Washington State’s Plan for Megaquake ‘Grossly Inadequate,’ Review Finds

Sandi Doughton and Daniel Gilbert | The Seattle Times | October 23, 2016

The largest disaster drill in the region’s history exposed flaws in preparedness.

The largest disaster drill ever conducted in the Pacific Northwest found that, despite decades of warnings, the region remains dangerously unprepared to deal with a Cascadia megaquake and tsunami. During the four-day “Cascadia Rising” exercise in June, 23,000 participants grappled with a hypothetical catastrophe that knocked out power, roads and communications and left communities battered, isolated — and with no hope of quick relief.

Washington state officials called their own response plans “grossly inadequate,” according to a draft report and records reviewed by The Seattle Times. The report warns that “the state is at risk of a humanitarian disaster within 10 days” of the quake. The government’s ability to provide aid in the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake is so limited that Washington state’s Emergency Management Division will now ask residents to stock enough resources to survive on their own for up to two weeks, instead of the three days it advised in the past.

The report also warned that Washington’s own laws could actually prevent officials from marshaling medical resources to treat the legions of injured people. The blunt assessment comes from a late-stage draft of Washington state’s post-mortem on the exercise, which followed two years of planning and included officials from three states, the U.S. government and British Columbia. Washington’s emergency-management division plans to brief the governor on the findings in January...