In an earthquake, Federal Way has solid soil on its side

There was no way that the 7.8 earthquake that hit the Sichuan Province of southwest China on Monday afternoon could go unnoticed.

Photographs and videos of people in deep mourning have been making their way through most Internet sites and media sources around the world.

Devastated mothers surrounding the ruins of an elementary school, rescue crews carrying victims, collapsed houses and broken floors are among images that show the heartbreaking episodes inside what experts call one of China’s worst disasters in the last 30 years. An earthquake of this magnitude has an impact on the world. In China, it is estimated that more than 20,000 were killed and with thousands more reported missing.

The Puget Sound area is no exception to taking precautions for such disasters striking here.

Seattle recently released the Unreinforced Masonry Building Seismic Hazard study in which a detailed description was given of what buildings would be most affected in case a powerful earthquake hit the city’s expanded neighborhoods.

In Federal Way, things are somewhat different, according to the emergency management coordinator Ray Gross.

The city’s youth helps this theory, but also the fact that there is no liquefaction-type of soil that would cause buildings to topple in case of an earthquake.

“Our soil is pretty solid,” Gross said.

Federal Way is a much newer city and is built with the most current building code, he said.

However, there are still some things to take into consideration, and people should continue to learn about earthquake preparedness, Gross said.

Faults, like the Cascadia and Seattle faults, could still cause catastrophic earthquakes that would affect Federal Way.

“The Seattle Fault runs throughout most of the Puget Sound, and would mainly impact King County,” Gross said. “This is a surface type earthquake that would affect utility lines, bridges and buildings.”

Among the things that people can do to prepare for earthquakes, and any given disaster for that matter, include getting trained in first aid and CPR, and attending one of the emergency response team training courses offered by the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Gross said.

In general, Gross said that one of the benefits the United States has in terms of earthquakes is that its uniform building code has a pretty high standard.

Gross said that although it is difficult to know exactly when the next earthquake will hit the area, traditionally a 6.0 to 6.8 scale earthquake has been felt every 30 years, the last one being the 6.8 magnitude Nisqually earthquake on Feb. 28, 2001. That earthquake injured about 400 people and cost the state millions of dollars in damage.

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For more information on earthquake preparedness and other disasters, go to

To register for one of the disaster preparedness courses offered by Federal Way, call (253) 835-2652.

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