Washington state is grossly unprepared for a large earthquake and tsunami that may strike in the coming decades, putting it at risk for a humanitarian disaster, the Seattle Times reported on Sunday, citing a draft government report. Anticipating a poor response to such a disaster, the state’s emergency managers will begin asking residents to stock enough food and other supplies to survive on their own for two weeks, the newspaper said.
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The Pacific Northwest region was once thought to be a low risk for a massive earthquake, compared with its coastal neighbor California. Researchers, however, have come to believe that an 8.0 to 9.0 magnitude temblor has shaken Oregon and Washington every 230 years or so. The last struck about 315 years ago, according to the US Geological Survey, so one is overdue.
To prepare for that possibility, Washington officials organized a four-day exercise called “Cascadia Rising” in June, and the results were laid out in a draft report, the Seattle Times reported.
“The state’s current mindset and approach to disaster response is not suitable to a catastrophic scale incident,” the assessment says, according to a copy the newspaper published online. The draft report recommends expanding the emergency authority of Washington’s governor and putting in place plans for mass sheltering and feeding, among other steps.
The state Emergency Management Division wants to spend $750,000 a year urging people to have emergency kits that would last up to two weeks, the Seattle Times said. On the Olympic Peninsula, which is vulnerable to being cut off if roads and bridges are damaged, people may be on their own for twice that long, an official told the newspaper.
“What you have on hand when this occurs is how you’re going to survive,” said Clallam County emergency coordinator Penny Linterman.