Military department looks to protect public schools from catastrophic events

  • Friday, February 8, 2019 1:30am
  • News

By Madeline Coats

WNPA Olympia News Bureau

A plan to may go into effect to better prepare Washington state public schools for natural or human-caused catastrophic incidents, by request of the state Military Department.

House Bill 1200 was co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 10 representatives and introduced by Rep. Laurie Dolan, D-Thurston.

“Everyday, 1.1 million of our kids spend most of their waking hours in school buildings,” Dolan said during a recent public hearing.

The Washington Military Department and public schools have worked together for years on this plan, she said.

The bill requires the Military Department adjutant general to partner with the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop, maintain, train and exercise catastrophic incident plans.

With the large number of school-age children, the military department will need to focus additional assistance to plan for seismic risks, according to the bill.

An earthquake on the Seattle Fault poses the greatest risk to Seattle. The most recent fault quake was 1,100 years ago and a future earthquake could reach a magnitude of 7.5, according to the City of Seattle’s Emergency Management department.

Adjutant General Major Gen. Bret Daugherty is responsible for developing a comprehensive, all-hazard emergency plan for the state, known as the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan. The plan includes an analysis of natural, technological or human-caused hazards, and procedures to coordinate and distribute local and state resources, as stated in the bill.

A catastrophic incident is defined as any natural or human-caused emergency. According to the bill, such an incident can be expected to result in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage or disruption to the population, infrastructure, environment, economy or government functions.

In the event of a catastrophic event, the state will almost immediately exceed the resources normally available and significantly disrupt government operations, schools and emergency services, as referenced in HB 1200.

“We live in one of the most hazard prone parts of the country,” said Robert Ezelle, Director of the Washington Military Department Emergency Management Division. “Our kids are our future.”

The director testified in support of the bill and aims to take a look at the next level of planning in the case of a catastrophic emergency beyond normal response capabilities.

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