The Student News Site of Taipei American School




Preparing for the unimaginable


0921 earthquake1
“People were wearing pajamas and it was late at night and [we were] buying water and flashlights and chatting like it was the middle of the afternoon.” That’s how Mr Arnold, Upper School history teacher, remembers the 921 earthquake that killed over 2000 people and injured 11,5000 all over Taiwan in 1999.
Located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” Taiwan experiences an average of 2,200 earthquakes annually, of which only about 200 can actually be felt. While earthquakes are a primary source of worry for many, the idea of earthquakes may be a little surreal to others, as Taipei has not experienced a major earthquake since 1999.
Earthquake drills are a regular feature of life at TAS, but what exactly are some of the other safety features of our school? Exactly how earthquake-proof are our buildings?
You can sleep easy. “All the buildings, no matter new or old, were built to meet or surpass codes of the safety standards at that point in time,” says Mr Panta, Assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations. “Professionals are hired to inspect the infrastructure of the school every six months.”
Are international students aware of the dangers and how to respond to an earthquake? “I think that’s why we try to have drills fairly early in the year, so that all the new students can become adjusted to what the expectations are,” says Mr VandenBoom. “We can’t predict earthquakes the way we predict typhoons, and we need to do what we can to make sure that we’re ready for it.”
Most earthquakes are centered far away from Taipei. But as the one in September 1999 proved, they do happen here and can cause major damage. Earthquakes may seem frightening, but at the same time, they have the power to bring people together in the face of disaster. As Mr Arnold recalls, “It was like everybody was buddies.”

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