Are you Ready for a Megaquake?
A Look at How The Pacific Northwest is Preparing
Recently, the Seattle Times featured a story on “The Big One,” a phrase being used to describe an almost certain Cascadia megaquake and tsunami on the West Coast, but more specifically in the Pacific Northwest Region. The article talks in depth about the plans and preparations being made to respond to such a large-scale catastrophe that could hit at any moment. It is comforting to know our state and local government agencies are allocating resources to respond effectively to a natural disaster that will affect almost every person in the region. Below are some highlights and specifics from the article and how the drill will play out with nearly 6,000 participants.
A large, real life simulation tabletop drill consisting of 6,000 emergency and military personnel is scheduled to take place during a 4 day exercise to test response to a megaquake and following tsunami in the region. The regional FEMA chapter is coordinating the event, which is being called Cascadia Rising and is set to start on June 7, 2016. The PNW has been talking about a “megaquake” in the region for months now, with predictions that “The Big One” will cause some 10,000 fatalities, 30,000 injuries, 70% of electrical power damaged, and serious damage to water-treatment and sewage plants. Experts caution though that these numbers are only estimates and can vary significantly depending on the time of day and season the quake and tsunami actually hit.
Emergency operations centers will be staffed across the PNW region and workers will simulate damage reports, respond to calls for help, cope with wide-spread power outages, and allocate resources. They have gone a step further and anticipate that phone and internet services will be unavailable, so all communication for the exercise will happen via satellite phone and emergency radio frequencies to help establish any shortcomings and to allow those using the communication networks, valuable training to reduce interruptions during an event. The military will take part in this exercise by setting up tactical operations centers, dispatch search and rescue teams and moving supplies. They will also have a naval vessel responding as if it were a real incident, establishing an emergency dock and transporting supplies and personnel.
According to the article, the goal is to identify problems and improve response through the use of simulated table-top drills. With this exercise state and local governments hope to find gaps and pitfalls in their plans and procedures, and fix them so when the megaquake comes, they are as prepared as possible. The Cascadia Rising exercise focuses on immediate response, but it will raise questions and open the discussion for long-term recovery efforts in the wake of a large scale disaster.
These types of incidents are critical to plan for, although they require a lot of time, resources, and finances, it becomes a matter of investing in preparedness, which in the long run will save time, money and frustration. When large scale natural disasters like this megaquake and tsunami are anticipated, the preparation must be large and widespread, including as many critical personnel as possible. This article focuses on something that we believe strongly in, preparedness and training, two of the simplest ways to ensure a more efficient response.