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$153.6 million goes toward upgrading the priority facilities for quake preparedness

The highest priority is the still-in-draft-form seismic mandate for updating unreinforced masonry buildings, a $153.6 million grant has been announced for 100 schools and 47 emergency services facilities by Oregon's Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program's committee.

The program provides funding for construction work on schools and other critical public buildings to better prepare the structures to withstand a major earthquake.PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO - High priority seismic upgrades on critical buildings are expected to meet the shortest retrofit timeline and the highest proposed performance objective — to remain operational after a moderate earthquake and provide life safety after a maximum earthquake.

"Ensuring every community in the state, particularly in rural regions, has safe community gathering places and emergency response infrastructure will be key to Oregon's recovery from a significant seismic event," Governor Kate Brown said. "While this may seem to be a daunting task, we're making steady progress, through a concerted and coordinated effort by communities, individuals, businesses, and as a state, toward building more resilient Oregon."

The realization that Oregon is at risk of a major, Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake drove the bi-partisan effort to invest now to protect critical community structures from catastrophic damage. Governor Brown and the Oregon Legislature, led by support from Senators Peter Courtney and Ted Ferrioli, are helping to address the issue, by prioritizing funding to increase statewide resilience and promote community preparedness.

Of the total 1,884 unreinforced masonry buildings (URMs) formerly pinpointed in Portland, only 4.6 percent (87) were fully upgraded, 8.5 percent were partially upgraded, and 8 percent (153) were demolished under the current code. An estimated 85 percent of existing URMs have had no retrofits at all.

The remaining 1,700 buildings include 45 schools, 35 churches and 270 multi-family structures with 6,000 units. About 400 URMs are on the National Register of Historic Places or are located in a designated National Historic District.

The draft of the policy identifies four classifications. Critical emergency buildings and essential facilities like hospitals, fire stations, power generators, water treatment plants and police offices are prioritized, expected to meet the shortest retrofit timeline and the highest proposed performance objective — to remain operational after a moderate earthquake and provide life safety after a maximum earthquake.

Class 2 includes high-occupancy, large offices and schools, Class 3 includes large buildings with 300 occupants or 100 residential units, Class 4 includes privately-owned non-critical buildings with 10-299 occupants, and Class 5 includes low-occupancy, low-risk buildings with zero to 10 occupants.PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO - Critical emergency buildings and essential facilities like hospitals, fire stations, power generators, water treatment plants and police offices are prioritized, and the second priority includes high-occupancy, large offices and schools.

"In the last year, we have more than tripled Oregon's investment in the seismic safety of our schools. It's taken 15 years to get here. It's still not enough. Hundreds of schools still need to be upgraded," said Senate President Peter Courtney. "We can't lose our momentum. We have to make up for lost time. The 'Really Big One' is coming. It's overdue. The Legislature needs to make another significant investment in the safety of Oregon's school children before this session is over. We have to make our schools safe."

This is the second round of funding released through the program this biennium, which is administered by Business Oregon. Schools throughout Oregon received $50 million for 41 retrofit projects last April, the first phase of $205 million in program funding.

Before this round, the program has made 118 awards totaling $108 million. The seismic rehabilitation program began funding projects in 2009.

"Communities need to prepare by making sure schools have been seismically retrofitted so they won't 'pancake' during a large quake," said Oregon State Senator Ted Ferrioli. "These buildings must survive, not only to protect children, but so they'll be available to serve as emergency operations centers, field hospitals, rendezvous points for families, and places where community response can be coordinated. Then we must also turn our attention to police stations, fire halls and ambulance centers from which 'First Responders' are dispatched."

By Jules Rogers
Reporter
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