The latest in a long line of efforts to reduce death and destruction from future quakes got “zero funding and no additional staff time.” Hence, earthquake drills in schools, for instance, get a higher priority rating than identifying school buildings at risk of collapse.
Ensure schools are seismically sound. Strengthen bridges and utilities against earthquakes. Build tsunami refuges on the coast.
Those recommendations have long topped the to-do list for protecting Washington from an inevitable, devastating quake. But they rank among the lowest priorities in a new report to Gov. Jay Inslee — because they are costly and difficult. Instead, the report from the governor’s Resilient Washington Subcabinet favors actions that are easy and cheap.
As a result, mandatory earthquake drills in schools get a higher priority rating than identifying school buildings at risk of collapse. A strategy to repair power, communications and other utility lifelines ranks lower than producing pamphlets on how to purify water and dispose of human waste after a quake wrecks sewer and water systems.
Even the modest goals outlined in the document would cost at least $15 million to accomplish, the report estimates — with no explanation of where the funding would come from.
Inslee created the subcabinet last year to bolster the state’s preparedness for a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. Made up of state agency heads and staff, the group will present the report to the governor on Sept. 27.
It will be at least the sixth analysis over the past 30 years to spell out steps state officials should take to reduce death and destruction from future earthquakes and speed the state’s economic recovery after the next one hits. Few of the earlier suggestions were ever implemented.
A draft of the new report, which is still being finalized, points out that the subcabinet was constrained by “a short time-frame, zero funding and no additional staff.” At a meeting in May, Inslee made it clear he wanted the group to focus on low-cost measures that could be executed quickly.
None of that bodes well for the type of long-term commitment and funding it will take to make the state less vulnerable, said Jim Mullen, former director of Washington’s Emergency Management Division.