Pierce County earthquake exercises Oct. 21-22

A countywide earthquake exercise is scheduled in Pierce County next Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 21-22.

The first day includes approximately 500 participants from more than 50 agencies throughout Pierce County. The second day focuses on area hospitals, including Good Samaritan, Madigan, St. Anthony, St. Clare, St. Josephs, Tacoma General and Western State hospitals. Schools — K-12 and colleges — will participate as well: Bethel School District, MTCI/College of Medical Training, Pacific Lutheran University, Peninsula School District, Sumner School District and the University of Puget Sound.

To make this drill as realistic as possible, the U.S. Geological Survey helped build the scenario and provided the participants with a number of resources and tools to utilize throughout the exercise and, ultimately, during an actual event.

The scenario is based on a magnitude-7.1 earthquake striking along the Tacoma Fault line, which passes through Tacoma, Federal Way and Gig Harbor. It is predicted that the ground shaking during an earthquake through the Tacoma fault system would cause landslides, liquefaction and possibly a tsunami in the Sound, based on United States Geological Survey (USGS) studies.

During the initial day of the two-day exercise, the Pierce County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will be fully staffed and operational. Other jurisdictions within the county will conduct their own exercises based on the same scenario in coordination with the Pierce County EOC.

Every year, Pierce County Emergency Management is required to hold at least one regional exercise. The purpose is to test its emergency plans and procedures. The specific objectives of this exercise are to evaluate regional communications, to demonstrate coordinated situational awareness collection, and to disseminate information to the public.