The Paly Voice

School readies for possible major earthquake

Grant Raffel, Author

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The recent earthquake in Japan raises concerns about Palo Alto High School’s readiness for a similar major earthquake.  After all, Paly sits near both the San Andreas and Hayward faults, whose movement is expected to cause one or more major earthquakes in the coming years.  But, according to school officials, Paly is well prepared for a large earthquake.

In the event of an earthquake, most students know that the plan is to evacuate to the football field.  There, a storage shed awaits with enough necessities for 2,000 people for three days, according to Assistant Principal Kathie Laurence.

“We have a big storage shed with food, water, shelter, blankets and toilet paper,” Laurence said.  “[We have] all the things one would need if we had to hang out here for three to five days [including] lots of first aid kits.”

The school also has plans for injuries and search and rescue, according to Laurence.

Laurence stresses the importance of following the plan, as doing so will ensure that all students are safe.

“The reason for students to follow the plan and go to the football field is that that’s the place they know they’re safe,” she said.  “It is in the best interest of all of our students to go to the football field because their parents know where they are and they are safe.”

“It’s important for people to take the drills seriously, so when something does happen, people are prepared,” Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson added.

Teachers would have to stay on campus until the release, according to Laurence.

Another potential problem in an earthquake would be a ruptured gas line that could cause a fire.  The custodians and the maintenance department would turn the gas line off, according to Berkson.

The Tower Building and Haymarket Theater have been around since 1906 and have survived many earthquakes, such as the large 1989 trembler that shook the Bay Area, both Laurence and Berkson confirmed.

“The other buildings [excluding the Tower Building and theater] have been up to earthquake code until at least the 1970s,” Laurence said.

“If there was any issue, we wouldn’t be in them,” Berkson said of Paly’s buildings. “They’ve been inspected periodically because they have to be, so I think we’re fine.”

Laurence said she hopes recent efforts through announcements and INfocus segments will help make the plan clear to all students.

Berkson says that it is important for the staff to know the entire plan in case some people cannot perform their responsibilities.

“I think it’s important for people who are in charge of [other] things to figure out whose responsibiltity it is [to turn off] gas lines,” Berkson said.  “I’m sure it’s not our responsibiltiy, but at the same time, what if no one else can do it?  It needs to be taken care of.”

While Laurence says the plan is solid, she thinks it can still be improved.

“We are still working on [our plan] to make it as good as it can be,” Laurence said.  “It’s an ever-evolving process, but the basics are definitely in place.”

 

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