Annual Earthquake Drills Left As Optional For Schools In Washington State

May 3, 2017

Public schools in Washington state would be encouraged, but not required, to hold at least one earthquake drill per year under a measure scheduled for the governor's signature tomorrow.

The legislation started out as requiring an annual earthquake drill. State Geologist Dave Norman, of Washington's Department of Natural Resources, said he was sorry to see it watered down.

"It's always better to require it and to say we 'must' do something. If it is a 'may' it can go by the wayside too easily," Norman said.

As a practical matter, most Washington schools already run earthquake drills. Washington's Emergency Management Division says about 70 percent of the state's students participated in the Great Shakeout "drop, cover and hold" drill last year.

Separately, the legislation awaiting Governor Jay Inslee's signature requires about twenty vulnerable schools along the Washington coast to practice tsunami evacuation. Students and teachers would have to walk their route to higher ground at least once per year.

The earthquake and tsunami drill standards are provisions of a broader school policy measure. The underlying legislation requires public schools to hold no less than one safety drill per month. School administrators can vary which type of hazard to practice for each month as long as they cover all of the bases over the course of a school year such as a lockdown, shelter-in-place (for a chemical spill in the neighborhood, for example) and evacuation from fire.

Copyright 2017 NW News Network