by Bruce A. Smith
There will a public meeting to discuss earthquake preparedness this Thursday, March 17, at the Graham Library at 6:30 pm. It is free, and is hosted by the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management. The topic will be preparing for a 9.0 earthquake, which is estimated to be 2,000 times more powerful than the 7.2 Nisqually quake about ten years ago.
Apparently, several governmental agencies are having a regional, mega-disaster drill in June, mobilizing up to 4,000 employees in simulations, and these public meetings are a prelude. Besides the gathering in Graham, there are several more scheduled throughout the county this month.
I’m going to the meeting, if for no other reason than to see what the County is doing – and who else is preparing around here. The last time I did a story on earthquake preparedness, specifically what the plans are at the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management, they told me in the event of a Really Big Earthquake they would survive by getting take-out from a local Teriyaki Place and stay in a local Motel 6. They had no food, water, or bedding supplies for themselves in their HQ, but they did have a $5 million diesel generator on spring shocks. They also had a ton of wall-mounted Big TV screens so the media people could see their operations in real time. Not sure how the TV crews are going to get there if all the bridges are down in a Nine-Oh, and if they would cover the story rather than take care of themselves and their families.
Also, when I met several years ago with a Deputy Chief of Thurston County Fire and Rescue on the subject of preparedness, he felt fully prepared meeting with me in Yelm with a bottle of water in his car and a couple of power bars. He thought that was sufficient to survive in place for three days, which was what he was telling people to prepare for.
At the same time, the Graham Fire and Rescue Department had zero extra food and water for their own staff to survive in an emergency. But they had 500 gallons of diesel fuel for their trucks.
Simply, no one I spoke to at any first-responder agency had blankets, surgical equipment, extra food or water for themselves or survivors. Nor heat or lights. However, the WA state emergency people and FEMA have food stockpiled in Tukwila, something like a million MREs, but how it gets distributed is a different story – and problematic, as I haven’t seen the details of who will be doing what.
However, locally, Bethel School District has three days worth of food and water stockpiled at each school, when I checked a number of years ago. High schools have a lot more food than the Elementaries, which is smart. Also, all schools have some first aid stuff, and a bunch of flashlights. They used to have generators too, but they were all stolen the last I checked a few years ago. They rotated their food stock every year, too. They had a few blankets and tarps, as well. They also told me that they figure one-third of their teachers are going to split at the first sign of trouble to go take care of their own kids, families, etc. But they figured another one-third of their staff will stay with the kids until hell freezes over – or rescue arrives – which ever happens first. Bethel also sends a designated administrator to the monthly state preparedness meetings, which is very wise in my view.
Here’s the press release that was sent out in an email:
2016-03-17T18:30:00March 17, 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM @ Graham Branch Library9202 224th Street E. Graham, WA 98338
What will this area look like if forecasts for a 9.0 earthquake materialize? How will first responders deploy? What should older adults and people with disabilities do? What does prudent preparation look like?
Here is the announcement from Pierce County that was sent to media outlets, such as the Mountain News-WA:
Looking at how “The Big One” Will Impact Pierce County
The sky may not be falling but the earth may be shaking. By many estimates Pierce County is likely to experience a major earthquake in the near future. That historic event – a possible 9.0 quake, could be tomorrow or 100 years from now. No one knows when.
“Surviving the Really Big One” examines what a 9.0 earthquake will look like – and its aftermath – in Pierce County with a specific focus for older adults and individuals with disabilities. The presentation will review how roads, utilities and services will likely be interrupted and the length of stoppage. It will also present important tips on surviving such a catastrophic event.
The presentation will be held six times in March:
• March 14 – 12:10-12:50 p.m. at the Pierce County Annex Main Meeting Room, 2401 S. 35th St.
• March 15 – 12:10-12:50 p.m. at the County City Building, 7th Floor Rainier Conference Room, 930 Tacoma Avenue, S., Tacoma
• March 14 – 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Gig Harbor Library, 4424 Pt. Fosdick Dr., NW
• March 15 – 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Puyallup Library, 324 S. Meridian
• March 17 – 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Graham Library, 9202 224th St. E.
• March 19 – 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. at the Sound View Building, 3602 Pacific Ave., S.
“We all know the big one is coming” said Aaron Van Valkenburg, Manager of Pierce County Aging & Disability Resources. “But most of us don’t really have a picture of what that means. We’ve never been through anything like what is being predicted. This presentation will provide a realistic picture of what our communities will look like. Even more important, we will hear about what seniors and people with disabilities can and should do to be ready.”
This presentation will be especially important for families, older adults, people with disabilities, families, caregivers and people who depend on ongoing support. Participants will receive a list of considerations to review and discuss with family, friends and neighbors. In addition, there are valuable resources that exist. But those resources will be of most value if they are accessed well before a crisis.
The workshop is an information-only presentation sponsored by the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management and the Aging and Disability Resource Center. The event is free and open to the public. No RSVP is required. For more information call (253) 798-4600(253) 798-4600.