Safety Initiatives Go Beyond Lawmakers – Students Accept The Challenge

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westernseismicIn November, we discussed that San Francisco was making steps to ensure safety for school children. It was California’s first city to fill in the gaps in laws that are designed to keep children safe during earthquakes.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a law requiring private schools to test if classroom buildings would collapse during an earthquake. The law, however, does not necessitate seismic retrofit, but some schools were prepared to make adjustments to escape as many deaths as possible during the next large earthquake.

Keeping private schools operational was also important to getting San Francisco functioning after an earthquake. “After disasters, if we’re not putting our kids in schools, we’re not recovering.” – Patrick Otellini, San Francisco’s director of earthquake safety

Under the law, 120 private schools would be required to hire structural engineers to inspect the earthquake safety of classroom buildings within the next three years. City officials estimated the cost of testing to be roughly $5,000 per building.

Although school officials agreed the safety of students was of utmost importance, they were worried about the cost of retrofitting.

There’s nobody that doesn’t want seismic safety for school kids,” said Larry Kamer, spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco. “But it was important to get recognition from the city that we were talking about dollars — not just the small dollars to do the assessments, but the big dollars that would be needed for the inevitable retrofit.”

Kramer noted that private schools do not equal wealthy schools. Some cater to the working University, Firestorm, Crisis Managementpoor and will have difficult times financially paying for upgrades. He believed the law would lead to school closures.

Prior to November, however, some schools had already undertaken the project of retrofitting. One being a San Francisco prestigious private school, St. Ignatius College Preparatory. A $6 million retrofit reconstruction was completed during the 2015 summer. Robert Gavin, assistant principal for student affairs stated, “It seems obtuse to be in one of the most seismically active places in the world.. knowing that these strong earthquakes come every 30 years or so, not to make sure you do everything you can to make the buildings as safe as possible for the children.”

Los Angeles Efforts

Unlike San Francisco, Los Angeles city officials focused on more than just schools in terms of structure safety. Officials created a program to address two buildings of interest regarding earthquakes: older concrete buildings and structures with flimsy ground floors.

“We’re focusing on if the building is bad, it’s bad, doesn’t matter how it’s used. We’re looking at the building type, rather than the use… Both are viable approaches.”

-Lucy Jones, U.S. Geological Survey seismologist

My Preparedness Story: Staying Healthy and Resilient

Initiatives to create safer communities and schools have gone beyond lawmakers. Students in earthquake-prone areas are focused on creating more resilient communities. Organizations, like Challenge.gov, are providing incentives for students. Partnering with the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), Challenge.gov recently challenged students to demonstrate how they help family, friends and community [members] protect their health during disasters every day.

Students are asked to create a short video that shows their efforts to help in times of disaster. The 60-second videos created by students are meant to encourage disaster recovery and disaster preparedness initiatives. Video-Challenge-Graphic2-from-NHS

Details about the competition, including video requirements, timeline and awards can be found on the Challenge.gov website.

Challenges like the above provide great opportunities for anyone (young and old) to revisit crisis preparedness plans prior to a disaster occurring. The worst disaster you will ever encounter is the one that hits your business or home. Are you prepared at home and at work? Have you updated your crisis plans this year? If not, the time to update is now, before a crisis.

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