Navy, county sound alarms for ‘Great Washington Shakeout’

Posted 10/23/19

When the Great Washington Shakeout came to East Jefferson County at 10:17 a.m. on Oct. 17, both the U.S. Navy and the county’s Department of Emergency Management (DEM) had their responses ready for the simulated earthquake that was part of the annual emergency drill.

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Navy, county sound alarms for ‘Great Washington Shakeout’

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When the Great Washington Shakeout came to East Jefferson County at 10:17 a.m. on Oct. 17, both the U.S. Navy and the county’s Department of Emergency Management (DEM) had their responses ready for the simulated earthquake that was part of the annual emergency drill.

Naval Magazine Indian Island utilized the base’s “Giant Voice” outdoor speaker system to announce the earthquake practice scenario, and to prompt employees to practice “drop, cover and hold on” responses in their workspaces.

Following the drill, base emergency management officials inspected office spaces for potential falling hazards, such as unsecured bookcases and heavy objects stored up high, and once they’d identified any potential hazards, they were either secured with appropriate straps and hardware on the spot, or times were scheduled for those precautions to be installed.

“Base employees learned exactly what the installation earthquake warning alarm would sound like, and how to better protect themselves at home and work in the event of an earthquake,” said Julianne Stanford, public affairs officer for Naval Magazine Indian Island. “This drill was a valuable opportunity for our team to learn about which parts of our emergency response procedures work well, and how we can improve.”

Civilians received their own alarms that same morning, when the DEM tested its Nixle emergency text alert system, as well as the three tsunami sirens along the coast, and KPTZ 91.9 FM broadcasting live from the Emergency Operations Center with preparedness tips and additional information.

“One of the core missions of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is to develop what’s called a Common Operating Picture (COP), which includes known information and situational awareness about the emergency, so that everyone can work cohesively based on the same set of facts,” DEM Director Willie Bence said. “Development of the COP means the EOC has to establish two-way communication lines with outside groups, to quickly attain the Essential Elements of Information that assist in developing the COP.”

For this year’s drill, the DEM tested updated damage assessment communication procedures, which was focused on establishing lines of communication with organized neighborhood groups via amateur or “ham” radio. The new procedures concentrated on the transmission of information regarding life-threatening events only.

Following their own drill scenarios, 20 neighborhoods reported in to the EOC, and more than 30 volunteers were involved in the drill at the EOC itself, including representatives of law enforcement, neighborhood groups, ham radio operators and three volunteers from KPTZ, the latter of whom took part in the drill by broadcasting from the EOC, as they have in the past.

“There is always room for more volunteers,” Bence said. “Anyone interested in volunteering with their neighborhood group, or working directly with the Department of Emergency Management, is encouraged to contact us for more information.”

The Jefferson County Department of Emergency Management can be reached at 360-385-9368 or jcdem@co.jefferson.wa.us.

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