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Live-Blogging Cascadia

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Note: We are live-blogging a drill (internally called #CascadiaRising) taking place across all levels of government. This post will be updated during the week with activities that are taking place in response to the drill.


6:53PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 10, 2016:

I lived and worked in Grays Harbor for about a decade, working for print newspapers. Today, I’m the digital media coordinator for the Washington Emergency Management Division, responsible for overseeing our social media team responding to the notional threats presented to us during Cascadia Rising.

I took a break today to see how my former house in Hoquiam would have fared. The map shows it was flooded, damaged by a tsunami that ripped into Hoquiam and Aberdeen. If this would have been real, we would have had just moments to head to high ground. Thankfully, the area has clear signs that show us how to get there because I’m pretty sure I would have had to walk. I read a Facebook post yesterday by the Hoquiam Police chief, who talked about the challenges faced of evacuating parts of the city, including the city jail.

I’ve been thinking of my former neighbors during this crisis, thinking how my home would have been impacted had this exercise really happened. As part of this exercise, supplies delivered from the government would not have been ready for us for four days. How many of my former neighbors would have been ready for that? I know I had enough food for four days, but am not so sure about water – or if it would have even survived the tsunami, for that matter. I know I didn’t have four days worth of water ready to go in a backpack.

I live in Thurston County now, outside of the tsunami impacts, but still susceptible to earthquake damage. Going through this exercise made me realize that I was right in my decision to store more food, to store more water. I talked to colleagues we’ve borrowed from other agencies[,] and they don’t have emergency go kits and plan to create them now.

Here’s how to prepare your own family: //mil.wa.gov/emergency-management-division/preparedness/personal.
My thanks to all who have worked on the valuable exercise and thanks for the real life lessons we can all take from this.

--Steven Friederich, Washington State Emergency Management Division

Note: Check out this cool time-lapse video from our emergency operations center:

View in FEMA Multimedia Library


5:02PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 10, 2016:
For Tuesday and Wednesday of the Cascadia Rising exercise play, I was fortunate to be able to step out of my headquarters role as FEMA's Deputy Director of External Affairs, to observe and participate from the Region X Regional Response Coordination Center, or RRCC, in Bothell, Washington.  It was the first time in my Headquarters role that I've been able to see a “disaster” in action early in the Region.--

From the beginning of the STARTEX or start of exercise, the Region 10 team jumped into action assessing and understanding the impacts to their states – known and unknown due to communications challenges.  The Region 10 team connected with Headquarters to update them and diligently set out to connect with their state and tribal partners. In exercise play, as it would certainly be in real world, communications were limited, spotty at best, and information was not flowing.  The opposite of what you would want and need in this situation.   

Now back at Headquarters, having rejoined my EA team on day four of the #cascadiarising exercise, I learned a lot from my short time in Region X, but I am thankful to see my Headquarters team in their final day of action.  They continue to do what they do best – what they have done from day one and STARTEX – support the Region and the Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMAT) downrange to ensure we are meeting survivors' needs, support one another, and work with our interagency partners to minimize our limitations and increase our capacity.  

As I thought it would be, seeing the regional perspective of the exercise was very informative and will help me do my job better in the future.  Of course there are artificialities of exercise play, but all the players realize the difficulties that would be encountered during an incident of this magnitude – frustration and desperation of getting to survivors, restoring critical services, and pushing out commodities and people to the impacted area for support.

Working with the information and capabilities they had during the past three days, FEMA employees and the FEMA External Affairs team dedicated themselves to making a difference for survivors -- task out for search and rescue teams, request resources to push forward, plan for the movement of people and things to the area, communicate life safety and sustainment information, and solve problems.  I witnessed survivors themselves -- the FEMA employees living in the Region -- working to help their colleagues, families, and neighbors.  Did we always get it right, absolutely not, but did they do their best?  Yes.

Operations out of the Region 10 Regional Response Coordination Center in Bothell, Washington during the Cascadia Rising Exercise.

Operations out of the Region 10 Regional Response Coordination Center in Bothell, Washington during the Cascadia Rising Exercise.

Operations out of the Region 10 Regional Response Coordination Center in Bothell, Washington during the Cascadia Rising Exercise.

--Stephanie Tennyson, Deputy Director of External Affairs


4:35PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 10, 2016:
Hoquiam Police Department conducted a jail evacuation drill in conjunction with the state's week-long Cascadia Rising earthquake and tsunami exercise.

As all the city and state Department of Corrections probation inmates in custody within the City Jail are our responsibility while in our facility, evacuation of the jail is a very relevant exercise.

In the case of a major earthquake and possible tsunami, Hoquiam Police Department staff and inmates will evacuate to "high ground.” So long as the inmates are in custody, arrangements have to be made to safely secure and transport them.

With the close proximity of Swanson's right next door, Hoquiam Police Department has made arrangements to "borrow" a U-Haul truck to transport inmates and supplies from the jail to the assembly area at Sunset Memorial Park.

The drill tested our ability to safely secure the inmates, segregate females from males and make ready to transport them all to high ground. Although we did not actually leave the parking lot, we got a good idea of how long it takes to move, cuff and secure all our prisoners (26 inmates in custody today).

We were very grateful for the assistance of a portion of a local Military Police National Guard unit. Their personnel assisted with security during the evacuation drill as well as additional manpower.

Although the National Guard would not be present at the start of a major disaster, their assistance during the course of the event or recovery from the event would be critical. We would certainly request the assistance of the National Guard just for the manpower.

The participation of the Military Police was outstanding and it also turned out to be great training for their personnel.

I have the greatest of respect for our fellow Washingtonians who volunteer to serve their country and their community as members of the state National Guard. In addition to getting their input after the evacuation drill, I had the pleasure of learning about each person, [doesn’t match with ‘each person’ their] experience in the military, and what they do now on the “civilian side.”

Once all the inmates were removed from the facility and were being guarded outside, it gave us a unique opportunity to conduct a full top-to-bottom jail shake-down. With the assistance of the Military Police officers, we checked every single bunk, all clothing and mattresses, vents, plumbing, light fixtures, doors, walls and windows. There was not a corner of the facility we did not go through carefully.

I cannot thank the National Guard enough for their service and their assistance in this drill.

 Hoquiam Police Department)

--Jeff Meyers, Chief, Hoquiam Police Department

Editor's Note: This post officially appeared on the Hoquiam Police Department Facebook page


4:28PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 10, 2016:
Where were you during Cascadia 2016?! In the world of disasters, it’s a common refrain. We all know where we were when terrorists caused devastation on 9/11. We remember Hurricane Katrina and were all glued to the tv watching its impacts. These events are etched in our minds. So why not etch preparedness activities in our mind too? During the Cascadia 2016 Earthquake Exercise this week, federal, state, local, tribal, non-government and private sector partners have been working through the plans we have all spent years developing, and evaluating the actions we would take in response to a devastating earthquake and tsunami in the Pacific Northwest. While it is an exercise, it’s a very real possibility if history is a barometer and the work we are all doing this week is an example of preparedness in action at every level of government.

While not everything is going right, and we didn’t expect that it would, it gives all of us a chance to see what we can realistically expect to happen during a response to a catastrophic earthquake in one of our most vulnerable parts of the country, and try to fix those things now before such an event happens for real. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is one that we talk about a lot: we all need to be personally prepared for a disaster. Know the hazards that can affect you. Make a plan for you and your family that includes a disaster kit for home and car and pets. Develop and talk about a family communication plan so your family knows how to get in touch with each other, and where to meet, if there is an emergency. Bottom line is, how would you and your family survive on your own for the first 72 hours after a disaster if you needed to? (Fun facts: all of this is available in our app!)

We would all be working hard across all communities to get help to citizens during an actual disaster. When resources can’t get to people who need help right away, it’s very frustrating to all of us. It also reinforces that we all need to prepare in advance of disasters, just in case we are on our own for some period of time. Let’s etch preparedness in our minds.

--Bob Nadeau, Deputy Director, Intergovernmental Affairs


3:03PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 10, 2016:
When I got back to our External Affairs office at FEMA Headquarters, I was met with a scene that filled me with confidence that we really are pulling together as a team to make a positive difference for survivors on the other side of the country. 

We all feel a fierce sense of urgency to help get life-saving and life-sustaining information out to the millions of impacted people throughout the Northwest but we are facing significant damage to communications infrastructure and our usual tools aren’t all working. 

There are lots of challenges:  How will we get protective action recommendations to those who need them right now?  How will we assure survivors that help is on the way and encourage them to stay strong and help their neighbors?  What tools can we offer people to reunite them with their children and families?  How will we connect survivors with emergency supplies as resources begin to flow into the impacted areas?  

These are confounding challenges but I captured some pictures that gave me a sense of hope:

Our strategic communication team putting their heads together to figure out how to best amplify state, local, and tribal messages:

Members of FEMA Headquarters' Private Sector Division coordinating before Cascadia Rising 2016 exercise play.

Our digital team collaborating on how to use our social media accounts to get the word out and how our social engagement efforts can inform and improve response operations:

Members of FEMA Headquarters' Digital Engagement team coordinating prior to Cascadia Rising exercise play.

And our private sector team focused on helping businesses understand the breadth of disruptions to the supply chain and then solving those challenges and figuring out how government can help the private sector get back up and running as quickly as possible.

Members of FEMA Headquarters' Private Sector Division coordinating before Cascadia Rising 2016 exercise play.

This scenario presents us with nearly impossible challenges. But attempting to address them makes us better prepared for when the next disaster occurs, whether it’s a worst case scenario or not.

I am proud of our team for taking this exercise so seriously, facing these obstacles, and coming together to think creatively about how to make things better.

--Josh Batkin, Director of External Affairs


2:06PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 10, 2016:
Question: How do you eat an elephant?
Answer: One bite at a time.

This was a question that my Coast Guard instructor asked while he was teaching a group of young men and women to be public affairs specialists for the military.  It was greeted with quizzical looks and some confusion.

While, realistically, none of us would ever eat an elephant, the question was directed toward managing multiple or large projects. Many of us would find ourselves working for military newspapers in the future, and [we’d] eventually become editors and supervisors.

It’s a question that I would end up asking myself over and over again during my career with the U.S. Army, and it’s a question I will no doubt ask as I start and continue working for FEMA.

The exercise we’re all currently in, Cascadia Rising, is an elephant. It’s massive with more than 20,000 participants from county, state, tribal and federal government, as well as major military commands. The scope of destruction is mind-boggling. The pieces that have to come together to save people and provide assistance seem legion.

It’s certainly overwhelming to me as I approach my second week at FEMA HQ.

Two weeks ago I couldn’t tell you what the Cascadia Subduction Zone was, much less about] the disaster it could unleash on the Pacific Northwest, even though I once called it home. Now I’m in the middle of the exercise and part of the Digital Engagement Team, and the first thing I thought of was that elephant and how it applied.

The social media realm alone can be overwhelming before a disaster, and it only becomes more chaotic as survivors reach out through familiar channels. Social media provides a pipeline that public affairs professionals work diligently to provide timely and accurate information through, but it can be a lot. Not only are survivors communicating their needs, they are communicating their pain. They are also sharing virtually and physically as they help their neighbors and communities. 

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with everything that is going on around us, but one thing that has made this easier is my fellow team members. None of us is working in a vacuum. Be it a state partner or a fellow member of the FEMA team, we’re all working toward the same goal.

So I have a new answer for my question: “One bite at a time and bring friends.”

--Raymond Piper, Social and Mobile Lead


7:23PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 9, 2016:
A lot of my time is spent observing. People, places, things. Scenery. Anything and everything. I don't do it in a way other than to learn from it. (Read as: I'm not a huge creeper.) I use my observations to help my writing. It's one of the things that helps me grow most as a writer: my powers of observation.

Today, I got to really use my powers of observation.

I stepped out of my role in exercise play for a while today. It wasn't expected or anticipated. My boss gave it to me as a thunderbolt—an exercise that comes out of nowhere and is designed to catch you by surprise and test your ability to adapt.

For me, a lot of the thunderbolts I’m given include spur-of-the-moment writing assignments. I have a set amount of time to write a piece about a certain topic. That’s all I get and off I go. They’re exciting and I enjoy them. But this one was different. I was benched from exercise play and the team and I had to adapt.

At first, I had a lot of mixed feelings about it. I wanted to help my team. I wanted to be there to do the job I'd set out to. I'd committed to doing this, I'd committed to the team. But, like what happens in professional sports, players get taken out and subs come in. And so, I got taken out and one of my teammates subbed in for me. Just like I would do for them.

But then I got to observe my office at its best. I got to see my coworkers doing new, exciting projects and trying new things. I got to see leadership answer questions and interact with our state partners and our Incident Management Assistance Team leads. I got to watch as communication challenges happened and I got to see how we handled them. Disability and accessibility challenges were addressed as well.

But I think the best part for me is that I really got to see my team at its best. Working together, splitting up tasks, solving problems. I got to see content ideas flying around. I got to see listening reports be crafted. I got to see it all.

It makes me really proud to be a part of this amazing team. (Okay, I know I'm getting sappy, but it's true.)

I've been here almost two years and at times I'm still absolutely shocked by the fact my team can do so much. It makes me incredibly proud to be here. And while I wish I hadn't been benched, I'm still glad to be my team's biggest cheerleader.

--Jess Stapf, Digital Storyteller


6:00PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 9, 2016:
Everything that could go wrong is going wrong (in this exercise scenario). People are desperate for resources. They are in complete despair over the destruction and lack of information. They’re hungry, thirsty and want to know when and where help is coming. There’s a lion that escaped from the zoo. Comparisons are being made to apocalyptic movie scenes. There was an explosion – a fuel tank at an airport triggered by one of many aftershocks. Dams are failing. Communication is intermittent. People are distressed by all the bodies they see. They’re realizing just how dire and long-term the situation is. People are stranded in traffic trying to evacuate, for those lucky enough to have gas in their tanks. There are teams of officials working to deliver the help they need. Damaged infrastructure is preventing the goods from getting to where they’re needed. A moment of tension-relief came when therapy dogs came through the Regional Response Coordination Center here at the bunker and I took a quick break for some puppy love, and I wished this moment for everyone out there. It’s the little pieces of normalcy that help, but I know I’m lucky for it and count my blessings. We’re working to coordinate and mobilize every resource at our disposal. I just learned that there are 22 points of distribution available in Washington, but I don’t have the details yet. As soon as they are available, I will share them on our simulation equivalents of social media. Hold tight good people – we’re doing everything we can.

--Savannah Brehmer, Digital Lead (Region 10)


5:49PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 9, 2016:
I'm in the WA State EOC standing next to the incident map listening to the county, city, tribal conference call being piped over the intercom. Everyone is quiet and focused as we listen to the counties report damages and request equipment and personnel.

So the EOC is a two story square with a bank of monitors in each corner, and maps, white boards, and clocks on the walls. The monitors mostly display an [ever-updating] list of "significant events[."] There [are] about 12 pods of 4 desks each organized by function so that, for instance, mass care sits by the department of health. There [are] about 100 people in the room and when there's a briefing, that swells to maybe 175-200. Standing room only! Overlooking the floor is the policy room where the director, governor's chief of staff and others can discuss the response. There's now an established rhythm.

--Johanna Nielsen, Emergency Management Masters Student at California State University, Long Beach & Cascadia Rising 2016 Volunteer


3:45PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 9, 2016:
The feelings are overwhelming. It is hard to distinguish between “real world” and “exercise, exercise, exercise.” I keep thinking of all the citizens who are at risk, have lost their children, who have had loved ones die. On top of that, the ever spoken message that this disaster is not over, another wave could come at any time.

When I go home at night, my mind continues to swim with thoughts of those who are impacted and how we, as a nation, are coming together to assist this impacted region. Many lessons are being learned and some shortfalls noted.  But at the end of the night, I understand as we work through this process, in the end, we are better equipped, have a better understanding and will be in a much better place to assist our fellow citizens in any kind of disaster, no matter how large or small.

--Pat Paradise, FEMA Congressional Affairs


1:50PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 9, 2016:
Why do you write like you're running out of time? That's a question I get asked quite often. Well, it's because there's a lot that needs to be documented. There's a lot going into this project and we know that history has its eyes on us. A lot of people are talking about this exercise. A lot of people are watching this live blog.

And rightfully so. This is a big event for us that we've worked on for over two years. We're now into the third day of the exercise where a lot is happening.

From looking around at my colleagues in the office, it feels a lot like we've been sprinting through this exercise. We started out with a bang and we started running as fast as we can and trying to do as much as we can.

But an actual response--especially to an event this size--isn't a sprint. It's just not. It's a marathon. There will be a long process that goes into recovery and a response. And we need to be able to stay sharp.

Our team is lucky enough to be able to split shifts for the exercise--half works the day shift, half on the night. Today, those teams swapped roles and so those who were on the night shift now have the day shift. So, after working last night and traveling home through the DC Metro system, I autopiloted my way into the office this morning. (After two years of working here, I'm grateful for that autopilot setting.)

The bus I took from Alexandria moved as slowly as I did, stopping every four feet. As I lurched forward, I started thinking about what this would be like if it were a real event. What if I had to pull a full twelve-hour shift? What if I had to pull four consecutive twelve-hour shifts? What if we needed 24-hour operations?

My colleagues out on the West Coast don't have the luxury we have here in that we've got a digital team that's large enough to split shifts. Out there they've been working the full twelve hours and they've been incredible. I admire all of the hard work they've put in to this project since we decided we were going to do it. From planning and coordination to actual execution, they have put in a lot of time and energy.

As I said before, a response to an event this size is not a sprint. It requires endurance, strength, and dedication throughout. How do you make sure you've got it? How do you make sure you're doing it?

Self-care.

One of the things I learned several years ago was that it's important to take care of yourself. It's important to know what your limitations are, what you're capable of doing. And what you're not. We're not superheroes. I'm not Wonder Woman and my boss isn't Superman. (Although sometimes he seems like it. He's pretty awesome.) We have weaknesses other than kryptonite.

We say that we need to have "work-life balance" in normal operations or "steady state." That balance, those self-care strategies, they become even more important in times of disaster. Talking to your family, your supervisor, and your teammates about how you're feeling becomes even more crucial.

We are all in this together. We have each other. Responders and survivors. We work to build resilience in communities, we work to build resilience in our workforce.

As I struggled this morning with a lot of different things, I realized that this sentiment is important. The way I feel, slightly burnt out, anxious, and stressed, isn't only the way that I feel. Others may be feeling the same way. Large-scale events or exercises may be hard on everyone. And you don't know what other people are dealing with or going through.

Whether it's a real-world disaster or a level-one exercise, if you are having a particularly difficult time with burnout or stress, the content of the exercise and its scenario, or anything in general, reach out. Reach out to your supervisor. Reach out to your teammates. Reach out to a friend, a parent, your spouse or significant other. We are in this together. We're running a marathon not a sprint.

--Jess Stapf, Digital Storyteller

Note: If you are in search of a professional resource with expertise in disaster mental health, reach out to the Disaster Distress Helpline.


9:43PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 8, 2016:
After a day or two immersed at the Washington State Emergency Operations Center, I'm gradually getting a feel for the massive scope of the operation. I've talked to representatives from private companies, counties, state agencies, federal agencies, and federal troops from all branches at all levels. It's awe inspiring... like touching a network electrified with the hum of voices.

A selfie taken in the Washington State Emergency Operations Center during the 2016 Cascadia Rising exercise.

--Johanna Nielsen, Emergency Management Masters Student at California State University, Long Beach & Cascadia Rising 2016 Volunteer


9:38PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 8, 2016:
This exercise brings home the importance of partnerships. As I read the 'Exercise' report from The Salvation Army's Northwest Division – sharing their joint efforts with the Southern Baptists to be operational within 72 hours, with the capability to feed 90,000 people and 200,000 in 84 hours for a total of 290,000 meals a day – I was in awe. The Salvation Army is proud of our partnerships with so many great organizations like the Southern Baptists, American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Mennonite Disaster Services, Team Rubicon, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and others. It's great to be at the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) with the wonderful people who represent these organizations. Just be careful what you say in the room – it could end up in a blog!

--Flo Walker Knox, Salvation Army


5:02PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 8, 2016:
Even after almost 12 years with FEMA, I feel like exercising alongside nonprofit partners in Cascadia Rising has given me the opportunity to peek behind the voluntary agency curtain – and WOW!  Watching the interaction between voluntary organizations active in disaster (VOADs) has been such a revelation.  These agencies are sitting at the ready, leaning so far forward, and sometimes we forget how much they are able to accomplish.  I watched Sharon Hawa, from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), set up a reunification task force for children in the blink of an eye, without hesitation.  The Salvation Army coordinated with the American Red Cross to shelter evacuees in mass numbers, also providing emotional and spiritual care as part of the package, and the Southern Baptists were fully prepared to provide over 200,000 meals a day!  I was aware of the breadth and depth of these agencies’ capabilities, but now have a new confidence in our partnerships and how we can work together to provide survivor centric service!

--Tracy McCauley, Individual Assistance Branch Chief, Region 8 Incident Management Assistance Team


2:23PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 8, 2016:
Over 20,000 people are participating in this exercise. To put it in perspective, that's more than this year's average attendance at Oakland Athletics games, according to ESPN. The variety of people you see around the exercise floors is possibly even wider than what you might find in the bleachers of a baseball stadium.

We've got federal agencies, state and local players, tribes, and voluntary agencies all wrapped up into one response effort. We've got staff in Washington State and in Washington, DC. Some are in Oregon and Idaho. It's quite remarkable to see in action. (You can find a list of players on the Cascadia Rising page.)

As long as I've been with the Agency, I never get tired of seeing the variety of people, places and things that all come together in a large-scale response. Or a response in general. It's always somewhat magical (okay, that sounds super lame) to see so many people coming together to help communities impacted by disasters.

Yesterday, we got underway. It was hectic. The first 24 hours of a disaster are often some of the busiest times for us and for our partners. But it’s really where the rubber starts hitting the road. We start doing what we do best—coordinating to make sure communities are getting what they need.

Today and for the next few days, we'll really start hitting our stride. We started out strong yesterday, but now it’s like when you’re running distance. The runner’s high kicks in and you’re almost in the zone. The framework gets laid and we really get rolling.

As always, things could change in an instant, but that's what makes a simulation seem real. Disasters in real life aren't predictable. Each one is different, and so are exercises.

Stay tuned, you won't want to miss it.

--Jess Stapf, Digital Storyteller


1:03PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 8, 2016:
When it comes to communicating with survivors, FEMA makes sure that we are able to reach everyone – including those who speak languages other than English. Since nearly 21 percent of the U.S. population speaks a language other than English (41 percent of whom speak English less than “very well”), it’s important that we work to understand what languages are spoken in what area. That way, when we conduct outreach to disaster survivors, we know that all segments of the population are receiving critical and potentially life-saving information.

FEMA’s Limited English Proficiency (LEP) staff are in charge of ensuring that we know what languages other than English are spoken in any given area. By conducting language assessments with U.S. Census Bureau data, we determine what languages, other than English, materials need to be translated into. This work aligns with Executive Order 13166, Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency (August 11, 2000), which states that people with limited English proficiency should have meaningful access to federally conducted and federally funded programs and activities, including services and benefits.

For Cascadia Rising, a language assessment for Washington and Oregon found that the most predominant languages other than English are Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and German. Once the languages were identified, we worked to notionally secure funding to translate materials into these languages. On the first day of the exercise, translated materials included press releases, advisories, and social media messaging. As the exercise continues and more outreach materials are produced, we will continue to ensure that all materials are translated appropriately to reach all disaster survivors, regardless of their language proficiency.

--Amanda Osborn, Strategic Communications


12:23PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 8, 2016:
I am here in the FEMA X Regional Response Coordination Center representing the National Weather Service.  Weather is a critical component, especially in the hours, days and months following a disaster like this for first responders and the long recovery efforts.  I am providing weather forecast information a number of times per day including elements such as temperatures, precipitation and winds along with information for aviation purposes.  The planning has been going on for over two years now and it's exciting to see everyone's hard work in action!

--Matt Solum, National Weather Service


8:25PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 7, 2016:
I've been preparing for this exercise for almost two years now, but there are still unexpected hurdles to surmount. The exercise situation is bleak-I'm following simulated social media posts and media updates, and the stories of death and destruction are heartbreaking, even if they aren't real. People are looking for loved ones. Others know the tragic fate - a mother lost her daughter. The realism of it pushes me to deliver information to resources to the survivors that will help them get through this. In the end, pushing ourselves to extreme limits will help us handle a real world situation better, so while its stressful, I know it's worth it.

A selfie taken in the Regional Response Coordination Center in Bothell, Washington.

--Savannah Brehmer, Digital Lead (Region 10)


2:00PM Eastern Daylight Time, June 7, 2016:
We exercise. No, I'm not talking about a doing a yoga flow or taking a spin class. (Although some of us do enjoy that version of exercise in our spare time.) But, in the Agency sense, our version of exercise is a response to a simulated event or scenario. They range in size and scale and can happen essentially anywhere at any time--just like a real disaster.

This week our scenario is a high-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. That might sound familiar to some, as there was a Pulitzer prize-winning article written about it in The New Yorker last July that warned of some of the potential impacts of an event like this.

The event (in its simulated form) includes a high-magnitude earthquake with an epicenter west of Eugene, Oregon. We play these exercises as though they are real events--with the scenarios built like they are possibly going to happen.

As it's been quite some time since an earthquake in the Cascadia Subduction Zone, we are making sure all the plans we've written, crafted, and put in place work. We may find a few gaps and things that we need to work on for later, but it's an exercise and you practice until it's perfect.

The exercise includes players on both coasts, from our Headquarters in downtown DC and our regional office in Bothell, Washington with key support from our state, local, tribal, and other federal partners. As always, it's a cohesive effort.

In order to help you keep your finger on the pulse of the exercise and what's happening, I'll be documenting what's happening and compiling perspectives from partners at all levels in order to really provide you with a "behind the scenes" look.

Stay tuned for more updates and we're glad to have you along with us.

--Jess Stapf, Digital Storyteller

Last Updated: 
06/02/2017 - 09:20

Comments

I'm in Oregon now so thank you for the updates.

I love this idea and think it's a great way to prepare! Keep the exercises coming and keep me informed, please.

Neat! Look forward to watching the exercise. These really play important role in preparing for disasters.

Keep up the great work and I have faith when the big one comes your team will be prepared. Let just hope our public gets enough awareness to sustain the long time it will take to get to families. The amount of effort that is happening throughout the country just shows that we are going to be prepared to the best of our ability. Though we really can't be ready with mother nature but we can be assertive about it and get things in line. Good luck guys and thank you for your hard work and dedication

Email submitted for notifications sent to me when new comments are posted.

good luck, a real event is unimaginable.

This exercise brings home the importance of partnerships. As I read the 'Exercise' report from The Salvation Army's Northwest Division sharing their joint efforts with the Southern Baptists to be operational within 72 hours with capability of feeding 90,000 people and 200,000 in 84 hours for a total of 290,000 meals a day I was in awe. The Salvation Army is proud of our partnerships with so many great organizations like the Southern Baptists, American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Mennonite Disaster Services, Team Rubicon, CNCS and others. It's great to be at the NRCC with the wonderful people who represent these organizations. Be careful what you say in the Red Room. It could end up in a blog ;0)

I would love updates from this exercise.

Please summarized the "disaster" details once or twice a day.

There is a lot of dependence on social media and electrical power in general. What happens if the grid goes down? What are the dependabilities for power to maintain communications and advisories to the public? People seem to think that if we have no power, we will still have cell phone operation. How is this achieved? Thanks so much for all the planning and exercising. I participated in a Volunteer Agencies Disaster Drill at the Calcasieu Long Term Recovery Group which exercised its Disaster Response Plan and coordinated human and materials resource requirements. It was intense even on that scale. Keep up the good work!

I am enjoying this blog coverage, thank you!

hello i am greatful to know that you are here in oregon at cascadia sub duction zone finding out what you can ive been in oregon a yr this august from florida and moving here i was totaly in the blind unaware of where i have now moved to! ticking time bomb, i live dwntwn portland and three yr old grandson who resideis in an other danger zone area ,van couver wash. so you see my concerns are at their highest reaching point of wanting to learn everything that you no. there are people that have lived here all their life that arel unaware as to an earth quake /tsunami event even acurring which is sad to me. but my focus is that i do no and have been trying to learn more, hear more, and do more! my dreams were to move to the coast which now have been shattered, there isnt a siren here here like japan and indian ocean i no president bush had plans to install i guess at the time they were placed where most needed i understand, i will just have to wait for dogs to begin howling.ive studied 37 pages of builing structures in this area and the one i reside in is one of those 37. im retired and somewhat disabled but still am not here to fall thru the cracks so to speak and yes i do try to keep humor thru it all as i go thru my day like being blind folded so with ending this i amjust wanting any updating as possible so ican try and pertect my love ones in van couver and to do my best to make sure he makes it to kindergarten .if their is ANY volunteer work to which can help youwith your busy hours to which again iam so grateful for you being out here and all that you do in this nation because this is much much bigger than catrina and bless those who survived that and that and those that didnot! mendocino cali to british of columbia is ALOT of territory .iam here 24 /7 and not that far away and you now have my email thank you for letting me get my thoughts across to someone else that is concerned veronica

People, go do your homework on HAARP and find out the truth about all these weather disasters and your eyes will be opened to why and who is causing all these so called natural disasters. Judgement is coming to America for turning its back on God

I'm working in Region 9 headquarters. We sent an IMAT to Oregon. Oakland/ San Francisco is quiet right now, but the San Andreas fault is awaiting its moment. The more we learn from the Cascadia exercise the better we are prepared for our moment in the sun. Good Luck and thank you to all supporting the exercise!

Wouldn't an exercise like this be essential for the actual Cascadia Rising Subduction zone? (just a thought) Thanks for an excellent report!

Wouldn't an exercise like this be essential for the actual Cascadia Rising zone? (just a thought) Thanks for an excellent report on this major disaster@

HELLO, IN SPEAKING ON WHY WE HAVE PRE SCREENING AND WHAT ARE NEWS IN OFFERING A NEW SERVICE AND WHAT EXTRA EXTRA, EXTRA READ ALL ABOUT IT SHOWED A CIVAL SYSTREM IN REGESTRED SALECTIVE SERVICES IN THREE SEGERGATED SERVICES IN THE NATION'S REQUIRMENT IN FULL REGESTRY I WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK ON THE THIRTYNINE BILLION DOLLER EMBESLMENT AND DOWN LOCATION IN PRIMARY AND A-WALL IN WHAT THE TRUN AROUND ARE IN GRADUWATING INDAPENDENCE IN THE NATION'S STARTING, ENDING AND RETUNING POINT IN LOCATION AND WALKING THE TIDE MY CASE FOOTING JUSES AND GRAUDING THE TOMB ARE WHAT AT INTERSTAE IN FOLLOWING THE NATION'S REQUIRMENTS IN CONTESTING WITH YOUR LEFT AND CONTENDING WITH THE STATEMENT I HAVE A RIGHT BEARING ASSERBUTE AND ARMS..

Thanks for doing this. Where and when will be summary of the results of the exercise be published>

Is there anything that can be done by local government agencies to inform residents about the potential "big one" and to point them to helpful resources to prepare (e.g. by mailing to everyone based on distribution lists/mailing lists that utility companies have)? NONE of my neighbors is doing anything. It is very hard to do it, it is costly and time consuming and not fun. But I cannot imagine how this people be able to survive if in fact the Big One materializes during their life times. What's going to happen with those in nursing homes, hospitals, etc. , people in wheel chairs? It is terrifying to think through it.

thanks a lot for the great information that people need.... what ever happened hardship or trials this is much we need to be prepare. don't let our selves to be a useless.we know that life where we've been is a training that we need to put on our mind. be ready and any idea that we think can help people in a time of disaster please share it to all social media. not every time our focus is in to make money, let us share how we can help and what we do in a time of disaster. thanks and hope you understand and think what we contribute in a time of calamities and disaster, thank you...

good