200 to participate in major earthquake exercise Saturday in Sequim

SEQUIM — About 200 people will undergo search and rescue training as Clallam County Fire District No. 3 in Sequim hosts an exercise involving Community Emergency Response Teams from the east side of Clallam County on Saturday.

Ten fire-sponsored Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) of 20 members each will train in building search and rescue, triage of injured, transport of the injured using litters and providing limited medical treatment.

“One of the concerns is how will we get help in the event of a large earthquake,” said Penny Linterman of the emergency management unit of the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.

In Fire District No. 3, at any given time, there are only a few officers on duty.

“We’re training citizens to be able to fill that gap so they will be able to do light search and rescue,” Linterman said, adding that the goal is eventually to have 400 people trained in this capacity on the east side of the county.

The exercise will be at Sequim Community School, 222 W. Alder St. It will begin at 8 a.m. and is expected to last for about nine hours with a scheduled lunch break.

The school simulates a post-earthquake environment with ceiling tiles, debris and furniture strewn around and will be torn down this summer after this last exercise, Linterman said.

Local residents will see an increased presence of law enforcement, fire and first response agencies the day of the exercise.

Streets in the area will be open for traffic.

This large CERT drill in Clallam County is a joint effort of Clallam County Emergency Management, the city of Sequim and the American Red Cross in conjunction with Fire District No. 3.

The joint exercise is designed to better understand the capabilities of the newly developed teams assigned to a District No. 3 fire officer. They are tasked with searching damaged buildings and homes in their neighborhoods and will continue to undergo monthly training.

“The goal is to use citizen teams organized and trained to a consistent standard as a force multiplier in a catastrophic disaster to be sure that no one is left unaccounted for or trapped for an extended period of time,” Linterman said.

Preparation is in anticipation of a quake in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. The 800-mile fault, which stretches from southern British Columbia to Northern California, spawns massive earthquakes an average of once every 200 to 500 years, with the last in about 1700.

Immediately following the onset of such a catastrophe, area residents most likely would have to look to themselves and their neighbors for help.

Fire District No. 3 encompasses 142 square miles covering all of eastern Clallam County and has more than 10,000 homes that will require being checked within the first week after a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake for survival of entrapped citizens, Linterman said.

“With fewer than 150 fire, EMS and law enforcement personnel located in eastern Clallam County and less than one-third of them being on duty, the addition of 200 CERTs provides the community with a major resource to ensure citizens’ chances of survivability after a devastating quake,” Linterman said.

CERT is one component of an overall plan to increase disaster readiness. Public education, Map Your Neighborhood groups, participation and training in ham radio operator groups and CERT teams work together and complement each other by providing different opportunities for volunteers and meaningful work that builds community, Linterman said.

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