The 2001 Nisqually earthquake prompted better disaster preparation at the UW. It became apparent shortly after the quake that the UW did not have the capability to screen buildings for releases of hazardous materials and clear areas for reentry. Given that many UW buildings contain hazardous materials for research and clinical applications, and additional earthquakes are likely to occur, a pre-entry assessment team was deemed a necessary component in the UW's disaster response plan.
Even minor incidents like the Nisqually earthquake have the potential to cause hazardous material releases without doing significant damage to buildings. In this earthquake scenario, we quickly perform a room-by-room scan for chemical spills and other hazards and help clear buildings for re-entry. In the event of a major earthquake, we provide vital support to Fire and Rescue Teams. Many PEAT members are also EH&S staff with detailed knowledge of building layouts and potential hazards in over 3,500 laboratories. With the ability to enter even structurally compromised buildings and quickly monitor for chemicals and other hazards, we can investigate critical access routes and evacuation corridors. This can speed recovery and rescue efforts and help ensure that rescuers do not become victims themselves. In both scenarios, the team helps ensure business continuity and may help save lives.