7.4 Cascadia Rising: A Look into Onsite Decision Support Services for Large Catastrophic Natural Disasters

Thursday, 26 January 2017: 9:15 AM
615 (Washington State Convention Center )

FEMA Region X hosted a Functional Exercise the week of June 6, 2016 centered around a 9.0 earthquake and associated tsunami off the central Oregon coast. Participating Emergency Operation and Coordination Centers (EOC/ECCs) at all levels of government and the private sector in Washington, Oregon and Idaho activated to coordinate simulated field response operations, both within their jurisdictions and also with neighboring communities, the State EOCs, FEMA, and major military commands.

A large magnitude Cascadia Subduction Zone fault earthquake and tsunami is perhaps one of the most complex disaster scenarios that faces emergency management and public safety officials in the Pacific Northwest. Due to this complexity, life-saving and life-sustaining response operations will hinge on the effective coordination and integration of governments at all levels – cities, counties, state agencies, federal departments, the military, and tribal nations – as well as non-governmental organizations and the private sector. It is this joint-operational whole community approach that the involved agencies seeked to enhance and test during the Cascading Rising exercise.

This exercise seeked to test plans and procedures through a 9.0M earthquake and follow-on tsunami with expectations to improve catastrophic disaster operational readiness across the whole community. Cascadia Rising 2016 was conducted in preparation for the long overdue Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) earthquake and consequent tsunami that may devastate the California, Oregon, Washington coastlines. Lying mostly offshore, the plate interface is a giant fault approximately 700 miles long. At this location, the set of tectonic plates to the west is sliding (subducting) beneath the North American plate. The movement of these two plates is neither constant nor smooth; ultimately, these plates are stuck. The stress is continuously building until the fault will suddenly break, resulting in an earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

Decision Support Services aided routine and event-driven emergency response functions through frequent weather coordination with local, State and Federal agencies,  including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  This presentation will describe challenges involved with supporting emergency management officials from all levels of government and over a large geographic area during large catastrophic natural disasters, such as a CSZ earthquake and subsequent tsunami.  Best practices learned from this exercise will also be shared.

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