Changes Made to Earthquake and Tsunami Planning since the 2011 disaster in Japan

Last month, the anniversaries of the March 27th 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami, (M 9.2, which impacted Grays Harbor County), and the March 27th 2011 Japanese “Tohoku” Earthquake and Tsunami, (M9.0), passed without much fanfare.  I contacted John Schelling, the Earthquake/Tsunami/Volcano Programs Manager at Washington Emergency Management Division to ask the question, “Have any changes been made to U.S. and/or Washington State planning since the Japanese earthquake and tsunami?” His response is below.



Four years has elapsed since the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, I was wondering if any significant changes have been made to any U.S. planning, (or worldwide planning)?  One significant change in Washington State and Grays Harbor County, is the Ocosta School District Elementary School Project where they are building the first vertical evacuation, tsunami engineered, safe haven building in North America, but have there been any other changes?



The short answer is yes, there has been a lot that has changed. Here are a few…


Lesson from Japan: Plan for the right hazard. Japan planned for a smaller M8.2 event…and then had a 9.

In Washington: Fortunately, our paleo tsunami and ghost forest history has shown that we have had to worry about a 9.0 as well as smaller events. However, science is not a static process and new research should give way to updated hazard assessment. We have been re-examining the tsunami hazard from Cascadia and updating the coastal hazard assessments using an earthquake that generates a greater amount of slip, which makes a bigger tsunami.


Lesson from Japan: Vertical evacuation can save thousands of lives…if they are high enough

In Washington: We conducted site-specific hazard assessments for current sites proposed for vertical evacuation using a larger scenario and added additional factors of safety to account for uncertainty.


Lesson from Japan: Don’t rely on your technical warning systems to alert people as there may be issues in getting an accurate warning out before the telecommunications infrastructure is impaired.

In Washington and the US: We continue to educate coastal populations on natural warning signs of a tsunami and recommendation evacuation when people feel the ground shake. The technological system is there as a secondary source of information, if it’s available.


Lesson from Japan: Global Positioning Systems, (GPS) can help identify BIG earthquakes more quickly than traditional seismometers.

In Washington and the US: There are discussions moving forward about how to integrate GPS data into the traditional seismometer-based warning network. Additionally, Washington State is home to one of the larger GPS networks, the Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array (PANGA), which is run out of Central Washington University. For more information on PANGA go to:


Lesson from Japan event here in Washington: Limited English Proficiency communities may be unaware of tsunami hazard zones, tsunami warning sirens, and tsunami evacuation maps/routes given evacuations in Grays Harbor County to a local hospital

In Washington: The State Tsunami Program, in conjunction with state and local partners, including Grays Harbor County, has begun to develop a series of products and outreach materials, such as Public Service Announcements, (PSAs), in Spanish to more effectively educate local coastal populations.

“U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” distracted driver emphasis patrols underway in Washington

For the second year in a row, more than 100 law enforcement agencies in Washington State will be cracking down on distracted drivers as part of the national distracted driving campaign.

Between April 1 and April 15, officers will target motorists who are seen talking on handheld cell phones and sending text messages.

“U Drive. U Text. U Pay” is a campaign supported by the family of a student who died near Colfax while texting and driving.

Sam Thompson, 20, died September 12, 2014 after crossing the center line while texting and driving northbound on Highway 195 and colliding head-on with a semi-truck.

Sam’s parents, Jim and Lisa Thompson will unveil a sign to be erected this spring at the site near Colfax where Sam died. The sign and the extra statewide patrols will be in honor of Sam.

These patrols and all extra patrols are part of Target Zero, which is a campaign striving to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in Washington by 2030.


Driver distraction is a leading factor in many crashes, and cell phone use and texting are two of the most common distractions. Many states and local jurisdictions are passing laws that address these behaviors.GHSA’s message to all drivers remains: don’t use cell phones or other electronic devices while driving, regardless of the current law.

GHSA recommends states ban hand-held cell phone use for all drivers. While texting and hand-held bans are both critical, texting bans by themselves can be difficult to enforce. In states with texting but not hand-held bans, a driver may claim they were dialing a phone number when stopped by a police officer. Enforcement demonstration projects in New York, Connecticut, Delaware and California have shown that hand-held cell phone bans can be enforced effectively and can reduce driver use of a cell phone. See below for the specific policy language.

The It Can Wait® Campaign

GHSA supports the It Can Wait campaign. Spearheaded by AT&T, the goal of the campaign is to save lives by calling on the public, law enforcement, educators, corporations, consumer safety groups and legislators to help find solutions to prevent the dangers of texting and driving. Learn More


In 2011, GHSA released Distracted Driving: What Research Shows and What States Can Do. The report summarizes what distracted driving is, how often drivers are distracted, how distraction impacts driver performance and what countermeasures may be most effective as well as what states can do to reduce distracted driving.

Among the findings:

  • Distractions affect driving performance.
  • Drivers frequently are distracted, perhaps as much as half the time.
  • Distractions are estimated to be associated with 15 to 25 percent of crashes at all levels.
  • Texting likely increases crash risk more than cell phone use.

Based on the existing research, the report urges states to:

  • Use low-cost engineering solutions such as edgeline and centerline rumble stripes to alert motorists who may drift.
  • Record distracted driving in crash reports.
  • Evaluate other distracted driving laws and programs.

In 2009, GHSA joined a coalition of safety and transportation groups in writing letters to key members of the U.S. House pdf icon [46 KB, 3 pgs.] and Senate pdf icon [47 KB, 3 pgs.] advocating a broad approach to distracted driving and supporting a strong federal role.

Amber Alert led to quick recovery as vehicle is spotted in traffic

Officials from the Washington State Patrol (WSP) were celebrating the quick recovery of an abducted and endangered child as a result of this morning’s AMBER Alert and applauding the public involvement that proved crucial to the child’s safe recovery.

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office initiated the AMBER Alert for 18-month old Mason A. Wilhelm, which was issued at 10:23 a.m.  The Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system was then activated, which was sent at 10:41 a.m.  An alert motorist, receiving the WEA on their phone, called 9-1-1 at 10:42 a.m., reporting they were following the vehicle.  Deputies then stopped the suspect vehicle at 10:49 a.m. and the child was safety recovered.

The AMBER Alert program is a critical tool that has aided in the safe recovery of over 700 abducted children nationwide since its inception.  “The public may often be our best resource in locating these abducted children and the quick dissemination of this critical information using the WEA system enhances getting these alerts out to the public.  As demonstrated with this morning’s quick and safe recovery, a mere 8 minutes passed from the WEA being seen by a motorist and the child’s safe recovery,” said Lieutenant Ron Mead of the Washington State Patrol.  “The system works and this recovery demonstrates the value of the AMBER Alert program and the invaluable role of the Wireless Emergency Alerts system in alerting the public”, added Mead.

Additional information on the circumstances surrounding the child’s abduction and recovery are available from the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.

Additional information on the AMBER Alert program can be found at or the Washington State AMBER Alert plan at

Additional information on the Wireless Emergency Alert system can be found at

High wind warning issued, Grays Harbor Emergency Management warns clam diggers


The National Weather Service in Seattle has issued a HIGH WIND WARNING for much of Western Washington, including Grays Harbor County from 5pm Saturday afternoon to 11pm Saturday evening.

Some Affected Locations, Westport, Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Montesano.




The wind will begin from the South 15 to 25 mph this afternoon, switching to West or Northwest 25 to 40 MPH with to Gusts to 60 mph along the coastal regions. Strong gusts may continue into the early morning hours on Sunday. These are the highest forecast wind gusts so far this year.

Winds this strong can snap small tree branches topple small or shallow rooted trees, and cause local power outages.

A High Wind Warning Means That a Hazardous Wind Event is Imminent or Occurring.

Also associated with this storm may be thunderstorms with heavy rain. Minor flooding could occur in low lying areas as well as create major puddling on highways and streets making driving extremely hazardous, especially at night.

Grays Harbor County Emergency Management is urging all residents to prepare for the severe weather that has been forecast. When the strong winds and rain arrive, power outages are likely to occur. Do not approach fallen trees, branches or power lines. Check your generators. Do not use generators indoors. Do not refuel portable space heaters indoors. Never use your oven or barbeque grill to heat your home. Grays Harbor County Emergency Management will continue to monitor the forecast with the National Weather Service.

Remember to call 911 ONLY in a true emergency. During severe weather events, 911 receives a high increase of calls. Please do not call 911 to receive weather updates or for road conditions. You can receive the most up to date information from Grays Harbor County Emergency Management on Facebook, Twitter and on the Grays Harbor County Emergency Management Website at


Great Washington ShakeOut hits 1 Million goal

More than 1 million Washingtonians have now signed up to participate in the Great Washington ShakeOut statewide earthquake drill, making the exercise the largest in state history.
On Thursday, Oct. 16th at 10:16 a.m., citizens across the state will “drop, cover and hold on,” practicing the skills to help stay safe during an earthquake. In addition, coastal communities will test their tsunami alert sirens at the same time.
“We set an extraordinary goal and I couldn’t be more pleased that we met it,” said John Schelling, Mitigation & Recovery Section Manager with the Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division. “Now I’m hoping we can go even higher. The ShakeOut provides the perfect opportunity for all Washingtonians to practice earthquake safety and then do at least one more thing to become better prepared for our next earthquake or even our next winter storm. I encourage those who haven’t signed up yet to participate in this important drill.”
Visit for more information, to register to participate in the exercise. As of early this morning, 1,018,934 have registered to participate in tomorrow’s annual ShakeOut drill.

Pacific County Deputy spots and arrests man wanted for Raymond burglary

On August 8th, an alert Pacific County Sheriff’s Deputy was traveling north bound on State Route 101 through the city of Raymond when he recognized a male subject that was wanted by the Raymond Police Department for the crime of Residential Burglary, walking southbound on the sidewalk. The deputy turned around and attempted to make contact with the suspect.

The deputy exited his patrol vehicle and as he did so, the suspect began to run away. The deputy chased the suspect on foot for several hundred yards. The suspect fled to a residence that he was affiliated with. The deputy and officers with the Raymond Police Department spoke with the home owner and the suspect gave up and came out of the residence a short time later.

The suspect, identified as Terrance E. Hall, age 49 of Raymond, was placed under arrest and transported to the Pacific County Jail for booking. Hall is being held on 20,000.00 bail.

The Sheriff’s Office encourages citizens to still maintain secure residences, even during the warm and pleasant weather that we have been experiencing. Windows and doors left open or unsecured are prime targets for burglars.

Local Credit Union warns of phishing scam received by some members

TwinStar Credit Union is warning of a phishing scam that’s targeting their members. Emails received by some claim that their “access to online banking has been terminated,” and include a link to a fake website to reset their password. The website appears similar to the credit union’s online banking page. It asks for your member number, password, email address, and email password. If that isn’t a big enough clue TwinStar says you should always access your online banking directly from their website at

Twinstar is telling its members: “Do NOT enter any information in this site. If you have already done so, contact us right away at 1-800-258-3115.”

Twinstar said on their website The subject line of the emails state: “Alert: New message from online banking” or something similar. The email tells recipients that, “We have terminated your access to the TwinStar Credit Union Internet Banking System.” The email then directs recipients to click on a link that asks for an account number, password, and email.

If you receive one of these emails please forward it to so we can track the scammers and shut them down.

You should always be suspicious of unsolicited emails from your bank, and access your banking website directly not from an email link.

Scrolling sign prompts evacuation and search of Pacific Transit bus

Police pulled over, evacuated, and searched a transit bus headed to Raymond yesterday, after a distress signal was reported to 911.
Chief Criminal Deputy Pat Matlock with the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office reports Raymond, South Bend, Pacific County and Washington State Patrol deputies detained the bus at milepost 61 alongside State Route 101. It was reported just before 6 Monday evening, an alert driver said they had passed a transit bus, it’s scrolling reader board read “emergency call police” while driving on State Route 101.

Pacific Transit tells us Route 14 runs from Raymond to Aberdeen 3 times a day. The last run was stopped on the way back.

Matlock said 10-12 people were delayed by about an hour while State Patrol and Sheriff’s deputies searched the bus for any suspicious activity. The inspection revealed the bus driver had accidentally tripped a warning message built into their reader boards.

Seattle Archdiocese data breach hits home, and highlights need to address identity theft

Identity theft is a growing problem nationwide, and Washington is no exception. In early March 2014 the Seattle Archdiocese learned that volunteers and employees at parishes and schools across Washington state became victims of a tax-identity fraud scheme.

Through a data breach, fraudsters obtained victims’ personal information, including their names and Social Security numbers and filed false income tax returns.

The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) has received reports from parishioners and employees throughout Western Washington who have been victimized. Some of these individuals, including volunteers and employees of St. Mary School in Aberdeen, discovered they were victims after filing their taxes and being informed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that their tax return was rejected because a return had already been filed under their name and Social Security number.

The Archdiocese has not discovered the source of the breach and is working with federal investigators on an investigation. The Archdiocese also hired a national forensic firm to investigate this matter.

If you are a victim of tax-identity fraud, the AGO urges you to take the following steps.

Determine if you’re the victim of tax-identity fraud, then follow these corrective steps

To check if your identity has been stolen, contact the IRS by calling the Individual Tax Line at 1-800-829-1040, or go in-person to the IRS office at 915 Second Ave. Seattle, Wash.

Correcting tax-identity fraud is a multi-step process, involving the IRS, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), police and credit bureaus.

If you know your identity has been stolen

  • Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
  • Complete and file the IRS Form 14039 “Identity Theft Affidavit” (You must file a copy of your driver’s license, passport, or other government-issued identification with this).
  • Submit an “Identity Theft Report” to the FTC by following the directions on the FTC’s website, here. You will be assigned a complaint number.
  • Print and fill out a copy of the FTC’s “Identity Theft Victim’s Complaint and Affidavit.” This form can then be filed with local police and creditors.
  • File a report with your local police department.
  • Include a copy of the FTC Identity Theft Victim’s Complaint and Affidavit.
  • The police department will assign you a case or reference number.
  • Call the FTC at 1-877-438-4338 to report the assigned police case number (You will need the complaint number you obtained when you initially filed the FTC Identity Theft Report to complete this step).
  • Consider placing a credit freeze on your credit report.  Learn more about a credit freeze, here.
  • Periodically request a free copy of your credit report and review it thoroughly. You can request a copy online at, or by calling 1-877-322-8228 (you will be asked for your Social Security Number).
  • If someone has used your Social Security number for employment purposes, report this to the Social Security Administration. You can contact the Social Security Administration at: 1-800-772-1213.

 If your identity has not been stolen, but you believe it is vulnerable

  • Call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 and ask them to place a fraud alert in your file.
  • Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report.  You can place a fraud alert by contacting one of the three major credit-reporting agencies:
    • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285, website link, here.
    • Experian: 1-888-397-3742, website link, here.
    • Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289, website link, here.

You will be asked to provide your Social Security Number. The agency you contact will share your request with the other two. 

Protect yourself from identity theft

  • Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents that include your Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
  • Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask. Give it only when required.
  • Protect your financial information.
  • Check your credit report every 12 months.
  • Secure personal information in your home.
  • Protect your personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, updating security patches and changing passwords for Internet accounts.
  • Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.

For more information about identity theft and credit freezes, visit the Attorney General’s website, here.

Visit the Seattle Archdiocese website for updates on the data breach, here.