Are you ready for a large-scale earthquake? How about the 9.0 magnitude earthquake experts say our coastline is overdue for?
The city of Redmond hopes to be.
At least that was the intent in holding a full-scale simulation exercise last week titled Cascadia Rising Solutions.
The exercise acted as a practice run for when “The Big One” (as the notorious and looming natural disaster is often called) happens.
The event followed a similar 2016 drill, put on by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state. And since then, the city has worked on the lessons discovered from that training, putting them into practice this time around.
Agencies from all over the state and Canada participated. City staff from all departments, volunteers and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) were all present for the practice run. People were out all over the city, including at various fire stations, doing activities.
Aside from the basics, city staff were intentionally not told what was happening. Adding to the realistic feel of the simulation.
In the simulation — one the city has been planning for a year — the earthquake hit at 5 a.m on Oct. 18 and included three different rounds.
This first round simulated emergency response with no technology. This meant no Twitter or Facebook — tools cities could use to disseminate information on sheltering in place, or emergency situations.
“We just had nothing,” said Redmond Police Department spokesperson Andrea Wolf-Buck. But they did have AM radios. “We just had to hope people had those little wind-up radios, or solar radios. We had to get real creative.”
Realistically, Wolf-Buck said, people aren’t going to have power and cell towers will be down. And there will be no Internet.
“So, we need to come up with other plans,” Wolf-Buck said.
One idea would be to use a police car and a megaphone to communicate the message, as they travel through neighborhoods or hand-written fliers.
The second response gave responders transitional access to technology and the third allowed the use of advanced technology. Each two-hour chunk was meant to be a 12-hour period.
Pattijean Hooper, city emergency manager, was the lead organizer for the event.
“We talk to each other really well now,” Hooper said on improvements made since the last emergency response simulation. “As opposed to having areas of specialty you didn’t share with other people…It was a really nice way to build relationships in the city.”
But some things can’t be planned for, Hooper said. Like no-notice events. A fear of every emergency manager is to have an unprepared public and a no-notice event, she said.
“This was a notice event, since it was an exercise,” Hooper said. “You can’t really reproduce the stress levels and anxiety of not knowing how your family is or how your home is.”
To recreate the stress, a MESL, or master exercise scenario list full of what Hooper called injects, or problems to solve.
“We repeatedly throw problems at them,” Hooper said. “You could get them all done if you had a lot of time but now it’s competing priorities and limited resources. So who gets what when?”
That recreates the stress of a no-notice event and cultivates critical thinking, Hooper said.
For readers, it’s best to be prepared now, by having phone numbers written down and having an out-of-state contact who knows your family and friendship contacts. People should look at what they use every day, like medications, oxygen and gas, and have supplements for it.
“We try to get people to take small steps that are practical,” Hooper said. She added that planning should be done for at least two weeks.