Tuesday, November 24, 2015
What Will We Do if The Big One Hits? We're Getting Ready, Just in Case.
By Steven Winecoff, Manager of Transportation Administration
On Thursday, November 12 at 8:45 a.m., a simulated 9.0 earthquake occurred off the Pacific coast, causing major damage throughout the Puget Sound region.
At Community Transit, dispatchers and managers scrambled to contact drivers in the field to ensure that buses and passengers were safe and accounted for. Communication channels were spotty.
At the same time, all our employees were evacuated from their buildings and few were allowed back in due to lengthy inspection times and areas of clear structural damage.
Many workers, at our base and on the road, were anxious to get home to check on their families, as cell phone and Internet communication channels were overwhelmed.
Using real system data, such as how many buses were on the road at that time, and possible events, such as dispatch centers being inoperable, 29 Community Transit employees from various departments participated in a five-hour tabletop emergency response exercise that day to respond as they would if this event really happened.
Our objective was to assess Community Transit’s response and readiness. This is not just about planning for a possible earthquake, but helping us plan for “All Hazards” types of events so we can be better prepared in the event of any emergency. Our next step is an agency-wide debrief to discuss action items that arose from this tabletop event.
The exercise also helped to prepare our agency for the “Cascadia Rising” Earthquake & Tsunami Functional Exercise that will take place in June 2016. This drill is being planned by FEMA and other state and regional partners. It is one more in a series of preparedness exercises our agency, and our partners, undertake to ensure the safety and security of our passengers and employees.