many motorists.

So beyond turning off your cellphone or leaving it at home, Apple has a new solution aimed at keeping drivers' eyes off the screen and on the road. When Apple's iOS 11 update comes out this fall, it will include a "Do Not Disturb While Driving" mode.

Forecasters say the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, which begins Thursday, could bring "above-normal" storm activity. Residents along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are making sure they have supplies and plans in place if a storm hits.

Ariana Grande has canceled shows in London and put her tour on hold following Monday's bombing at a concert in Manchester that killed 22 people and injured dozens more.

Yesterday Britain's prime minister Theresa May put the country on high alert, deploying the military to help guard against another attack while police investigate whether more people were involved in Monday's bombing.

Twenty percent of children who were in a car crash where someone died were not buckled in properly or were not wearing a seat belt at all, a study finds, as were 43 percent of children who died themselves.

And child fatality rates in deadly car crashes vary widely by state.

Residents of Airway Heights, Washington, have been advised not to drink water from the tap. The advisory came Tuesday from nearby Fairchild Air Force Base, as part of the Pentagon’s program to test and clean water sources near military bases around the country.

Updated at 5:45 p.m. ET

The Department of Energy has declared an emergency at a nuclear-contaminated site in Washington state, after soil caved in over a portion of a tunnel containing rail cars contaminated with nuclear waste.

"All personnel in the immediate area have been accounted for — they are safe — and there is no evidence of a radiological release," Destry Henderson, spokesperson for the Hanford site's emergency operations center, said in a brief statement on Facebook.

The U.S. Department of Energy issued an emergency alert Tuesday morning at the Hanford site north of Richland, Washington, after a tunnel at a radioactive cleanup site caved in. Workers at a former chemical processing plant were evacuated and thousands more across Hanford were directed to take shelter indoors.

State and federal officials said all workers were accounted for, there were no injuries and no indication of “release” of radioactivity into the environment. By early afternoon, the employees taking shelter were given permission to go home except those needed for emergency response.

It's the oldest and most basic form of transportation — walking — and more people are doing more of it to get fit or stay healthy. But there's new evidence today that even walking across the street is getting more dangerous.

Big earthquakes happen infrequently enough in the Northwest that people can be lulled into complacency. That’s not the case in Japan.

Most large Japanese cities have at least one disaster training center, where people can learn in realistic simulators what to do in an earthquake, typhoon or fire. Leaders from the Pacific Northwest who have seen these centers say it’s a concept worth copying.

Oregon lawmakers are considering a measure that would make it illegal to check your social media feeds while you're behind the wheel. A House panel takes up the bill Monday afternoon.

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