Bellevue staff work to assess the infrastructure damage to the city as part of the mock earthquake scenario being run for emergency management training. Evan Pappas/Staff Photo

Bellevue staff work to assess the infrastructure damage to the city as part of the mock earthquake scenario being run for emergency management training. Evan Pappas/Staff Photo

Earthquake simulation sets the stage for emergency response training

Bellevue held a full scale emergency response exercise with 150 staff members.

Preparation for the possibility of emergency is a priority for Bellevue, which is why the city held a full-scale earthquake simulation training exercise on June 6.

Staff across the whole city participated in a mock earthquake exercise to drill the proper responses to respond to disaster. The scenario had staff working through a partial rupture of the Seattle Fault Zone, shaking the city of Bellevue with a magnitude 6.6 earthquake. About 150 Bellevue staff were tasked with addressing critical infrastructure damage, debris, injured citizens and economic losses.

Curry Mayer, emergency manager for the city, worked with a large group of staff from every department in the emergency operations center at City Hall.

Mayer explained how the city would respond to an earthquake. First, communication is key. The communications section included a police officer, firefighters, transportation and utilities staff as they were directly connected to responders out in the city, collecting updates about the situation and feeding more information back to the people in the field.

Staff also were broken up into a planning action team to work on ways to directly address the damage, and a public information team to connect with the public and let them know about resources, new updates and shelters.

Mayer also said firefighters were out driving their Earthquake routes doing a “windshield survey” (driving around to get a visual assessment of damages throughout the city).

For the first hour of the day, the team had to work with no cell phone service or Internet. They also simulated citizens coming to City Hall for shelter, so the city opened conference rooms to house the simulated public coming to the facility.

The exercise objectives were to test staff to utilize their communication channels and decisionmaking, training shelter staff to set up for displaced citizens and accurately conducting damage assessments.

The event ran from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and ended with a group discussion recounting the day’s events and the response to the training.

Bellevue also had evaluators from Seattle, as well as Pierce and King counties, watching over the training.

“In addition to these objectives,” she said. “They have a pretty detailed exercise guide that has additional questions like what were the tasks they did to make sure you could see this objective was accomplished.”

The importance of a training event like this goes beyond just addressing the tasks at hand, Mayer said.

“Anything we do here makes the real event not as scary, not as uncomfortable,” she said. “…The other really important piece is knowing your counterparts from those other departments that you would need to work with.”

Building a relationship with the other staff and knowing how to coordinate as a team is a big part of the the emergency exercise.

While a big simulation isn’t run every year, the emergency management department does have smaller training sessions to keep everyone up to speed.

“We meet with (logistics, planning and operations) quarterly and do shorter drills to keep their skills up of what they would need to do so we don’t ever go a long period of time with no practice,” she said.

For more on the emergency management department, go online to fire.bellevuewa.gov/emergency-management.

Debbie Harris, planning section chief, gives a status report to the staff in the emergency response center. Evan Pappas/Staff Photo

Debbie Harris, planning section chief, gives a status report to the staff in the emergency response center. Evan Pappas/Staff Photo

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