Margie Carter
Margie Carter

Seeing neighbors out walking in the ‘hood, I sense a revived spring in our steps — the season’s change is bringing an eagerness for an expanded life out in the world. How can we use this renewed vitality to not only raise our spirits but also raise our readiness for the next disruption of our “normal” lives?

While we all need a break and something fun to focus on in our lives, thank goodness our city and state emergency preparedness offices are staying hard at work. Did you know that our state actively tracks seismic activity around the clock? I must admit, the weblink’s subtitle gave me a little gasp — Latest Quakes Past 24 Hours, volcanodiscovery.com. Yikes! But there’s more. I continually find new information on their website and was impressed when I found the information about the hazards mitigation plan to be more comprehensive than I imagined.

What is the All-Hazards Mitigation Plan?

The HMP is a comprehensive document that contains detailed information about the types of hazards we face and the actions we can take before disaster strikes to reduce our vulnerability.

The HMP addresses six types of hazards:

Climate change: rising temperatures, sea level rise, decreasing snowpack and streamflows

Geologic hazards: earthquake, landslides, volcanic, tsunamis and seiches

Biologic hazards: disease/pandemic, bioterrorism

Intentional hazards: social unrest, attacks, cyber-attack and disruption

Infrastructure hazards: transportation incidents, fires, hazardous materials incidents, infrastructure and structural failures, power outages

Weather hazards: excessive heat events, flooding, snow and ice, water shortages, wind storms

With their planning and services, our city and state work closely with FEMA and other federal agencies to address two goals: save lives and restore essential services. And, to reach these goals they remind us as ordinary citizens: “We count on you to be prepared.”

Facing the facts

As you explore the website, https://www.seattle.gov/emergency-management, you’ll learn facts such as these:

Earthquakes are the most serious hazard facing Seattle.

An earthquake on the Seattle Fault poses the greatest risk to Seattle because the Seattle Fault Zone extends east-west through the middle of the city.

Megathrust earthquakes are the greatest risk to the broader West Coast region. A megathrust earthquake could reach M9.0+ and affect an area from Canada to Northern California. A Cascadia megathrust earthquake could rank as one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded, but because Seattle is several hundred miles from the source, seismic waves would weaken slightly before they reach Seattle. Shaking would be violent and prolonged but not as intense as in a Seattle Fault quake.

Secondary impacts such as landslides, tsunami, fires, infrastructure failures and hazardous material releases could become disasters themselves. In past earthquakes, more people have died from fire than building collapse.

A large Seattle Fault earthquake could trigger a tsunami up to 16 feet high that would strike the Seattle shoreline within seconds of the earthquake and flood it within 5 minutes. A megathrust earthquake will not cause a tsunami with inundation for Seattle, but it is expected to cause strong currents in Seattle’s waters that may be dangerous for vessels. A deep earthquake could cause landslides that trigger a tsunami.

A M7.0 Seattle Fault earthquake could cause dozens of fires. Suppressing the fires may be more difficult due to severed transportation routes and possible damage to the water system, which could reduce water pressure in many parts of the city.

Using spring to get more prepared

I quote all this from the website, not to create alarm, but rather action. It’s time to take preparation seriously, time to make use of the bounty of resources OEM makes available to do just that.

No one wants to divert time away from enjoying the arrival of spring and all its promises, but I wonder, as we enjoy more neighborhood walks, could we begin to make a mental map of things that might be useful for us to know should a weather or climate change disaster befall us, perhaps a significant earthquake?

Consider these questions as you take in the sunshine, the alluring aromas of witch hazel or daphne in bloom or the eruption of cherry blossoms:

Do you know where the main water and gas shutoffs are to keep your home safe from water contamination or fire? Do you know how and have the tool to do the shut off?

Does your family know who your immediate neighbors are in case you or they might need a helping hand?

What areas in the neighborhood might be most vulnerable for damage or hazards, and, alternatively, where might you find safety or needed resources?

What communication system might you resort to if you have no phone or tech service to reach loved ones?

How would you get to the emergency communication hub at the Madison Park tennis courts? In the event of a disaster, neighbors can come to the hub to share information about particular dangers (i.e., gas leaks, fires or unstable buildings on their blocks) or to seek information such as the status of roads, bridges or water quality. The hub will also provide a system to post information about such things as lost and found people and pets, possible emergency shelter, medical or other needs.

If my household and loved ones are safe, what skills and experience might I offer to help others?

If these questions pique your interest or spark any anxiety, where might you find reassurance?

Visit https://www.seattle.gov/emergency-management to explore the wealth of resources including, information and training sessions that are well worth your time. You can also contact your local MP Neighborhood Emergency Preparation Team to find out what we’re doing and how you might get involved. Watch for announcements of our summer drill to activate our emergency communication hub and join us in practicing how to roll up your sleeves to help our neighborhood get through whatever disaster might next be on the horizon.

Sarah Armstrong, saraharmstrong215@gmail.com

Mary Beth McAteer, msimiele1@gmail.com

Margie Carter, margiecarter@comcast.net