Earthquake and Tsunami Awareness

In anticipation of a future quake along the Cascadia fault, FEMA is planning for a June exercise to test emergency readiness and response. Intended to model the combined effects of a magnitude 9 quake and the associated tsunami, the event, named "Cascadia Rising", will test the limits of preparedness through the scale of the damage and casualty estimates. Included in the quake scenario are the following statistics:

  • In excess of 10,000 fatalities;
  • 30,000 injuries, and
  • Significant damage to infrastructure, whether roads, ports, natural gas and oil pipelines, or electrical power supply.

Emphasis will be on dealing with the theoretical disaster for the purpose of identifying potential issues and improving planning and response in advance of a real quake. Observed Kenneth Murphy, regional director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, "We’re going to learn something at every level of government … that will help us figure out better ways to plan for this." To encourage this planning, participation will include state and local governments, as well as 1,500 members of Washington's National Guard.

As a separate initiative from the FEMA exercises, Washington is examining early-warning systems for quakes to assist in safety and preparedness. ShakeAlert — an initial version of app designed to push out warnings about impending quakes — is in development by the U.S. Geological Survey, in partnership with other government and private organizations. Notes Skagit County Department of Emergency Management Director Mark Anderson, "It's going to give people enough notification to stop what they're doing ... If you've got 30 seconds to react, it could reduce the damage impact."