Oregon Governor: Make Oregon Schools Quake-Safe
Fellow Oregon parents,
Our state is due for a megathrust earthquake and tsunami similar to that which devastated Japan on March 11, 2011. Leading scientists tell us this event has a very high probability of occurring within the next 50 years. It could happen at any moment. And yet, more than 1,000 public school buildings have a high or very high risk of collapse in a significant earthquake. More than 300,000 Oregon children are in danger. Every single school day, we are gambling with their lives.
Oregon's voters amended our Constitution to allow the state to borrow funds for investment in seismic retrofits back in 2002, based on a law pledging to bring all schools up to minimum seismic safety standards by 2032. But the retrofit program is vastly inadequate and has faced cuts and delays. Even schools designated "retrofitted" on their survey reports may not have earned their status: lack of funds may have left planned retrofits incomplete.
School is mandatory for children up to age 17. Tell our governor that you expect the state to provide our children with buildings that can endure an earthquake.
If you are an Oregon parent, or you have children who will attend/have attended school in Oregon, please sign our petition and forward it to your Oregon friends.
It is not too late to fix our schools. We can do it, even in tough economic times. Parents in other states and in British Columbia have faced similar obstacles and made progress on this issue. But we must band together. We must speak up for our children. We must do it now.
Tell the governor to expand Oregon's school retrofit program and make safe schools a priority for our children, without delay.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.
Amanda Gersh (Portland parent; co-founder, Oregon Parents for Quake-Resistant Schools)
Edward Wolf (Portland parent; co-founder, Oregon Parents for Quake-Resistant Schools)
Scientists say that a great earthquake on the Cascadia fault off our shores will strike Oregon. Leading researchers believe there is a high probability that this catastrophic event will occur within our children's lifetimes.[i] And yet, more than 300,000 Oregon children spend their school days in buildings that were never designed to withstand earthquake forces.
In a state-led screening for seismic performance, more than two thirds of Oregon public school buildings received low scores.[ii] Among those buildings, 312 earned a score of zero: a 100% probability of collapse on the FEMA seismic scale.[iii] Governor Kitzhaber, we find these numbers unacceptable. We believe that you do, too. What is your plan to address them?
School attendance is compulsory for Oregon children. The state is thus obligated to provide children with public school facilities that meet a minimum standard of life safety. Given the region's exceptional seismic risk, our schools are not simply inadequate; they are themselves a hazard. Every school day, we are gambling with our children's lives.
Governor Kitzhaber, you have made birth-to-twenty education a centerpiece of your agenda for Oregon. It is time to add "seismic certainty"[iv] to your education portfolio, and to prepare Oregon schools to endure the earthquake and tsunami for which our region is due.
Oregon has world-renowned earth scientists, expert engineers, respected architects, and a valuable database of schools at risk. Let's put these tools together with new political will to protect the state's most valuable asset: the children who are Oregon's future. Let us heed the lessons of Haiti, China, and Japan. Let us never have to grieve for children buried in our schools because we did not prepare in time.
It is not too late to strengthen our schools. But we must be bold and commit now to immediate, large-scale action. We must address the more than 1000 schools that were not built to protect the life safety of their occupants during earthquakes. We must move fast. Our children cannot wait.
Governor Kitzhaber, commit to making our schools quake-resistant. Make a plan and roll it out fast. Expand and accelerate our fledgling Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program. Close the most dangerous schools.[v]
Help our children. For they cannot help themselves.
Oregon Parents for Quake-Resistant Schools (OPQRS)
[i] Probability data from Chris Goldfinger et al. In Press. Turbidite Event History: Methods and Implications for Holocene Paleoseismicity of the Cascadia Subduction Zone. USGS Professional Paper 1661-F. U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA. Probability calculations summarized in Richard A. Lovett, "Risk of giant quake off America west coast goes up," Nature (published online), May 31, 2010. Online at http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100531/full/news.2010.270.html
[ii] Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. 2007. Statewide Seismic Needs Assessment: Implementation of Oregon 2005 Senate Bill 2 Relating to Public Safety, Earthquakes, and Seismic Rehabilitation of Public Buildings. Open-File Report O-07-02. Salem, OR. According to the report, "FEMA recommends that all buildings with a score of 2.0 or less should be considered to have inadequate performance during the anticipated maximum seismic event" (p. iv).
[iii] Federal Emergency Management Agency. 2002. Rapid Visual Screening of Buildings for Potential Seismic Hazards: A Handbook (FEMA 154, Second Edition). Washington, D.C.
[iv] Preparing for Seismic Certainty: an AIA Portland FRED Symposium, June 23-24, 2011, Portland, Oregon.
[v] The recommendation of world-renowned seismic engineer Kit Miyamoto of Miyamoto International, quoted by Richard Read, "Quake experts speak with alarm, urgency," The Oregonian, June 25, 2011. Online at http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2011/06/experts_say_an_earthquake_sure.html