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4,500 Washington buildings potentially at risk of crumbling during earthquake new report says

A new report from the Washington State Department of Commerce says there are almost 4,500 buildings across the state potentially at risk of crumbling during an earthquake.

Buildings were designated as potentially at risk based on construction materials, in this case unreinforced masonry often used in historic buildings. The report did not include residential homes. It also didn't take into account any upgrades or reinforcement that building owners may have done independently.

The majority of the buildings at risk of collapse, were suspected of being constructed using unreinforced masonry, because they were only able to pull from existing data and were not able to go out and survey. 1,100 of them were confirmed as URM buildings.

Suspected buildings were identified using the following criteria.

1)was constructed prior to 1958;
2)has one or more masonry bearing walls that provide the primary support for vertical loads from floors or roofs; and
3)was not constructed as a single-family residence (per the Legislature).

Statewide 200 schools, 170 emergency facilities, and almost 750 buildings at risk of collapse during an earthquake were on the National Register of Historic Places or the Washington Heritage Register.

In the Spokane area, the report identifies 384 buildings as confirmed or suspected URM buildings.

To look through the database of which buildings are at risk, click here.

Emergency officials with Greater Spokane Emergency Management say that Eastern Washington should take heed of the report, but not be completely overwhelmed. The largest earthquake threat they say is on the west side of the state, though the risk in Spokane remains relatively unstudied.

"We don't really know what the risk is," said Gerry Bozarth, with Greater Spokane Emergency Management,"we have some studies that have been done, but they are limited, because the USGS does a lot of study on the west side, where they know there is going to be a major earthquake within the next 50 years."

He says the latest Spokane area earthquake work was discovering a new fault that runs across Division. A chain of earthquakes back in 2001 led to that discovery.

He says if you are in a URM building during an earthquake, you will be at risk. The recommended procedure during an earthquake is to take cover.

"You should drop, cover and hold, get under something sturdy until the shaking stops," he said.

As for the study, he hopes it will lead to increased state funding down the road.

"The hope is that in the future, based on this report, we shall get some grant funding so that we can make it available to owners and entities to reinforce their buildings and make them more earthquake safe," he said.

Earthquakes in Washington are common, with the Spokane area being hit by a small one last week in Deer Park.

The report noted that Washington is the second most at risk state when it comes to earthquakes nationwide.


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