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Map: How Safe Are California Schools?

Many schools are located near fault lines or other earthquake hazards. That doesn't mean they'll collapse in a quake, but some school construction projects have failed to follow basic safety standards.

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What kind of damage can we expect from a 3.0 earthquake? What about a 7.2? It all depends on where you are.

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What Next? Find Out More, and Who to Contact

California Watch and KQED sorted through thousands of public school records to determine whether the buildings are up to code or in a hazard zone.

All California public schools are on the California Watch map. You can search for you school by county and district.

Construction projects that need to be retrofitted are on the AB300 list, and schools that are not certified safe by the state are on the Field Act list. However, California Watch was unable to match every project or building to a specific school. Projects that could not be matched are not on the map. You can download more complete uncertified and AB 300 lists.

We've assembled some information to help you find out how safe a school is, and lists of questions and documents to request.

Acts Governing Safety

Questions to Ask

Who to Contact

AB 300

The AB 300 list represents school buildings that were built when the laws didn’t require a stronger design. These buildings are generally more vulnerable because of their age, their structural design and their location to active earthquake faults. If your school has buildings on the list, we recommend you talk with your district officials to learn more about whether an evaluation has been done.

Field Act

A school with projects without Field Act certification either has known, unresolved safety issues (Letter 4) or is missing important documents that verify the safety of the construction (Letter 3). The Field Act earthquake safety building requirements were developed to help ensure that K-12 schools stood the best chance of withstanding an earthquake. An uncertified project could include seismic safety problems or issues with other building requirements, including fire and life safety and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. If you want more information about a school’s uncertified project, we recommend you contact the Division of the State Architect’s office or the actual school district and request records detailing the reasons why the project was rejected for approval.

Questions to Ask:

If your school appears on the AB 300 list:

  • Can you tell me what, if anything, has been done about making seismic upgrades to these buildings since the AB 300 report was completed in 2002?
  • Has a seismic review been conducted?
  • Are students and staff using these buildings?
  • If unsafe conditions continue to exist, what can be done to address them?
  • What is the estimated cost of making seismic upgrades?

If school officials say safety problems with buildings on the AB 300 list have been resolved, members of the public can request the following documentation:

  • The Division of the State Architect application ID number for the project and/or the Office of Public School Construction number
  • The approval letter from the state architect’s office, which comes when plans are approved, and the certification letter that the work was completed according to Field Act standards
  • If you obtain these documents and are willing to share them, please e-mail us at seismic@californiawatch.org.

  • If your school lacks Field Act certification:

  • Which buildings within the school lack Field Act certification?
  • Why hasn’t the project been certified?
  • If paperwork is missing, is there any way you can guarantee the necessary safety precautions were followed during construction?
  • Are these uncertified buildings in use by students and staff?
  • If school officials say their buildings are certified under the Field Act, you can ask for a copy of the letter of certification from the Division of the State Architect. If you obtain this document and are willing to share it, please e-mail us at seismic@californiawatch.org.

  • If your school is near a fault or liquefaction zone:

  • Have all buildings received Field Act certification?
  • If the school was built before 1972, has it been retrofitted?
  • If the school was built in a liquefaction zone prior to it being designated as a liquefaction zone, has it been retrofitted?

  • Contact information for state officials:

    For information on school boards, you can search by region on the California School Boards Association website.

    Division of the State Architect
    Phone: 916-445-8100
    Write: 1102 Q St., Suite 5100
    Sacramento, CA 95811
    E-mail: Howard "Chip" Smith (acting state architect) at howard.smith@dgs.ca.gov
    Website: www.dgs.ca.gov/dsa/

    State Senate Majority Leader Ellen M. Corbett (sponsored AB 300)
    Phone: 916-651-4010
    Write: State Capitol, Room 313
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    E-mail: http://dist10.casen.govoffice.com/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={7AA698F8-93BA-4092-A431-BAB3C7EF7E46}
    Website: http://dist10.casen.govoffice.com/

    California Seismic Safety Commission
    Phone: 916-263-5506
    Write: 1755 Creekside Oaks Drive, Suite 100
    Sacramento, CA 95833-3637
    E-mail: celli@stateseismic.com
    Website: www.seismic.ca.gov
    Director: Richard J. McCarthy (mccarthy@stateseismic.com)

    California Geological Survey
    You can request that the California Geological Survey study the liquefaction in your area and recommend ways the foundation can be fortified.

    Phone: 916-445-1923 Write: 801 K St., MS 12-30
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    E-mail: cgshq@consrv.ca.gov
    Website: www.consrv.ca.gov/CGS/Pages/Index.aspx

    Office of Public School Construction
    Phone: 916-376-1771
    Write: P.O. Box 980610
    West Sacramento, CA 95798-0610
    E-mail: OPSCNews@dgs.ca.gov
    Website: www.dgs.ca.gov/opsc

    State Mining & Geology Board
    Phone: 916-322-1082
    Write: 801 K Street, Suite 2015
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    E-mail: smgb@consrv.ca.gov
    Website: www.conservation.ca.gov/smgb/Pages/Index.aspx

    California State PTA
    Phone: 916-440-1985
    Write: 2327 L St.
    Sacramento, CA 95816-5014
    E-mail: www.capta.org/sections/tools/contactus.cfm
    Website: www.capta.org
    Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/California-State-PTA/133894939861
    Click here to find your local PTA district office.

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