A 1984 prohibition on including nuclear attack preparations in Washington state’s emergency management plans would be removed under a new bill introduced by two lawmakers.
One lawmaker says recent tensions between the U.S. and North Korea makes the idea timely. But emergency management officials say the greatest threat facing Washington is an earthquake.
State law requires an “all-hazard emergency plan for the state which shall include an analysis of the natural, technological, or human-caused hazards which could affect the state of Washington.” But a law passed in 1984 says that such a plan “may not include preparation for emergency evacuation or relocation of residents in anticipation of nuclear attack.”
A section of language in that original bill — which was vetoed when Gov. John Spellman signed the underlying bill into law — explains the thinking at the time: “The legislature also recognizes that the possibility of surviving a nuclear attack is extremely remote, and believes that planning for an emergency response in the event of a nuclear attack instills a false sense of security in our citizens that they will be protected if a nuclear attack occurs.”
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The bill introduced last week by Sens. David Frockt, a Democrat, and Mark Miloscia, a Republican, would remove the 1984 language.
Miloscia said that while he didn’t think North Korea had the capability to actually threaten the state soon, “we might as well prepare.”
“I thought it was silly there was this prohibition at looking at this,” he said, saying he disagreed with the doomsday mindset of survival. “People are going to survive. They survive if there’s proper planning.”
Karina Shagren, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Emergency Management Division, said the agency hasn’t taken a stance on the measure, but noted it has “very limited resources.”
“We have to put people on what the greatest threat is. And in Washington, that’s an earthquake,” she said.
She noted a massive earthquake drill that the state conducted last year, and said that a lot of the drills they ran then could be applied to any catastrophic disaster, including a nuclear attack.
“Damaged infrastructure, evacuation of people, inbound movement of food and health care — those are all things we’d need during a nuclear attack as well,” she said.
But Miloscia said that things like how to deal with radiation fallout would be an area that should be part of any plan.
The bill has been referred to a committee that is headed up by Miloscia, but Miloscia said he hasn’t decided whether or not to give it a hearing this year. Lawmakers are in the midst of a special session to address education funding as part of an overall two-year state operating budget that must be in place before the end of June.
Miloscia said he wanted to start the conversation ahead of the 2018 legislative session.