The need to improve our earthquake and tsunami response

Washington faces the second highest risk from earthquakes, and one of
our nation’s highest risks for tsunamis, yet we remain the only west coast
state that does not have a seismic hazard inventory for critical infrastructure.

That’s not all: many communities along our coast have either outdated tsunami
inundation maps — or no maps at all.

School seismic
Buildings in most school districts (72%) in Washington state have high to very high risk exposure to seismic events, such as earthquakes. Source: DNR

The stakes are huge. A Cascadia subduction zone earthquake and tsunami would cause more than $50 billion in damages and more than 10,000 deaths in Washington
state – and those are 2010 estimates.

That’s why I’ve asked the Legislature to provide DNR with $543,200 for FY2019 and an ongoing appropriation of $493,200 to hire two geologists and one IT technician to identify and map earthquake and tsunami hazards.

With this additional staff on board DNR will be able to produce:

  • Tsunami and earthquake hazard maps;
  • An inventory of the geologic risks to critical infrastructure like
    ports, schools and hospitals; (this will take 10 years of only one staff member is added and will not happen if no funding is appropriated);
  • Critical information for emergency responders to build quick
    response plans;
  • Reliable data for city and county planners to use in zoning
    determinations;
  • Tsunami evacuation maps for all coastal communities; and
  • Public education tools for geologic hazards.

We don’t know when the next Cascadia subduction zone earthquake and tsunami will occur but one thing is certain: it will happen again. For a modest investment now, we can help the people of Washington become far better prepared for the next major disaster.

by Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands, @CommissionerHilaryFranz

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