Gov. Jay Inslee today issued a directive to state agencies to bolster Washington state efforts to prepare for a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami.
The directive establishes a new Resilient Washington subcabinet charged with providing a coordinated approach to preparing for and responding to a major earthquake or tsunami. The subcabinet’s efforts will address everything from educating the public about personal preparedness to planning for major disruptions to utility and fuel services and destruction of major roads, bridges and airports. The subcabinet will also develop recommendations and plans for ensuring availability of medical and human service operations.
“We know the question isn’t ‘if’ a large-scale earthquake will happen in our state, but how well we will be prepared,” Inslee said. “While there’s no way to fully anticipate all the impacts a large-scale earthquake will have on our infrastructure, we know that preparedness starts in every household and every community, and the response depends on cooperation and collaboration at all levels of government. This effort is about each of us building resilience and being ready.”
Washington is situated on the Cascadia subduction zone, known as one of the largest and most dangerous fault lines in the world. Experts predict the region is likely to experience a major earthquake and tsunami that will cause significant damage along the West Coast, including California, Oregon, Washington and parts of Vancouver Island. This summer, Washington, Oregon and British Columbia participated in the unprecedented simulation exercise Cascadia Rising. Nearly 23,000 officials and representatives from federal, military, tribal, state and local governments and nongovernmental organizations participated to train and test their response to a simulated 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami.
Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty of the Washington State Military Department said the exercise helped identify where good collaboration and preparedness are already in place and where improvements are needed. He said Inslee’s directive is a crucial next step in strategically identifying how best to address gaps in the system and ensure continuing collaboration among community and government leaders.
“We learned a lot from Cascadia Rising, which is exactly why we conducted the exercise. Now the hard work really begins,” Daugherty said. “I appreciate the governor’s commitment to creating a safer and more prepared state. And I look forward to working with our Resilient Washington subcabinet partners to address those areas where there’s room to improve and to develop new strategies that help protect our citizens and communities.”
The subcabinet will rely heavily on the expertise of the Washington State Seismic Safety Commission, which published the 2012 report Resilient Washington State. The report provides a framework for long-term implementation of seismic risk reduction policies and activities across Washington with the goal of making the state resilient within a 50-year time frame.
The subcabinet’s first meeting will take place in January. Initial recommendations are due to the governor June 30, 2017.