School Earthquake Safety Initiative (SESI) 2015 Year-end Update

EERI’s School Earthquake Safety Initiative (SESI) formally launched at the EERI Annual Meeting in 2015 after a year of careful planning. SESI is a global and collaborative network of diverse, expert, and passionate professionals who are committed to creating and sharing knowledge and tools that enable progressive, informed, decision-making around school earthquake safety. SESI’s goal is to leverage our extensive expertise and reputation to conduct regionally-appropriate actions that make a tangible and positive difference in communities around the world, by protecting the lives of all who inhabit school buildings. The initial focus of SESI is on school buildings in the U.S., but the network hopes to expand in future years to have impact internationally.

In its first year of existence, the SESI network of participants has exceeded 100 professionals from a diverse set of disciplinary backgrounds and regional areas—all dedicated to improving school earthquake safety.
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An Executive Committee runs SESI with 13 active members, plus 2 ex-officio members. This committee has established an inspiring strategic plan and governing documents which are posted at the SESI website: https://www.eeri.org/schools

Several SESI subcommittees began activities in 2015:

With funding from the Coastal Zone Foundation, the 22-person Tsunami Mitigation of Schools subcommittee has developed a list of schools in CA, OR, WA, HI, AK, and Puerto Rico in the coastal region, mapped these schools alongside inundation and new ASCE tsunami design zones to identify at-risk schools, and is considering next steps for outreach to these schools in 2016, utilizing existing best-practice documents.

The Classroom Education & Outreach subcommittee had a dozen participants begin piloting 4th grade and high school classroom curriculum (involving seismic design challenges with shaking tables) in Berkeley and San Diego, though partnership with EERI student and regional chapters. The subcommittee hopes to expand pilot activities to Stanford and Utah in 2016. The goal of these activities is to use education in the classroom to (1) create on ongoing dialog with parents, teachers and administrators about school earthquake safety, and (2) grow advocates for school earthquake safety.

The Safety Screening, Inventory and Evaluation subcommittee conducted a preliminary review of best practices for school screening in Oregon, Washington, Utah, Alaska, and Missouri and hopes to expand the committee membership in 2016 and consider how to share these best-practice examples.

The Code Updates and Improvements subcommittee discussed various code topics related to schools, including risk categories, seismic design categories, non-structural hazards, code transparency, and school building use as shelters.

SESI also collaborated in 2015 with several FEMA-supported projects yielding great outcomes for school seismic safety. School assessment and screening efforts took place in Fall 2015 for the Kenai Borough School District in Alaska and Thurston County School Districts in Washington (more information from EERI’s Pulse). These projects provided necessary knowledge for school districts to determine which buildings in their portfolio provide an adequate level of safety and which buildings do not. The school districts can use the results to develop mitigation strategies to retrofit or replace the buildings with the highest risk, and prioritize resources.

Various members of SESI are also involved in the three-year ATC 122 project that is developing a guide detailing multi-hazard mitigation strategies and communication best practices. The guide aims to equip school safety advocates and stakeholders, including school administrators, teachers, school emergency managers, and concerned parents, with information and resources to help improve the safety of their schools, and at the same time provide tools for engineers to communicate clearly with these stakeholders and decision makers. SESI hopes to utilize the information in the final document and help with its dissemination upon its completion in 2017.

SESI will also launch a new email announcement system and a webinar series in spring 2016, to keep participants and EERI members more informed about SESI’s progress in advancing and advocating for improved school earthquake safety. Interested EERI members are always welcome to join and participate, so please contact Chair Barry Welliver or EERI Program Manager Heidi Tremayne to express your interest.

Registration Open: EERI 68th Annual Meeting, April 5–8, 2016

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The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute will hold its 68th Annual Meeting, April 5–8, 2016, in San Francisco, California.

Registration and full program details are now available on the 2016 Annual Meeting website. With a theme of “Beyond the Epicenter: Expanding Our Risk Perspective,” the meeting program will delve into unanticipated effects, blind spots, and new insights in earthquake engineering.

Sessions planned include:

  • Community Resilience: What Are the Objectives and Outcomes?
  • Using Legal Action to Improve Earthquake Safety
  • Earthquakes & Social Justice: Protecting Vulnerable Populations in the U.S.
  • Moving from ideas to action: public policy for earthquake resilience

Tours will include a Napa Earthquake and Winery field trip, a Geotechnical/Geologic Overview of San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill and Waterfront, a walk focused on downtown San Francisco in earthquake, fire, and recovery, and a boat tour of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges.

For full program, logistics, and registration details, visit the 2016 Annual Meeting website.