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.

 

FROM GRAYS HARBOR COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT:

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 REPLY FROM JOHN SCHELLING:

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: http://www.panga.cwu.edu/about/news/

 

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.

Public invited to comment on oil transportation study

The public is invited to provide feedback on a preliminary study assessing risks associated with increased transportation of oil through Washington state. Public meetings are scheduled next week in Spokane and Olympia to accept comments regarding the study and recommendations.

 

The Marine & Rail Oil Transport Study: Preliminary Findings & Recommendations, released Oct. 1, was developed at the direction of Gov. Jay Inslee and the Legislature. The study team is led by the Washington Department of Ecology, in collaboration with the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC), the Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division (EMD) and several other agencies. The purpose of the study is to assess risks associated with oil transportation and outline recommendations to protect the health and safety of the people and the environment of Washington state.

 

Millions of gallons of oil move across Washington’s lands and waters each day. The state saw approximately 17 million barrels shipped in 2013 with a projection of 55 million barrels in 2014. The amount of Bakken crude oil transported from North Dakota by rail is expected to increase by more than 220 percent, depending on refinery expansion.

 

The public meetings are scheduled for:

                                   

5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30
Double Tree Hotel Red Lion Inn
322 N. Spokane Falls Ct. 2300 Evergreen Park Drive SW
Spokane Olympia

 

From 5 to 6 p.m., there will be information booths with marine, rail, and spill response experts available to answer questions. The study team will make a presentation at 6 p.m. and public comments will be heard starting at 6:30 p.m.

 

Comments may also be submitted electronically or by mail. Address comments to Ecology Spills Program, PO Box 47600, Olympia, WA  98504-7600.

FEMA to review Grays Harbor County Risk Report at October meeting

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has completed a detailed risk assessment for Grays Harbor County to include all Cities within the County which has been summarized in a report which can be downloaded here. The risk assessment includes a detailed assessment on every building in each community and determines losses due to flood and earthquake, and also assesses impacts from tsunami and landslides. In addition to the risk assessment, a mitigation action section highlights potential mitigation projects as identified through the risk assessment and also includes an overview of actions in the current mitigation plan for each jurisdiction.

They will be holding a meeting to discuss the report and have a detailed discussion with the community on mitigation and resiliency. The meeting will be held on October 23rd at the Log Pavilion in Aberdeen, WA located at 1401 Sargent Blvd from 1:00-3:30pm.

FEMA will be attending along with various state agencies to include Washington Department of Ecology, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Washington Emergency Management Division and Washington Sea Grant.

related article Coastal Flood Hazard Study for Grays Harbor County enters appeal period

Continue reading FEMA to review Grays Harbor County Risk Report at October meeting

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 www.shakeout.org/washington 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.

All Hazard Weather Radios to be distributed at three locations in Grays Harbor later this month

The Earthquake, Tsunami and Volcano Program of the Washington State Emergency Management Division and Grays Harbor County Emergency Management will be conducting All Hazard Weather Radio Programs at three locations this month.

Monday, April 14th Ocean Shores Public Library – 573 Point Brown Ave NW, Ocean Shores WA 98569 – 6:00 pm

Wednesday, April 16th Elma City Council Chambers – 202 W. Main Street, Elma WA, 98541 – 6:00 pm

Monday, April 28th – Aberdeen, St Andrews Episcopal Church — 400 E. 1stStreet. Aberdeen WA 98520  – 6:00 pm

All attendees will receive a 30 minute educational class on the hazards specific to Grays Harbor County such as: earthquake, floods, severe weather and tsunami. Following the class, all attendees will receive a FREE All Hazard Weather Radio which will be programmed as a group with Brynne Walker, the facilitator. (Only ONE Weather Radio Per Family) You must be a Grays Harbor Resident to receive the radio. All three events are open to everyone from the county.

Hoquiam becomes 164th city nationwide to earn TsunamiReady and StormReady designation

The city of Hoquiam is now TsunamiReady and StormReady. Ted Beuhner with the National Weather Service attended the council meeting last night presenting the city with the award, and two new TsunamiReady signs. “On behalf of myself and all of us at the National Weather Service in Seattle, Renee and everybody that she works with in the Washington Emergency Management Division, Chuck Wallace in Grays Harbor County Emergneyc Management, and the citizens of Hoquiam, congratulations.

Starting off National Tsunami Preparedness Week, the city became the 164th city nationwide to earn the designation. Beuhner added “In fact, all up and down the coast from Pacific County up to Clallam County, all the outer coastal counties are currently Tsunami Ready.”

Schools, playgrounds, hospitals, factories and homes are often built in areas vulnerable to tsunamis. The TsunamiReady Program, developed by the National Weather Service, is designed to help cities, towns, counties, universities and other large sites in coastal areas reduce the potential for disastrous tsunami-related consequences.

Since June 20, 2001 TsunamiReady has helped community leaders and emergency managers strengthen their local operations. TsunamiReady communities are better prepared to save lives through better planning, education and awareness. Communities have fewer fatalities and property damage if they plan before a tsunami arrives. No community is tsunami proof, but TsunamiReady can help minimize loss to your community. Find out what’s involved in becoming TsunamiReady.

TsunamiReady Hoquiam, Washington

Quake-Catcher Network Installed in Pacific County Schools

South Bend, Washington – Robert de Groot, Ph.D. of the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC), will lead a discussion with students, faculty, and staff about his recent work during February 18 – 21, 2014 installing Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) sensors  in Pacific County schools, museums, and other locations. He will discuss how QCN will add to seismic data collected in Pacific County and enhance earthquake science education in Pacific County schools.

 

Quake-Catcher Network Presentation

­Friday, February 21, 2014, 11:30 am: Discussion with Robert de Groot, SCEC

Location:   South Bend High School – Library, 400 E. 1st St., South Bend, WA, 98586

 

The Quake-Catcher Network is a collaborative initiative for developing the world’s largest, low-cost seismic network by utilizing sensors in and attached to Internet-connected computers, led by Elizabeth Cochran at USGS – Pasadena and scientists at Stanford University. QCN sensors, such as the ones being installed in Pacific County schools, are citizen-science oriented and can be installed in homes, museums, and schools.

 

This event is being held in collaboration with the Cascadia EarthScope Earthquake and Tsunami Education Program (CEETEP), Washington Military Department – Emergency Management Division, Pacific County Emergency Management Agency, EarthScope, Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC), Key Environmental Solutions, and South Bend High School.

Grays Harbor AHAB sirens test successful, connection issues identified

The AHAB test on Monday, January 13th at noon, was successful in activating all AHAB sirens. Washington State Emergency Management Division as well as the Grays Harbor County Radio Shop monitored the test activation. Minor connection issues were found in five AHAB Sirens; Westport, Aberdeen, Ocean City and two in Grayland. Every AHAB siren was activated during the test. Washington State Emergency Management will be sending a crew to inspect each of the five identified sirens this week. The minor connection issues would have no effect in a true activation of the AHAB Siren with the wailing siren used in a true emergency.

Each day, Washington State Emergency Management sends a silent test message to every AHAB Siren in the State. All Sirens in Grays Harbor County passed the daily test this morning, prior to the activation of the test mode by Grays Harbor County Emergency Management.

Washington State Emergency Management is scheduled to activate the AHAB test in February. In order to ensure all sirens are operating optimally, Grays Harbor County Emergency Management will activate the Monthly Test on Monday February 3rd, the regularly scheduled test activation day. Washington State Emergency Management and Grays Harbor County Radio Shop will once again, be monitoring the test.

Grays Harbor AHAB sirens fail monthly test – testing again January 13

The All Hazard Alert Broadcast Siren (AHAB) Test, scheduled for noon on Monday January 6th did not activate the AHAB sirens in Grays Harbor County. The test was initiated by Grays Harbor County Emergency Management, however none of the sirens activated with the Westminster Chimes or the test voice message. Chuck Wallace Deputy Director of the Grays Harbor County Emergency Management Agency said “We believe the problem occurred due to a simultaneous transmission on the same frequency used for activation of the test. Grays Harbor County Emergency Management will activate the AHAB test (Westminster Chimes with a voice message) once again next Monday, January 13th at noon. Members of the Grays Harbor County Radio Shop and Washington State Emergency Management Division will also monitor our test at that time to ensure proper operation of the system.

If this had been a true event where the AHAB activation would have been needed for public safety and notification, Grays Harbor County Emergency Management would have sent multiple activations which they believe would have activated the AHAB Siren system.  Washington State Emergency Management also has the capability to activate all AHAB sirens in Washington.

Pacific County resident honored with top Ecology award

The Task Force – consisting of the state Military Department’s Emergency Management Division (EMD), Ecology and several other state agencies – was created by the Governor’s office to work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) to coordinate state, federal, tribal and local activities. Volunteer efforts along beaches always have been key to keeping shores clear of marine debris.

 

Terry Egan, the state’s Marine Debris Task Force lead, said: “Innovative partnerships with everyone, from citizens like Russ to local communities and volunteer groups to state and federal agencies and Tribal governments have been essential in addressing this issue. Russ’ efforts have saved the state thousands of dollars while providing extremely valuable information. It is unlikely state agencies would have been able to monitor conditions along the coast at the same level without his support.”

 

Sally Toteff, Ecology Southwest Region Director, said: “Russ is an excellent example of how individuals quietly contribute to the extraordinary quality of life of Washington’s coastal communities and elsewhere in our state. Even before the tragic Japan tsunami, Russ and his neighbors were often spending countless hours scouring the Long Beach Peninsula and picking up marine debris, using their own resources. While he’s had noteworthy assistance from various local folks, Russ’ efforts extend well beyond removing debris from beaches. That’s why we are recognizing him with this award of excellence.”

 

Marine debris has been an ongoing issue for decades, but concerns were elevated after the earthquake and tsunami claimed nearly 20,000 lives, destroyed countless homes and structures and swept 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean. While 70 percent of the debris likely sank near Japan’s shore, the remaining 1.5 million tons of debris dispersed in the ocean.

 

The Environmental Excellence Award is the Department of Ecology’s highest award for recognizing environmental excellence in the state of Washington. The department issues the award to individuals, businesses, and organizations that have shown leadership, innovation or extraordinary service in protecting, improving, or cleaning up the environment.