Jesuit Prepares for the “Big One”


             The Pacific Northwest has spent years preparing for “The Big One”, the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake expected to strike in the near future with a magnitude ranging from 8.0 to 9.2 (The New Yorker).

             Jesuit’s facilities department has taken steps to ensure all buildings are up to seismic standards. Xavier Hall, Ignatius Hall and Smith Gym, which were built in 1956, have been remodeled and are currently up to code.

            “During that remodel, we had safety inspectors come in and review the construction of the buildings to make sure that they were up to standards,” Facilities Director Mr. Jack Schmidt said.

            All other buildings on campus were constructed recently enough to comply with current safety standards, and undergo regular inspections for settling and cracks.

            “I feel comfortable,” Schmidt said. “You guys should too.”

            Senior Hailey Short experienced a minor earthquake in 2014, and fears the implications of the impending “Big One”.

            “I feel like a bigger earthquake is inevitable at this point,” Short said. “I’m a little nervous.”

            After the recent earthquakes in Mexico, where people were able to evacuate early because of an alert, there have been discussions in the United States surrounding the benefits of an earthquake warning system. The system in effect in Mexico was installed after a devastating earthquake in 1985, and is capable of giving citizens a warning more than a minute before shaking starts (Los Angeles Times).

            The United States Geological Survey is currently working on an early alert system called ShakeAlert, which would benefit Oregon, Washington and California (The New York Times). It would cost $38 million to complete the project and $16 million a year to operate it (The New York Times).

            Until the implementation of this system, there are other steps families can take to prepare for an earthquake. English teacher Ms. Megan Mathes has been educating herself on earthquake preparedness since she moved here nine years ago. One precaution she found useful was attending a community preparedness meeting.

            “That was really helpful,” Mathes said. “They are concerned citizens who get educated about what an earthquake type emergency will look like, and they were able to explain what will happen, what to expect in the aftermath and how to prepare.”

            There are simple steps that families can take to prepare for an earthquake.

            “It’s not a pleasant thing to think about and I don’t think the point is to freak out about it,” Mathes said. “But if there are basic things you can do that you’re not already doing and that your family can afford to do, like retrofitting your house… or having some kind of emergency plan and emergency supplies, I just think that makes sense to do.”