Earthquake Safety and Seattle Schools

Update: the district reissued its list of seismic updates and it appears every school has or will be upgraded by the end of BEX IV/BTA III.

end of update.

The Times is running a series on earthquake readiness (or lack thereof) in Washington State.  In April, the City released a document that names hundreds of buildings that they believe are problematic.  And yes, there are dozens of SPS buildings on the list from every corner of the district.

(I did write about this issue back in 2013 but given the area of the country we live in, it's worth revisiting.)

I actually had already seen the list several weeks back and contacted Tom Redman, Facilities and Capital Communications Coordinator.  He didn't even know it had been put out which is odd given the number of SPS buildings on the list.  

But two things upfront.  

One, most of the school buildings on the list were given a "C" which stands for 
Preliminary Risk Category is a classification assigned to each building based on the height of the building, the occupancy, and the soil conditions.

Critical Risk (C) is assigned to buildings in the Emergency and Schools occupancy groups (see table below).
The "C" classification is the most serious one.

But two, most of the schools have a "field" verified listing which means it was a visual sighting.  I had contacted Mr. Redman because I know the district has steadily been reinforcing SPS buildings via BEX and BTA (and, of course, constructing new buildings to the latest earthquake codes.)

So apparently the City didn't contact SPS about the buildings on the list to see if the district had been reinforcing buildings.  I believe Mr. Redman was going to cross-check the City's list with all the buildings that have received seismic upgrades.  I'll let you know when I get that list.

The fact of the matter is that the district does have many old buildings.  We do live in an area that will be getting a major earthquake at some point.  I'd like to think the district - whose buildings are used nearly daily for student education- is doing all it can to make those buildings safe.

My worry is not so much for the building themselves but if every school has a plan for what to do if an earthquake happens during school hours.  Do parents know what they should do?  Are there supplies at schools for 2-12 hours in case parents can't get to their kids?  How will schools communicate with the district and parents?

The City has a link to document that SPS created in 2,000 on earthquake retrofits.

There is a Board policy on "Emergencies." 
It is the policy of the Seattle School Board that the district and schools develop a comprehensive all-hazard emergency management plan that includes prevention/mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery strategies.
 Maybe something to put on your PTAs "to do" list for the school year 2016-2017 (and here's hoping there's not an earthquake before the end of this school year.)


In the link provided there is a column called 'Confirmation Source'. If this is indeed the mechanism used by the city to asses a building I am uncomfortable with 'GSV', Google Street View, being used. Nothing against Google but without permit demonstrating compliance I would expect a field inspection necessary.
Anonymous said…
In October 2008, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) commissioned MENG Analysis to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of 94 facilities for physical condition, seismic assessment, and 92 schools for educational adequacy assessment. The study was completed in May 2009.

You can find seismic reports by school:

I have a more up-to-date document that I will post soon but I think it's fair to say the district has kept up with seismic issues in the buildings.
Anonymous said…
I am wondering why Ingraham high school is not included in the 2009 seismic reports on the SPS web site?

-SPS parent
Anonymous said…
Ingraham is on the list for seismic upgrades under the BEX IV levy:

Anonymous said…
Alot of schools are not listed in the 2009. For example, Hamilton is also not listed in the 2009 report. Does anyone know the reason why not all schools are in the report?
-A Parent
Anonymous said…
Hamilton would have had seismic upgrades during its renovation. It reopened in September 2010.


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