Earthquake survey finds thousands of buildings of concern

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state's first statewide inventory of buildings prone to crumble or collapse in an earthquake has found there are thousands of unreinforced masonry buildings or URM that could be dangerous.

The Department of Commerce reports that the survey combined various databases of historic structures as well as commercial, government and apartment buildings completed before 1958. Nearly 4,500 buildings were confirmed or suspected to pose high risk in an earthquake.

While the largest number of buildings of concern are in Seattle, there are also pockets of hundreds of others in other locations across the state.

The report states Pierce County has 505 URM buildings.

King County has 1,271 URM buildings.

Snohomish has 182 URM buildings.

The types of buildings identified in the report as URM buildings range from hospitals to schools.

Washington's statewide total of earthquake-vulnerable buildings is close to what a study found in neighboring Oregon, where more than 5,000 buildings have been identified according to a study from the historic preservation nonprofit Restore Oregon. The legislatures in both states are debating whether to create new grant programs to subsidize seismic upgrades.

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