Community members and first responders continued their efforts last week to plan for a possible worst case scenario disaster.
Across Clallam County, field and tabletop exercises were held for the Cascadia Rising training, specifically focused on a 9.0 earthquake.
Working out of the Guy Cole Event Center in Carrie Blake Community Park June 13-16, Sequim organizers’ discussions ranged from how-to clear roads to mass care to food distribution.
Sequim Police Chief Sheri Crain said in many ways, Sequim is doing well in planning.
“Clallam County Fire District 3 deserves a lot of credit for outreach,” she said. “They’ve delivered presentations to hundreds of community members (over the years).”
Blaine Zechenelly, disaster planner for the fire district, said the planning could be for any disaster including the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. He said the core issues remain the same that locals need at least 30 days of supplies as the area will likely be strained for supplies that long or longer.
This training has been planned since a 2016 event, organizers said.
Crain said the four day event built on efforts during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
First responders and various agencies met with some retailers on June 16, including Coastal Farm & Ranch, The Co-Op Farm & Garden, and Walmart about possible supply distribution during a disaster.
Andra Smith, Sequim Food Bank executive director, said that while her agency is a designated emergency food provider, they realized they don’t have enough supply in a natural disaster for the community over a prolonged period of time.
“The pandemic taught us a lot about food systems and we don’t want to be caught off guard again,” she said.
Zechenelly said in a disaster Sequim stores have “just in time inventory” for one to three days for items such as perishable goods, while the Food Bank has one to two days of food for the entire community of about 40,000 people.
“The demand will go up after about a week as households use up items,” he said.
During a disaster, first responders want to partner with retailers to close for business so they could distribute supplies evenly, safely and expeditiously, Zechenelly said.
He said there won’t be enough law enforcement for retailers to open and sell items while controlling the masses of people.
Receiving new supplies will be difficult too, he said.
Training organizers also said whatever medications are in-store is all that could be available for some time.
“There’s a huge demand for medications in the community,” Zechenelly said. “We encourage people to convert medication orders to 90 days and have 30 days extra on hand, if possible. We need to start practicing that to take the load off.”
While the training was in perpetuity with the state, Zechenelly said Sequim’s training was boots-on-the-ground along with tabletop discussions.
Over the four days of planning, Crain said participants started their scenario from a day five scenario after an earthquake.
On Monday, more than 100 Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members began walking through neighborhoods in eastern Clallam County assessing how long it’d take them to assess damages and injuries.
The Sequim area was broken into a grid system, and Zechenelly estimated they got through about 75 percent of it by Thursday afternoon.
They’d communicate via handheld radios on statuses and report back to the Emergency Coordination Center in Guy Cole.
City of Sequim staff discussed logistics, such as how to remove debris from US Highway 101 and repair roads to receive items and use medical facilities on Fifth Avenue
On Tuesday, volunteers set up a shelter inside Trinity United Methodist Church.
Zechenelly said the Red Cross trained church volunteers how to maintain a shelter and BSA scouts set up the cots.
He said at least two other churches are interested in becoming shelters now, too.
Earlier in June, CERT leaders picked up 1,000 new cots and blankets for free from a stockpile in Umatilla, Ore. Organizers said 100 went to Joyce, 200 to Jefferson County and the rest for the Sequim area shelters.
On Wednesday, organizers held a tabletop exercise with the state, and on Thursday they met with retailers and transportation stakeholders.
During a significant earthquake, Zechenelly said there are 1,000 situations that could play out and the scenario (called L1) they ran could cover about 90 percent of those.
Organizers also worked with different forms of communication, such as hand-held radios at 20 mobile systems across the area throughout the exercise.
Afterward, Zechenelly said they’ll continue to host presentations on disaster prep, work on logistics with local stakeholders, and recruit CERT members and shelter providers.
CERT is Trained in first aid, and light urban search and rescue, and has about 500 members in 16 teams.
Starting basic preparations for a disaster doesn’t need to be a lot all at once, first responders said.
Crain said one thing to do is have a to-go bag with items such as water, a blanket and prescriptions.
Zechenelly said people can buy at least two cans of food extra every time they shop.
For information about CERT, visit ccfd3.org and click the “Services and Programs” tab.