The eruption of an underwater volcano this past weekend near Tonga in the South Pacific generated a tsunami that caused devastating damage to the island nation. Shortly after the eruption, tsunami alerts were triggered for Hawaii, Alaska, the west coast, and British Columbia. Local emergency managers spent most of last Saturday monitoring the tidal activity in coordination with the national the National Tsunami Warning Center, the Washington Department of Natural Resources, and the Division of Emergency Management.
Fortunately, there was no reported damage here in Washington state from this distant tsunami. It was, however, a reminder of Washington state is vulnerable to a powerful tsunami triggered by a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake. It will give our coastal communities only minutes, rather than hours, to prepare for its impact.
This June, Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management will be preparing for this scenario when it participates in the multi-state Cascadia Rising 2022 exercise along with a number of local partners. Our goal is to strengthen our coordination and communication capabilities in what would be a catastrophic disaster for the entire west coast.
We do not know if this disaster will be experienced this year, this decade or even this century. But what we do know is that over the next decade we are likely to experience a mix of events that will require individuals, neighborhoods and cities to be prepared. These events are likely to include significant snow storms, excessive heat, landslides, wildfires and earthquakes similar to the Nisqually Quake of 2001.
Communities that are successful in disaster planning are ones in which households gather supplies in advance, learn how to stay safe when disaster strikes, establish a family communication plan, and connect with nearby neighbors on how they can help each other in a crisis.
Need help getting started? In addition to resources on this website, the Washington Emergency Management Division is hosting a helpful webinar next week. It takes place on January 25th, 12:15 to 1:00pm. Details on this Facebook events link. Additional Webinars include the Animals & Preparedness series on January 26 at noon and Low to No Cost Disaster Preparedness Tips & Tricks on January 27 at 12:15 p.m.