In case of a disaster, Olympia officials must be ready to respond and assist in the city’s recovery.
To that end, the Olympia City Council is expected to approve the 2016 Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan on March 15. The plan outlines the city’s emergency response policies and assigns tasks.
Deputy Fire Chief Greg Wright, who is the city’s emergency management coordinator, told the council Tuesday that the revised plan complies with new state and federal expectations.
According to the plan, priorities for emergency response are to protect human life and public health, protect public property and infrastructure, protect the economy, protect the environment and provide “reasonable assistance” to protect private properties.
Among Olympia’s emergency preparation activities this year is the Cascadia Rising earthquake drill, which runs June 7-10.
Co-sponsored by FEMA, the drill will allow dozens of cities and counties to practice emergency response to a worst-case scenario involving the Cascadia Subduction Zone, an 800-mile fault line that stretches between Vancouver Island and Northern California.
The zone has produced earthquakes with a 9.0 magnitude or higher at intervals of 400 to 600 years — with the last one occurring in January 1700, according to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.
In Olympia, an Emergency Operation Center would be activated as a command center during such a disaster. Wright said City Council members would be expected to communicate details to the public regarding emergency response and recovery efforts.
“Having the right information and spreading that message that things are being taken care of is very powerful to the community,” he said.
Council members were advised to create a response plan for their families. Wright recalled how during the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, he was able to do his job and help people because he knew his family was safe.
“If you can’t find your family members,” he said, “you’re not going to be able to respond.”
Council members will have an opportunity for more emergency management training at a seminar March 21.
This summer, Olympia will have a chance to review and adopt the Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan for the Thurston region, Wright said. Prepared by the Thurston County Emergency Management Council, the action plan identifies risks associated with natural hazards such as earthquakes, floods and wildfires. The plan also allows cities to maintain eligibility for federal emergency aid.