Riding out a Disaster Drill in Forks
Tuesday, June 7, was a great day for a disaster drill. It was partly sunny, a high of 74 degrees and a light breeze. When the real thing happens it probably will be dark, raining sideways and 40 degrees. That is why planning now is so important to identify the gaps.
The City of Forks, Forks Police Department, Fire District 1, Forks Community Hospital, Quillayute Valley School District and several knowledgable community members came together Tuesday morning for the Cascadia Rising rehearsal to this someday expected disaster.
(Exercise) As the earthquake hit at 8:03 a.m. the Forks City Council chambers became an Emergency Operations Center. Other command centers were located at the firehall, the school and the hospital. As the power went out, the city’s generator came on to light key locations in the building. No phones, no Internet.
8:15 Ham radio operator John Richmond walked from his house a block away and took over the operation of the radio. There are 50 inmates/staff in the jail and a portion of the brick wall has fallen down.
8:20 Forks Police Administrator Rick Bart sent Officer Mike Gentry out to assess damage. Bart is concerned about the 80 or so propane tanks in the area. Ferrellgas recently has filled its large tank; if it explodes, it could take out a mile-and-half area. Red Cross volunteer Milton Beck recommends that the person turning off the tank not be wearing polyester.
8:40 Word comes in from the fire department that there has been a partial collapse of its building. Two trucks are available and the others are stuck in the collapse. Fire department reports many power lines down. Problems on Russell Road, will take 30 minutes to get to the treatment plant.
8:45 The hospital has had damage to the old section
8:47 Ambulance needed at the elementary school, power lines are down on Spartan Avenue and water lines are broken. Richmond tries to reach the local radio station on the ham radio. The mayor has arrived as well as several council members. A few community members with skills are arriving to help.
8:50 Report from Paul Hampton, Public Works, the well is damaged at the compound, could be fixed in about 12 hours, pump working at a slower rate.
8:55 Ken Lambert with the radio station walking there to make announcement about the school and downed power lines. Hampton reports a large amount of water coming down the hill from the city’s water tank.
8:57 Security needed at Forks Outfitters. Water department checking water mains.
9:03 Ferrell propane tank secure. Riot at Outfitters. Minor injuries in the jail.
9:07 Excavator in route to Fire Hall, eta 30 minutes.
9:10 Several city water tanks are destroyed. The LDS church is available for a shelter. Four students and one teacher are missing at the elementary school as part of the roof has collapsed. Red Cross taking trailer to school going across the field to get there instead of the road. Need an officer at school; parents are showing up.
9:15 Student and teacher found. Radio station informing parents where to go.
9:20 Report of first tsunami
Repeated attempts to contact the county and state; no contact made.
9:25 All bridges in the area are out
9:30 Ham radio operator trying to contact state finally makes contact. A drift boat has been located to use for river crossings.
9:34 There has been a bus accident on the other side of the Calawah Bridge.
9:40 Mayor signed a declaration of emergency; the excavator has arrived at the firehall.
No contact with La Push
9:45 The Assembly of God Church has trees down … the new Rainforest Arts Center is GONE!
9:47 Bogachiel Bridge also is out. Chinook Pharmacy has collapsed; will need some security on scene.
Trying to contact logging companies with CB radios
10 a.m. briefing
No available officers for the hospital
10:45 made contact with Jefferson County
11:05 Still no contact with Port Angeles
11:10 Akalat Center at La Push housing casualties, getting reports in on CB, Clallam Bay Prison has injuries and collapse.
11:35 Riot at True Value, a mob trying to get guns and ammo, need multiple officers.
Noon Patients being moved to Bogachiel Clinic and Long Term Care residents to St. Annes Church.
1:20 p.m. Finally heard from Port Angeles, hospital has patient with mental issues, needs help from an officer.
1:27 Multiple fires, some are left to burn
2:15 Hospital running low on water and food
People outside City Hall demanding that things get fixed.
2:30 Update from hospital. School has about 300 students and staff that will need to spend the night, need to shelter about 1,000 homeless citizens
3:00 Start making plans for after dark
Civilian sentries are deputized, a 9 p.m. curfew is set and rules of engagement are set out. Day two and three things get worse …
(Exercise) All radio conversation on Tuesday began and ended with “exercise.”
These are just some of the possible things that could happen in the event of a real disaster. These scenarios were decided by the roll of the dice. Other topics discussed between the scenarios were where to put the dead, sanitation, unsafe structures and who makes that decision, a central location for handwritten bulletins and a million other things. While it was a great learning experience, it proved there is much work to do if the big one ever does hit.
Through the exercise those participating commented multiple times that the community is full of people that have skills in road building, bridge building, etc. Mayor Bryon Monohon said, “If the big one ever happens … Forks is a community that will step up — We can’t stop them.” A wrap-up meeting will be held at a later date.