OLYMPIA – In an event being held today at the White House, the State of Washington will join the Obama Administration, other states, and academic and private sector stakeholders to promote earthquake safety and resilience.
United States’ Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, and Dr. John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, will lead today’s event, which is expected to include new federal announcements concerning seismic standards for government buildings, and federal support for earthquake-warning technologies. The event will also recognize Washington state’s leadership in earthquake and tsunami preparedness.
“I commend President Obama, Secretary Jewell, Dr. Holdren, and all the partners involved in today’s event for their work to improve earthquake resilience for our state, the West Coast, and the entire country,” said Gov. Jay Inslee, who will be represented at the White House by staff. “Washington state takes very seriously the risks that earthquakes and tsunamis pose to our people and communities. Being prepared makes all the difference between lives lost and lives saved. It’s essential that all levels of government continue to improve our preparedness and response capacity for these events.”
Washington is one of the leading states for earthquake resilience and preparedness. A White House fact sheet accompanying the White House Earthquake Resilience Summit pointed to steps that Washington has recently taken to improve seismic safety: “Today Governor Jay Inslee announced commitments that the State of Washington is making in earthquake and tsunami preparedness and resilience, in order to protect lives and speed the recovery of communities in the aftermath of a large-scale seismic event. Washington has experienced approximately 15 major destructive earthquakes in the last 150 years, and its proximity to the Cascadia Subduction Zone - a major fault line off the Pacific Coast of North America - presents the danger of a significant earthquakes and tsunamis in the region. The new commitments include seismic improvements for state building standards; investing $4.6 million to map, identify, and better anticipate geologic hazards and a tsunami safe haven project that will open in June 2016, at Ocosta Elementary School in Westport, Washington.”
One of the featured speakers in today’s White House summit is Dr. John Vidale, University of Washington professor of seismology and director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN). PNSN is jointly operated by the UW, University of Oregon and the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Seattle Field Office. Last year, PNSN engaged stakeholders to begin beta-testing the Pacific Northwest Earthquake Early Warning System. That system will be integrated with the USGS system, later in 2016, which will help enable it to issue timely warnings for a significant Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. PNSN is collaborating with businesses on new ways to help improve its warning capabilities, including Puget Sound Energy, Microsoft, Boeing and Intel. Some of those businesses also participated in today’s event.
“Earthquakes pose tremendous risk to our communities, and so researchers from the University of Washington and our partners are working with private funders and city, state and federal governments to create an accurate, responsive early warning system,” said Vidale. “ShakeAlert’s benefits are clear: It will save lives and reduce the costs of major earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest. We’re fortunate to have strong bipartisan support that can help ShakeAlert become a key part of our efforts to make the West Coast more resilient to major quakes.”
Washington Congressman Derek Kilmer also participated in today’s event. Kilmer and other members of the Washington state congressional delegation have pressed for increased federal investments in earthquake early warning systems, including Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler, Suzan DelBene and Adam Smith.
Washington state officials, including staff from the Governor’s Office, the Washington State Military Department and departments of Natural Resources and Enterprise Services, and also the University of Washington, contributed in planning today’s White House Earthquake Resilience Summit.