Only one earthquake bill passed this year — and it made school drills optional

Gov. Jay Inslee’s earthquake panel discussed gaps in the state’s preparedness last week, but the Legislature’s inaction reflects a 30-year pattern in Washington.

The day after convening a subCabinet meeting on earthquake preparedness last week, Gov. Jay Inslee signed the single seismic-safety bill passed by the Legislature this session.

The original bill would have mandated annual tsunami evacuation drills for coastal schools and yearly earthquake drills for all schools, as recommended by the state Seismic Safety Committee. The final version makes the quake drills optional.

Legislation to require seismic evaluation of school buildings didn’t get a hearing. A bill directing transit systems to draw up plans for restoring service after a quake died quietly.

Neither the House nor Senate proposed budgets include funding for the Washington Emergency Management Division’s top legislative priority: a staffer to support Inslee’s Resilient Washington State Subcabinet and help translate its recommendations into action.

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It’s a familiar pattern in Washington, which has a 30-year history of analyzing the state’s earthquake risks — which rank second only to California’s — then doing little to address them.

Inslee formed his sub-Cabinet, made up of state agency heads, last year to boost preparedness, But at last week’s meeting he made it clear that — at least for now — he’s looking for steps that can be taken quickly and at little cost.

“It’s clear that we have gaps,” Inslee told state agency representatives gathered around a table in the governor’s conference room. “But I think there’s things we can do short-term,” he said. “On the larger investment issues, about seismic retrofitting, I’m intrigued to hear your advice.”

Among the potential quick fixes Inslee highlighted is negotiating a new contract with oil companies to guarantee…

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