Shame on Us: Our Ho-Hum Attitude About Earthquakes

Published: April 15, 2011

Last week we posted “Lack of Calif. School Seismic Safety Enforcement Puts Thousands at Risk” and ran it in our eNewsletter, expecting at least some expression of concern among CS readers. The article, which summarizes the results of a recent California Watch study, highlights major gaps in K-12 school building seismic safety.

Probably the most astounding claim made by the report is that it is almost impossible for campuses and districts to access the $200 million set aside by the state of California for urgent seismic repairs. The amount is not enough to address the state’s inventory of potentially vulnerable school buildings. To cope with the deficiency, the Schwarzenegger administration set a high standard for districts to qualify for assistance. To date, only two schools have accessed the funds.

CS readers’ response to these claims? Silence. No outrage whatsoever. This article is one of the most disturbing ones CS has run, yet no one seems to be interested enough to even open it. Come on people. This is serious stuff, especially in light of what has been happening in Japan over the past month.

And earthquake preparedness isn’t just a problem for California or the West Coast. An earthquake on the New Madrid fault would affect states in the Midwest, including Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. It’s happened before. Scientists say tremors measuring approximately 8.0 struck the region in 1811 and 1812. There wasn’t much damage to buildings or the human population because the affected area was sparsely populated at the time.

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Fortunately, campus protection professionals can do something to prepare for seismic events. California regularly holds a state-wide ShakeOut earthquake drill, and the Midwest has followed suit. The Great Central U.S. ShakeOut, the largest earthquake drill ever, will take place April 28, and all local governments and their agencies are encouraged to participate or plan a more extensive exercise. To register, go to www.ShakeOut.org/centralus/.

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