Local Schools Exemplify FEMA’s Safer, Stronger, Smarter Strategies

A new FEMA guide features Hoquiam evacuations, and Ocosta Elementary’s new building as examples of their “Safer, Stronger, Smarter” strategies.

Prepared by a California company, FEMA provides the guide to schools across the nation to develop a comprehensive strategy for addressing all types of natural hazards.

For Ocosta, the heavily reinforced vertical evacuation structure built in Cohasset Beach is an example of overcoming the added costs with support from the community. When the school district failed twice to pass a bond measure to replace the aging elementary building, the district coupled the need with public safety and the bond was approved with over 70% support.

Chuck Wallace with the Grays Harbor County Emergency Management Agency told the voters during the opening of the new building, “You made history. You’re the ones who voted to have this built, and this is history. This is the first vertical evacuation tsunami-engineered Safehaven building in North America.”

Administrators like District Superintendent Dr. Paula Akerlund were there to detail the new vertical evacuation structure.

“This area,” said Akerlund, “the tsunami vertical evacuation platform is directly above us and forms the roof of our multi-purpose room and our gym. It’s 28-feet above the ground level, and 58-feet above sea level.”

If Ocosta is the shiney new cellphone in this manual, Hoquiam is the still-functioning flip phone. The “plans, policies, and procedures” section features the Hoquiam School District’s need to adopt tsunami safety procedures. Noting that all of the district’s school are on the tidal flat, the national manual shows our procedures for both a distant and local tsunami event.

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