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To provide an overview of earthquake preparedness issues, responsibilities and the planning process.

Earthquakes are an unfortunate fact of life in the New Madrid Earthquake Zone. Scientists estimate that there is now at least a 50% probability of another magnitude 6.5R or above earthquake striking the New Madrid Area in the next 15 years. Furthermore, earthquakes of less than 6.5R could happen in the New Madrid Area at any time and at any place.

"The earthquake (October 17th, 1989) was probably the single most significant event in my 30 years with the Pajaro Valley School District, in that I think it will be some time before people recover from the full impact of the quake. We can repair buildings, we can fix the light fixtures, we can take care of the painting, we can repair the cracks and take care of plumbing and gas leaks, but the emotional trauma as a result of the quake to me is almost as significant as the damage to the buildings."

James Baker, Superintendent (retired)
Pajaro Valley Unified School District, Watsonville, CA

As a school administrator you have the responsibility for ensuring the safety of your students in an earthquake. Developing earthquake emergency procedures is required by law. This information has been compiled to help you and your staff develop such a plan. Should you already have a plan or parts of a plan, you may wish to use only portions of this information. Check what you have already developed against the recommendations made here.

"I think we have been very successful in bur planning because of the commitment of the Board."

Dorothy Kakimoto
Director of District Operations
Oakland Public Schools


In most schools you are the single most important factor in the successful development of an earthquake preparedness plan.

Your support and commitment are critical to securing the involvement of your staff.

The planning process should be thought of as just that--a process. Think incrementally, divide your planning into manageable steps, decide what is most critical for your situation and focus on those steps first. Don't expect the plan to fall into place all at once.

At an absolute minimum each school should:

"I think that in our case for the past ten years we've been preparing for an earthquake such as the one we had on October 17th. If it had happened during school time (fortunately this one did not), I'm sure there would have been a whole different set of outcomes. You can't predict when it's going to be, so I think you've got to plan for the eventuality that the quake is going to hit when school is in session and that you're going to have the responsibility for 500 students, if that's what you have in your school, or for 20,000 students i that s what you have in your school district, and you're going to have to do all that you can to get ready for that.

James Baker, Superintendent (retired)
Pajaro Valley Unified School District Watsonville, CA


  1. Using the material in What the Law Requires, briefly review your legal requirements. Is your school currently in compliance with the law?

  2. Review the School Administrator's checklist to determine what has/has not been addressed by your school's general operating procedures or specific disaster planning efforts. This will help you determine where you want to supplement or revise your planning effort.

  3. Review Summary of the Earthquake Planning Process to identify plan components, organization and suggested planning approach. In light of your priorities and where you want to focus your effort, decide which components you want to address first. Set up a time table for when you will address each component.

  4. To begin the planning process at your school, set up a Planning Committee. This committee can either set up teams (perhaps using the suggested list in the Summary of the Earthquake Planning Process) or address responsibilities for each of the teams.

  5. Use Suggested Training Needs by Team as a guide to structure a training program. Provide training at the time responsibilities are assigned, as well as on an on-going basis.

"The district, in terms of the Administrators and the Board, needs to commit to the notion of disaster preparedness, which means making tough decisions and dealing with conflicting priorities. Site preparation needs to be a high priority."

Micheal Chambers, AIA
State Department of Education

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School Earthquake Preparedness Guide - State of Arkansas
Arkansas Office of Emergency Services, 1993