Washington State Baby Steps Toward Seismic Preparedness

All the the below is better than what was in that past--which was little to nothing.

by Eric Holdeman / May 12, 2019

Getting legislators interested in issues surrounding disaster readiness is hard. Just this morning I met with my two Washington State Representatives. I figure I'm likely the only person in their district that has spoken to them about the hazards and lack of interest in disaster readiness in our state. 

Then today, I got an email that shared the information below--which are a few steps in the right direction.  See my commentary on these that follows. I guess I should not knock progress:

From Washington State Emergency Management Division:

It is my pleasure to inform the tsunami work groups that the Legislature passed its 2019-21 Operating and Capital Budgets on Sunday, April 28. You can browse the full document here: Operating Budget.  The Legislature funded some big projects relevant to the Tsunami Program and our hazards and outreach team including:

  • Tsunami Sirens for Coastal Cities (one-time cost): $928,000 of General Fund State to procure and install 16 all-hazard alert broadcast (AHAB) sirens to increase inundation zone coverage. AHAB sirens will alert individuals of an impending tsunami or other disaster within a 1.5 mile radius.
  • ShakeAlert Monitoring Stations (one-time cost): $1,000,000 of General Fund-State for the procurement and installation of seismic monitoring stations and global navigation satellite systems that integrate with the early warning system known as ShakeAlert.
  • ShakeAlert Public Outreach (one-time cost): $240,000 of General Fund-State to support an education and public outreach program in advance of the new early earthquake warning system known as "ShakeAlert."

Commentary: 

These are minor improvements—but, they are something.  Before this, WA State had contributed “nothing” to the ShakeAlert Monitoring Stations.  The Feds and other states had threatened not to provide support if the State of WA did not pony up some funding. It think that is what got them off the dime.

As for the ShakeAlert Public Outreach item. I believe this funds an FTE at Washington State Emergency Management. I believe they are looking to do a public education program about ShakeAlert that can be an App on someone’s phone or computer. Instead of having that focus, I believe they should concentrate on Machine to Machine (M2M) communications. This will slow or stop trains, open elevator doors, stop hazardous material processes, etc. The digital signal can be sent fast enough to reach machines that will act in an instant. Not only do people not act instantly on warnings, our commercial communications systems cannot handle the number of transmissions needed to reach people, especially on the wireless spectrum.