What would we do if a 9.0 earthquake hit?
Hopefully, not panic. But just to make sure Bainbridge Island and many other local agencies practiced last week what they would do if that happened.
City personnel assembled at boat ramps and docks in Brownsville, Suquamish and Poulsbo awaiting boats from the emergency flotilla that would take them to work on if a quake damaged the Agate Pass Bridge and the Eagle Harbor ferry dock. Such a subduction zone quake would cause a 100-foot tsumani.
The beach landing site at Dock Street in Manzanita Bay was occupied by Scott James and Victor Cheng. James is the founder of Bainbridge Prepares and heads a collaborative network of about 650 volunteers, organizations and local government working to make the community more resilient through mutual aid among residents. Cheng, a Community Emergency Response Team volunteer, was there to observe and evaluate the boat drop-off.
James said the flotilla operation is important because of the island. “We’re testing both the movement of emergency personnel and medical supplies. We’re practicing how we get people from there to the shore. Because obviously, we don’t want to bring the vessels themselves too close to land on the beach. But we’re also assuming the bridge is down, the ferry terminal has been damaged, and we are on day five post-earthquake,” James said.
The first boat to arrive delivered Anne La Sage from Silverdale, the city’s emergency manager.
LaSage shared her experience getting to work that day. “I drove in my personal vehicle to Brownsville and was picked up by a little tender that took us out to our primary vessel to bring us in from Brownsville to Manzanita. The ride was smooth and I came in with a couple co-workers. We’re just trying to practice our process for what it would really look like post-earthquake needing to get essential personnel into the city.”
Cheng said one observation he made was the boats had to deal with an unusually low tide, which made water landings more challenging.
U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary member and event volunteer Dean Alexander, who helped transport people to their places of work, suggested ferrying the personnel to neighboring docks near the emergency landing site, but that would take some coordination with homeowners in the area.
The drills ran all day and included operations at Eagle Harbor where the flotilla boat, The Otter, delivered water, and at the floating dock at Hidden Cove. “It’s a really neat floating dock. It’s inside of a bay, so it might actually survive an earthquake and a tsunami,” James said.
LaSage said the three-day training event is worthwhile as it takes a lot of time and effort into preparing the island for a major incident. Interested in volunteering? Go to bainbridgeprepares.org for details.