In the Pacific Northwest, communities are debating how to save lives from a tsunami triggered by a massive earthquake that’s overdue. During their regular earthquake and tsunami drills, students at an elementary school in Westport, Washington, practice going to the top floor. But with the Pacific Ocean just a few thousand feet away, scientists say these drills might be futile — because the inevitable tsunami could be higher than the school.

“Scientists tell us it will happen at some point,” school superintendent Paula Akerlund tells CBS News. “It’s very unpredictable as to when. So we, we need to be prepared. Akerlund says construction workers are racing to finish a vertical evacuation structure — the first of its kind in North America. The shelter sits on the roof of a new school, rising 44 foot high with 14 inch thick walls. Thousands of students and residents seeking refuge could be saved. Like the Japanese earthquake and tsunamis in 2011 that killed nearly 16,000 people, seismologists say there is an impending disaster coming this way. FULL REPORT