By Bruce A. Smith
The Graham Self-Reliant Community will be taking a deeper look at regional and local earthquake preparation at its monthly meeting on September 7, 2016.
In particular, area representatives will be discussing exactly what occurred during the Cascadian Rising Exercise in June, how local fire departments and county agencies participated, and what was learned.
The Cascadia Rising Exercise was the federal-state-local training project to prepare the Puget Sound Region to survive a 9.0 earthquake.
Assistant Graham Fire Chief Tony Judd told the Mountain News this week that Graham Fire and Rescue actively participated in the Cascadia Rising program, specializing in handling a Hazardous Material incident.
“When chemicals mix that shouldn’t be mixed – what happens, and what should be done about it… was the nature of our training,” Judd said.
Chief Judd also said that Graham Fire does not have any food or water stockpiled for either residents or its own firefighters in the event of the Big One.
“It was in the budget, but recent budgetary concerns canceled those plans. They will have to be restored,” Judd said.
This issue directly affects how the Self-Reliant group will assist local firefighters. Will we feed our first responders so that they can help others?
But Judd did say that Graham Fire and made strides in developing command and communication programs that will help out community respond to a catastrophe. Judd said that software programs have been installed to re-route the flood of anticipated 9-11 calls so that Graham Fire will deal directly with calls from residents.
In addition, communications between department vehicles and fire stations have been improved, and Graham will have a network of radio coverage between first responders on the ground, which will be vital when all cell phones and land lines will be inoperative.
“We’ll be positioning one of our vehicles on the top of Graham Hill so that we will have adequate radio contact between stations, vehicles, and officers on foot with radios.”
Chief Judd will be attending the Self-Reliant Meeting, and Assistant Chief Guy Overby from the Central Pierce Fire and Rescue Department has been invited. Also invited is Sarah Foster, the Public Information Officer of the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management.
These individuals will join with members of the SRC in a panel discussion of how a 9.0 earthquake will manifest in our area. Simply, our primary warning will be a ground trembling of at least four minutes – that would be an 8.0.
If the shaking goes for six minutes then we have a full-release subduction quake that will be at least a 9.0, and render nearly full destruction of roadways and bridges, water and sewage lines, and fuel lines. FEMA estimates that this kind of earthquake will require everyone to survive in place for at least a week, and that little infrastructure repair could begin for at least a month, requiring large-scale evacuations for the injured and sick. The Cascadia Rising Exercise projected over 20,000 dead in the first few hours and at least a million residents immediately without effective shelter.
Since a Cascadian Subduction Zone quake will occur just off the Pacific coast of Washington and Oregon, FEMA officials have said that “everything west of I-5 will be toast.”
However, state building codes were strengthened in the 1990s so that all recent construction – certainly all public buildings – must be “resistant” to a 9.0 earthquake. Nevertheless, FEMA expects that a Big One will knock out half of all hospitals, schools, fire and police stations, and other municipal structures.
Geologists from the University of Washington told Cascadia Rising officials that the Pacific Northwest has experienced over forty 9.0 earthquakes in the past 10,000 years. That’s an average of one every 250 years, and the last known Cascadian Subduction Zone release was 360 years ago.
The Wednesday, September 7 meeting will beheld at the 70th Ave Fire Station in Graham, just south of 224th St. The meeting is free and begins at 6:30 pm.