School Climate & Safety

Schools on Pacific Coast Prepare for Tsunamis

By Andrew Trotter — January 11, 2005 2 min read

Some of the most somber reactions to the tsunami that pounded coastal areas across a huge swath of the Indian Ocean occurred in American schools located in low-lying “tsunami inundation zones” along the U.S. mainland’s Pacific coast and in Hawaii.

Those areas are a focus of federal and state government “tsunami hazard mitigation” efforts, because of the fault zone that runs from northern California into British Columbia, Canada, and similar faults off coastal Alaska, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency.

See Also

Return to the main story,

U.S. Schools Find Lessons in Tsunami

Join a readers’ discussion on the tsunami.

For example, four of the five schools in the 1,700-student Seaside, Ore., district are in tsunami-inundation zones, according to Doug Dougherty, the district superintendent. Playground bins at the district’s Cannon Beach Elementary School still bear scars from being struck by logs during a 1964 tsunami, which was triggered by an earthquake off the coast of Alaska. That tsunami brought deadly waves that also hit the coast of California.

Although experts say it is theoretically possible for a tsunami to occur in the Atlantic, it is much less likely. That is why programs of detection and hazard mitigation focus primarily on the Pacific coast. For instance, an Oregon law requires schools that are at risk—in about 20 districts—to conduct regular evacuation drills.

The schools in the Seaside district run tsunami drills about three times every school year, on the wail of a warning siren, in addition to drills held by municipalities, Mr. Dougherty said. The district has also prepared instructional videos that are sent home to families.

Routes to Safety

In his schools’ tsunami drills, Mr. Dougherty explained, students are trained to “duck and cover” under their desks during an earthquake, which might cause such a tremendous wave, then to evacuate the area following a specific route.

At Cannon Beach Elementary, for example, the primary evacuation route would take the school’s 135 students across a bridge in four minutes and safely up a hill in about 15 minutes. The backup route involves a longer way, descending through town, then up another hill.

“We recognize that, in many ways, our students are better prepared than adults in our communities because we practice,” Mr. Dougherty said.

Students in Seaside, like those in schools across the United States, are raising relief money through various events at the high school.

The South Asian tsunami and its aftermath have honed what already is a heightened awareness of the risk, Mr. Dougherty said. An earthquake near Alaska, he said, could deliver a tsunami to the coast of Oregon in six to eight hours. A similar earthquake off the coast of Oregon could deliver a much more powerful wave within just 10 or 15 minutes.

“We know it will happen here,” Mr. Dougherty said. “I think seeing the impact of the tragedy that occurred is bringing it home.”

A version of this article appeared in the January 12, 2005 edition of Education Week as Schools on Pacific Coast Prepare for Tsunamis

Events

Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Embracing Student Engagement: The Pathway to Post-Pandemic Learning
As schools emerge from remote learning, educators are understandably worried about content and skills that students would otherwise have learned under normal circumstances. This raises the very real possibility that children will face endless hours
Content provided by Newsela

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Spotlight Spotlight on Safe Reopening
In this Spotlight, review how your district can strategically apply its funding, and how to help students safely bounce back, plus more.

School Climate & Safety Video A Year of Activism: Students Reflect on Their Fight for Racial Justice at School
Education Week talks to three students about their year of racial justice activism, what they learned, and where they are headed next.
4 min read
Tay Andwerson, front center, Denver School Board at-large director, leads demonstrators through Civic Center Park on a march to City Park to call for more oversight of the police Sunday, June 7, 2020, in Denver.
Tay Andwerson, front center, Denver School Board at-large director, leads demonstrators through Civic Center Park on a march to City Park to call for more oversight of the police Sunday, June 7, 2020, in Denver.
David Zalubowski/AP
School Climate & Safety Interactive Which Districts Have Cut School Policing Programs?
Which districts have taken steps to reduce their school policing programs or eliminate SRO positions? And what do those districts' demographics look like? Find out with Education Week's new interactive database.
A police officer walks down a hall inside a school
Collage by Vanessa Solis/Education Week (images: Michael Blann/Digital/Vision; Kristen Prahl/iStock/Getty Images Plus )
School Climate & Safety These Districts Defunded Their School Police. What Happened Next?
Six profiles of districts illustrate the tensions, successes, and concerns that have accompanied the changes they've made to their school police programs over the last year.
Deering High School in Portland, Maine, one of two schools to have their SROs removed.
Deering High School in Portland, Maine, one of two schools to have their SROs removed.
Ryan David Brown for Education Week