What: Federal, tribal,multi-state catastrophic earthquake and tsunami exercise
When: Tuesday-Friday, June 7-10
Where: Clallam County
The interface of two tectonic plates is cause for a multi-state, multi-day emergency preparedness exercise beginning next week.
Movement along the Cascadia Subduction Zone — a roughly 800-mile long fault where the smaller Juan de Fuca plate is slipping beneath the North American plate — is projected to cause a large natural disaster that local emergency responders continue to prepare for.
“A 9.0 magnitude earthquake along the CSZ and the resulting tsunami is the most complex disaster scenario that emergency management and public safety officials in the Pacific Northwest could face,” Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said.
Through a variety of methods and ongoing research, earthquakes along the fault are thought to occur every 200-500 years and given the last major big earthquake and tsunami occurred in 1700, emergency responders are on edge for another potentially catastrophic event. To help get ready, Clallam County and its cities, including Sequim, are participating in a widespread exercise spearheaded by FEMA known as “Cascadia Rising.” The county’s Emergency Management Division will be “fully activated” the length of the exercise June 7-10, whereas Sequim emergency response officials will be activated June 7-8.
The exercise is a “hybrid” of a tabletop and functional exercise, said Penelope Linterman, Clallam County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Management Division program coordinator.
“It’s an opportunity to test our operational, communication and coordination abilities, like assigning resources,” Linterman said.
The six primary capabilities being practiced and perfected include: operation and communication, public health and medical services, mass care services, critical transportation, operational coordination and situational assessment.
Following the exercise a local, state and national “after action report” will be written, Linterman said.
The county’s Emergency Management Division and staff are among many participating in Cascadia Rising from Washington, Oregon and Idaho, tribal nations and nearly 40 federal agencies.
Inside the Clallam County Courthouse participants will create and operate a Joint Information Center (JIC) where all communication from across the county is funneled. Although it’s not open to the public or press, Linterman said daily briefings will be sent from the information center.
“The role of the JIC is to monitor all news, any communication and disseminate news so it’s one voice reporting to the state,” Linterman said. “It’s intended to act as a single point of contact.”
Also within the courthouse, an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will be set up and in practice. Emergency responders at the EOC are expected to coordinate all activities, including operations, logistics, planning and finance and administration, Linterman said.
“In an emergency we would operate all of those components,” she said.
In Sequim, exercise participants will practice setting up and operating an Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) at the Sequim Transit Center. From there, officials will systematize all communication from Sequim and the surrounding area known as “Area Command 5” and report to the Joint Information Center.
At The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints off West Washington Street, emergency responders plan to simulate a Point of Distribution (POD), which is a known pick-up location for food and supplies. However, because it’s only an exercise participants will practice via a “reverse POD,” Linterman said. Thus, instead of acting as a food and supply pick-up location, people will drop off food donations for the food bank.
The standardized “Incident Command System” is the overall concept being practiced during Cascadia Rising and is a component of the National Incident Management System, Linterman said.
“It’s an organizational structure that came out of the fire service and it’s very effective,” she said. “It came into widespread use after 9-11 and gets everyone on the same system, using the same language.”
The general public shouldn’t be impacted by the excise, but citizens may notice a greater military presence, Linterman said.
“There’s a big National Guard component (to the exercise) and they have about 35 people coming,” she said. “They’re bringing specialized equipment and will be organizing specialized activities.”
Other exercises within the public eye include a walking evacuation of downtown Port Angeles and a decontamination activity at the Port of Port Angeles, but all activities will be announced, Linterman said.