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Earthquake Preparedness

Posted by Elizabeth Egan on September 30, 2019

With the earthquakes we have recently experienced in the Pacific Northwest, you may be wondering how the Issaquah School District prepares and plans for seismic events. Safety is always our top priority and we approach emergency preparedness in a comprehensive way.

It starts with our buildings. The Issaquah School District meets or exceeds the current seismic design and building standards for the geographic conditions of the Pacific Northwest as required by code at the time of construction. We also equip our buildings with emergency supplies including water, food, and communication radios.

Next, we plan our emergency response at the district level and practice it with tabletop drills and walk-throughs. Our District Safety Advisory Committee includes local fire and police officials who help us plan and coordinate for emergency situations.

At the school level, all students and staff are trained and perform practice drills for all types of emergencies, including fires, school lockdowns, and earthquakes. This year, all ISD schools will be participating in Washington State’s “Great Shake Out” drill in October and will practice “drop, cover, and hold on.”

It is also important for families to prepare at home. We encourage everybody to visit shakeout.org/washington for information on how to put together your own emergency supply kit and create a household emergency plan.

We know that talking about earthquakes can be scary, especially for children. Below are a few tips for talking to kids about earthquakes.

  • Keep discussions factual and age-appropriate. If your child asks about earthquakes, it's fine to tell them that earthquakes are normal, natural occurrences and that big ones are very rare.
  • Let them know that you've already done important things to prepare like bolting bookshelves to the wall so they won't fall down.
  • Explain that while things could be disrupted for a while (like school being temporarily closed), the really important things won't change. You'll be together, and eventually, things will go back to normal.
  • Don't wait for the worst to happen before you talk about preparedness. Kids aren't so different from us in handling "what ifs." They want to know they'll be OK, no matter what.
  • Keep your tone calm, matter-of-fact and look for teachable moments. If you're stocking up on batteries for example, you can say something like, "Remember that time when the lights went out last winter? If that ever happens again, these batteries will keep our flashlights working and we can pretend we're camping out."
  • Letting kids add something to your emergency kit can help them feel more in control – even if it's as simple as choosing the kind of energy bars and snacks you keep.