The Ocosta School District showed off their new Elementary School to the community over the weekend. Administrators like District Superintendant 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.”
Designed to shelter as many as 2,000 above the tsunami wave, the table-top-like platform has a reinforced leg at each corner. The entire building can withstand multiple 9.2 magnitude earthquakes and several tsunami storm surges. Akerlun continued “The towers are how you get to the rooftop. There are four stair towers, one in each corner. Those are enclosed in 14-inch thick concrete walls. The foundation below us consists of 24-inch diameter concrete pilings which are up to 50-feet deep holding the building in place.”
Chuck Wallace, Deputy Director of the Grays Harbor County Emergency Management Agency told the crowd of about 50 on Saturday, “You made history. You’re the one’s who voted to have this built, and this is history. This is the first vertical evacuation tsunami-engineered Safehaven building in North America.”
Voters in the Ocosta School District approved a 14 million dollar bond in 2013 to replace the ’round building’ with the state of the art elementary school.
Wallace showed photos of the aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami during a 20-minute presentation. “This is from Japan, look at the devastation of all these buildings, but these people are safe,” said Wallace, as he pointed at several groups of refugees on buildings throughout the wreckage. “They’re on top of the Safehaven building that they built in Japan, and that’s what our ultimate goal was for this school.”
The Washington State coast could see one or two different types of a tsunami in our lifetime. Wallace said you need to react quickly if it’s a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, “If you feel the earthquake, ALWAYS come to this building. Because we don’t know if a tsunami was generated maybe for 10 or 15 minutes following the ground shaking. So if you feel the ground shake and you can get here, you get up on this roof and you hang on until somebody tells you to come down.”
If you don’t feel a quake, but you hear the tsunami sirens wail, you have a little more time to evacuate, Wallace added, “That’s [the] indication that there was a tsunami generated somewhere else. We may not feel it but it could generate a fairly large tsunami and we’re telling people to get to higher ground.”
Here is Chuck Wallace’s presentation Saturday morning.