First tsunami-proof building to be built in Westport

WESTPORT, Wash. -- What's believed to be the nation's first tsunami-proof building is about to be built in Westport.

There are predictions a large tsunami could take 10,000 lives on the Washington coast.

"What happens is you get a wave and additional waves and the water does not go back out like in a regular tide," said Ocosta Elementary School principal Heather Sweet.

But Sweet believes they'll be able to save every student, staff member and close-by community member with a new tsunami-proof elevated gym.

"We think we can get upstairs and survive it. That's our plan," she said.

Voters approved a $13 million bond issue to tear down the old section of the elementary school and build a fortified gym with survival deck on the roof -- 55-feet above sea level, and well above the projected tsunami level of 30 feet.

"I think it's really important that the children have somewhere safe to go," said parent Brook Priest. "And I think it's great they're offering the community a safe place in the instance of a tsunami."

When it's done in September 2015, they plan to have enough room for all 670 students, 100 staff and several hundred local community members.

And while they're waiting for that building to be placed on that spot, there is an evacuation route for the kids to take right next door at the high school. The second floor is their safe haven.

The district says the building is earthquake proof, but not tsunami proof. For everyone else, the evacuation routes to the foothills are marked. But that could take 40 minutes to reach while a tsunami can strike as soon as 20 minutes.

The district just applied for a federal grant of $2 million to expand the capacity of the tsunami building to hold 1,500 people.