SOUTH BEND — Preparations are in full swing for Cascadia Rising 2022. Pacific County Emergency Management Agency Director Scott McDougall is one of many emergency management directors amping up agency preparations.
Cascadia Rising 2016 was a large-scale exercise developed to test agencies from a regional to a national level on how well they will be able to respond to a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.
“The idea was that it was going to be a full rupture of the subduction zone,” McDougall said. “At this point, we know there are all sorts of possibilities for what could happen. You could have a rupture at [just] the southern end of the fault, which has happened [in the past].”
He continued, “generally if that happens, you’re still looking at a massive earthquake. We’re looking at probably an 8.3 to 8.4 magnitude earthquake. Or it could be a full rupture, and that’s when we get into that 9.0 to 9.1 magnitude earthquake.”
Most of the modeling thus far has been for a 9.0 to 9.1 scenario, including the most recent Washington State Department of Natural Resources inundation models that show steadily rising waters reaching as far inland as Raymond. Oceanfront areas like the Long Beach Peninsula and Grayland will bear the brunt of incoming waters, with the ocean over-topping lower-elevation land about 20 minutes following the quake.
“It’s a worst-reasonable-case scenario,” McDougall said. “It’s a once in 2,500-years event. So the chances are we’re not going to see the inundation levels that we have seen that we have forecast in the past.”
Lessons learned from 2016
The first portion of Cascadia Rising in 2016 involved agencies responding to the early four days of a CSZ event, including the initial earthquake and immediate aftermath.
“We had this exercise in 2016, and we exposed a lot of flaws in our system,” McDougall said. “We exposed some things that were not going to work. So over the last four years at the local, state and federal levels, we have been working on ways to improve on the system and the ways we would respond to an event.”
Agencies have since incorporated many changes into the system that they plan to test during Cascadia Rising 2022. The idea, according to McDougall, is to see if the changes have helped agencies advance enough or if more changes are necessary.
Warm start exercise
Unlike in 2016, Cascadia Rising 2022 will start on day five of an event. It will focus on the tail end of the initial emergency response and begin incorporating recovery efforts.
“We want to start thinking about some of the recovery aspects,” McDougall said. “It’s going to take a long time for us to get to any kind of recovery, but at least when we start at Day 5 — we are still working on response issues — but it also gives an eye towards recovery as well.”
The scenario will again be for a significant CSZ quake and involves most of the infrastructure in Pacific County being wholly wiped out, such as roadways, bridges, and most buildings and homes. Another hazard expected is the disruption of shipping channels due to floating debris.
“We will have an opportunity to see how we are going to cope with [all] of that,” McDougall said. “How we are going to get resources into Pacific County and how we are going to get people out of Pacific County.”
Ramping up preparations
PCEMA and other local agencies have begun ramping up preparations for Cascadia Rising 2022 to ensure each agency is prepared for the mock scenario.
“There has been turnover within the county, and it’s time to make sure we have the new people who are here ramped up and ready to handle whatever might come along,” McDougall said. “If we train to the worst-case scenario, we are going to be able to deal with whatever comes along.”
McDougall ran the Emergency Operations Center in the 2016 drill, so during the 2022 exercise, others within the county will be stepping in to have their shot at running operations.
“We will have different agency heads come in and be in charge,” he said, “so that we can make sure we have some depth. I will be part of the exercise design team, and I will have too much information to be able to function as a player, realistically.”
He continued, “I will serve as an evaluator in somebody else’s EOC. It will allow me to view somebody else’s operation, and that will help me to judge areas in which I know we [Pacific County] may be weak. It will also allow me to see where our strengths lie.”
Hoping to be a full player
During 2016, Pacific County acted as a full EOC for two days while the whole exercise unfolded for four days total. In 2022, McDougall is hoping to have the EOC active during the entire drill.
“We want to get a sense of can we do as well on day four as we did on day one,” McDougall said. “That’s going to require some buy-in from other county departments, but my goal is to make sure we have a broad, well-rounded EOC team.”
The next Cascadia Rising will begin on June 10, 2022.