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Giant PNW earthquake happening - in Maryland


Emergency management officials practice their response

Coincidentally, a host of emergency personnel from organizations across Washington County are responding to a major earthquake scenario this week as part of a federally organized training exercise — just eight days after a real earthquake of magnitude 3.3 rattled the county.

The 8:30 p.m. quake on Sunday, April 6, was centered five miles northwest of Sherwood at a depth of around 12 miles and was felt from St. Helens south to Salem. No damage or injuries were reported from the gentle shaking.

Despite that quake’s limited impact, geologists warn that a more damaging earthquake could occur at any time.

“The Pacific Northwest is a very active seismic area,” said Scott Porter, director of the Emergency Management Cooperative of Washington County. “What sets the Northwest apart from many other active seismic areas is the relative infrequency of damaging earthquakes.

“That infrequency leaves much of the region’s aging infrastructure at risk and doesn’t provide the constant reminder of the need to be prepared.”

Emergency-management officials said the April 6 temblor was a good reminder to prepare for more intense geological events scientists anticipate in the future, including a catastrophic quake in which “violent shaking would last anywhere from 3 to 6 minutes, overwhelming structures and systems that are simply not built to withstand such an event,” Porter said.

This week’s disaster response and recovery course — which has been months in the making — is part of the county’s efforts to improve local decision-making, damage-assessment and recovery operations.

Emergency management officials plan to use a partial rupture of the Cascadia Subduction Zone as the story line for the exercise, which is being conducted in Maryland at the federal Emergency Management Institute.

Seventy-five officials from Washington County, Cornelius, Forest Grove, Clean Water Services, Portland General Electric and Providence St. Vincent Medical Center traveled to Maryland at the federal government’s expense, Porter said.

“We have learned a great deal from subduction zone earthquakes that have struck Japan, Chile and elsewhere,” he said. “One of these lessons is the importance of coordination among local, regional, state and federal agencies.”

The institute is part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Apart from the official

response, Porter advises people to become better prepared. “Be informed, develop a plan and build a kit with appropriate supplies to get through the early hours and days and,

perhaps, weeks of a major emergency.”

Families should also discuss ways to re-connect after a quake in case their homes are destroyed. During an earthquake, people should take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture and hold on to it until the shaking stops — if it moves, move with it.