SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Bill Dodd (D-Napa) introduced new legislation to protect students and teachers during earthquakes by requiring school districts in California to ensure that their classroom contents comply with state earthquake safety guidelines.
Schools are not currently required to inspect and secure the contents of classrooms, like heavy bookshelves or hanging light fixtures, and these items can subject students and teachers to unnecessary risk of injury or death and block help from emergency responders in the event of an earthquake.
“We know California is prone to earthquakes and we cannot wait for tragedy to strike to take common sense precautions to ensure our schools are as safe as possible. If the South Napa earthquake had happened during the school day, we could have seen serious injuries or worse,” said Assemblymember Bill Dodd. “While our standards for school construction are high, that’s only part of the puzzle, we also need to ensure the contents in those classrooms are properly placed and secured to protect our children and teachers. The state of California has invested time and resources into developing guidelines to safeguard classroom contents during earthquakes and it’s time we put those guidelines to good use.”
For the last five years, the Division of the State Architect published the “Guide and Checklist for Nonstructural Earthquake Hazards in California Schools,” which included guidelines for securing the contents of classrooms in the event of an earthquake. However, there is currently nothing in state law that requires school districts to adhere to those established guidelines. Dodd’s legislation would require these guidelines to be utilized by school districts to make schools safer during earthquakes.
Earthquake safety is an important issue in Assemblymember Dodd’s district, where just 18 months ago, the 6.0 South Napa Earthquake hit the city causing significant damage. Post-earthquake inspections of Napa schools revealed significant damage inside classrooms, totaling millions of dollars that could have been life-threatening had the earthquake occurred during school hours. These findings are not unique to Napa, as similar safety hazards have been found in the aftermath of numerous other schools throughout the state in previous years.
“The South Napa earthquake caused structural and non-structural damage to Napa schools,” said Patrick Sweeney, Superintendent of the Napa Valley Unified School District. “Ensuring our schools are as safe as they can possibly be, inside and out, is of the utmost importance. I’m happy to see Assemblymember Dodd take a stand to protect our children.”
Following the South Napa Earthquake, the Napa Valley Unified School District completed an inspection of its facilities and addressed the issues that were identified. Dodd’s legislation would require that all school districts in California develop a proactive plan for the inspection of school contents and equipment to ensure they are within the guidelines set forth by the DSA. Upon completion of the inspections, and after any necessary corrections have been made, the Superintendent will certify that school contents are in compliance with those guidelines.
Assemblymember Bill Dodd represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Yolo, Sonoma, Lake, Solano, and Colusa Counties. You can learn more about Assemblymember Dodd and the district at www.asm.ca.gov/dodd.