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LAUSD TO REPLACE FIXTURES BY JUNE; CONFERENCE DRAWS EMERGENCY EXPERTS.

Byline: Robert Monroe Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Unified School District must replace or secure hanging lights at roughly 240 schools and buildings because they could fall during an earthquake, an official said Wednesday.

Speaking after a conference of emergency response officials, Pete Anderson, director of the Office of Emergency Services in the LAUSD, said the district hopes to finish the replacement project by June and start another project to replace ceiling material by next month. The district started the $60 million undertaking in 1997 after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake sent ceiling panes and hanging lights crashing onto classroom floors.

``Most of our schools, I feel, are safe and prepared to deal with an emergency, but there's more left to go,'' said Anderson after the meeting.

The conference at California State University, Northridge, drew experts from cities such as San Jose and Oakland, the state Office of Emergency Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It was sponsored by Assemblywoman Ellen Corbett, chairwoman of the Assembly Select Committee on Earthquake Safety and Preparedness.

Anderson told Corbett, D-San Leandro, that the district needs more state funding to allow it to prepare students and teachers at individual schools for disasters that could be kept waiting for hours for rescuers to reach them.

During the Northridge Quake, ceiling panes and dangling pendant lights fell to the floors at several Valley schools, but no one was injured because the temblor struck so early in the morning. The district is replacing such lights with surface-mounted lights or attaching reinforcing wires to hanging lights at 800 district locations. Ceilings will also be fitted with anchoring cross ties.

In addition, some Valley schools are receiving or will receive earthquake retrofits. San Fernando Middle School and Holmes Middle School in Northridge will receive shear walls, flexible walls that can withstand severe shakes.

The LAUSD is paying for it mostly with funds obtained from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but Anderson said he wants the state to fund regular visits by earthquake experts to schools to identify hazards. He wants to set up a database of hazard information so the district knows what kinds of problems quake-damaged schools might face after the temblors strike. That additional level of preparedness might prove crucial if help for schools is a long time in coming.

``My philosophy that I always tell schools is that in the Big One, they may have to manage that incident on their own,'' Anderson said.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 9, 1999
Words:408
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