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Washington State Initiates School Seismic Safety Program

Washington State has a high risk of experiencing strong and damaging earthquakes because of its geological setting, particularly on the western side near the Cascadia subduction zone. This risk makes it critical to address the seismic safety of schools in the state.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is taking measures to assess seismic safety in many of Washington’s K-12 schools. The Washington Geological Survey (WGS), a division of DNR, recently received funding to work with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and a team of structural engineers to conduct seismic assessments at approximately 220 school buildings in the state. Conceptual seismic retrofit plans will be produced for 20 of the school buildings deemed most at risk. The project will also prioritize the remaining schools that are seismically deficient and help identify additional funding sources for seismic retrofit.

The Washington schools seismic safety program is long overdue. At least 200 schools are located within 1 mile of an active fault. More than 72 percent of schools are located in a high to very high seismic hazard zone, and more than 200 schools are located on grounds at high risk of liquefaction during an earthquake.

WGS is leading the geologic site characterization at each campus while a team of structural engineers led by Reid Middleton, Inc. are conducting assessments of the school buildings. BergerABAM is assigned to 40 schools, which will be assessed by the end of September 2018. Other program partners include DCI Engineers, WRK Engineers, Dykeman Architects, Rolluda Architects, and ProDims.

A report summarizing results and recommendations, retrofit costs, and design concepts will be completed by June 2019.