We’re ill prepared for a major earthquake

September is National Disaster Preparedness month. Washington is second behind California in the level of earthquake risk. We will be smack dab in the middle of 70,000 square miles of destruction during the magnitude 9-plus Cascadia Subduction Zone quake. Unfortunately, we are last in preparedness among the 23 earthquake prone states. This is unacceptable.

The Seattle quake of 1965 and the 2001 Nisqually were 6.7 and 6.8, respectively. The Mercalli intensity scale rated both as severe. Cascadia will be more than 1,000 times more powerful. Oregon State University’s website says peak ground accelerations can move a vehicle 100 yards in five seconds; that is 50 mph. People walking in Spokane will be knocked off their feet.

After nearly five decades in the electrical industry, I naively expected the standard set by Labor & Industries for code enforcement was universal for all codes statewide. Over the last decade I have been greatly disappointed by the city of Auburn interpreting various provisions of building and fire code do not apply. Codes are a minimum standard to be maintained, not a guide for high stakes gambling with people’s property and their lives.

Under Public Duty Doctrine, generally there is no accountability or responsibility for any individual case. Management ignoring redundancy in critical safety issues has dropped Boeing to its knees. Lives have been and will be lost by management’s decisions to cut corners. There may be some hope for survivors. The courts have held the state accountable for their negligent actions at Oso to the tune of $72 million thus far. Clearly, building redundancy to mitigate is the best emergency response policy.

Last year the FEMA director testified before Congress saying they paid out more in 2017 and 2018 than they did in the previous 38 years. FEMA and Hilary Franz, commissioner of Public Lands, continue to call for building resilience to mitigate the disasters, but it is largely ignored.

Mayor Nancy Backus claims Auburn is a leader. Leading to last in preparedness will certainly cause residents of this city to pay a heavy price. Ignoring these issues will dramatically increase the homeless problem.

Our state legislators continue to ignore the issues. We desperately need new blood to address this critical thinking crisis. November will be your opportunity. Vote.

– Bob Zimmerman

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