Earthquake DrillThe 2016 Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan should receive approval on March 15 from the city council without incident. In June, the city of Olympia will participate in a critical earthquake drill, which will help residents be ready to respond but also assist in the recovery of the city in the event of an earthquake disaster.

Olympia’s emergency management coordinator, Deputy Fire Chief Greg Wright, confirmed to the city council that the revised plan does in fact comply with new expectations on both state and federal levels. As part of the plan, emergency response policies and task assignment is outlined, as well as priorities for protecting human life and public safety.

Other aspects of the plan include protection of the economy, public property, the environment, and to provide what is deemed reasonable assistance to keep private properties protected.

Emergency preparation activities for 2016 will run from June 7 through 10. This year, the Cascadia Rising earthquake drill is the primary focus. The drill, which is cosponsored by FEMA, provides dozens of counties and cities the opportunity to practice emergency response when faced with a worst-case scenario in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. This Zone is an 800-mile fault line stretching between North California and Vancouver Island.

Over the past 400 to 600 years, this particular fault line has produced 9.0 magnitude or higher earthquakes. According to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, the last earthquake occurred in January of 1700. Although that was some time ago, this fault line has been of concern in recent years.

If an earthquake disaster occurs, an Emergency Operation Center in Olympia would become an active command center. According to Wright, members of the city council would be expected to provide the public with details about the emergency response, as well as efforts for recovery.

Wright went on to say that it is critical for the community of Olympia to have the right information but also a means for spreading the message so everyone knows what things are being done.

Wright referenced the 2001 earthquake in Nisqually in which he was able to perform his duties and help other people by knowing that his own loved ones were safe. Therefore, members of the city council were told to create a response plans for their own families. If city officials cannot locate their own families, providing an appropriate response would be impossible.

Additional emergency management training will be provided at a seminar on March 21. This coming summer, the city of Olympia will be able to review but also adopt the Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan specifically designed for the Thurston County region. In that plan, risks of natural hazards including floods, wildfires, and earthquakes are identified.