The military department aims to protect public schools from catastrophic events

  • Mon Feb 11th, 2019 10:02am
  • News

By Madeline Coats

WNPA Olympia News Bureau

A plan 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.

“Every day, 1.1 million of our kids spend most of their waking hours in school buildings,” said Dolan during a 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 on planning 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, as stated by Emergency Management in the city of Seattle.

Major Gen. Bret Daugherty, adjutant general, 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,” said Ezelle. The director testified in support of the bill and is aiming to take a look at the next level of planning in the case of a catastrophic emergency beyond normal response capabilities.