Win tickets to Evergreen State Fair concert
The Herald of Everett, Washington
Customer service  |  Subscribe   |   Log in or sign up   |   Advertising information   |   Contact us
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up  Green editions icon Green editions

State prepares for Mother Nature’s worst

With a severe wildfire season expected, the National Guard and state agencies recently drilled to prepare for a range of disasters.

  • A Washington Air National Guardsman leans across the open rear bay door of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter on June 19 as the craft banks sharply over the Y...

    Associated Press

    A Washington Air National Guardsman leans across the open rear bay door of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter on June 19 as the craft banks sharply over the Yakima Training Center near Yakima, part of a drill that involved the National Guard and state agencies.

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, state officials watch one emergency scenario as a National Guard Airman practices a high-angle rescue dr...

    Associated Press

    In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, state officials watch one emergency scenario as a National Guard Airman practices a high-angle rescue drill behind in Richland, Wash. With the approach of a fire season that is expected to be above average in the state this year, and with a new batch of state officials and staff that came on board when Gov. Jay Inslee was sworn in earlier this year, the state Department of the Military organized a full-day briefing that involved a trip across the mountains to prepare them for their roles during an emergency, and let them know the role and capabilities of the state's National Guard. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

  • National Guard Spc. Omar Isiordia practices pulling on protective equipment during a drill in Richland.

    Associated Press

    National Guard Spc. Omar Isiordia practices pulling on protective equipment during a drill in Richland.

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, National Guard Lt. Col. James Bridgman, left, explains a drill as Washington State Patrol Chief John Bat...

    Associated Press

    In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, National Guard Lt. Col. James Bridgman, left, explains a drill as Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste looks on in Richland, Wash. With the approach of a fire season that is expected to be above average in the state this year, and with a new batch of state officials and staff that came on board when Gov. Jay Inslee was sworn in earlier this year, the state Department of the Military organized a full-day briefing that involved a trip across the mountains to prepare them for their roles during an emergency, and let them know the role and capabilities of the state's National Guard. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, state officials are briefed at the state's Emergency Operations Center, in Camp Murray, Wash. With the a...

    Associated Press

    In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, state officials are briefed at the state's Emergency Operations Center, in Camp Murray, Wash. With the approach of a fire season that is expected to be above average in the state this year, and with a new batch of state officials and staff that came on board when Gov. Jay Inslee was sworn in earlier this year, the state Department of the Military organized a full-day briefing that involved a trip across the mountains to prepare them for their roles during an emergency, and let them know the role and capabilities of the state's National Guard. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, state officials are greeted on arrival via National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters at the Yakima Traini...

    Associated Press

    In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, state officials are greeted on arrival via National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters at the Yakima Training Center in Yakima, Wash. With the approach of a fire season that is expected to be above average in the state this year, and with a new batch of state officials and staff that came on board when Gov. Jay Inslee was sworn in earlier this year, the state Department of the Military organized a full-day briefing that involved a trip across the mountains to prepare them for their roles during an emergency, and let them know the role and capabilities of the state's National Guard. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, the pilot of a National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter points out the top of Mount Rainier just above th...

    Associated Press

    In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, the pilot of a National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter points out the top of Mount Rainier just above the clouds while ferrying state officials south of the mountain and west of Yakima, Wash. With the approach of a fire season that is expected to be above average in the state this year, and with a new batch of state officials and staff that came on board when Gov. Jay Inslee was sworn in earlier this year, the state Department of the Military organized a full-day briefing that involved a trip across the mountains to prepare them for their roles during an emergency, and let them know the role and capabilities of the state's National Guard. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

  • Washington Army National Guard soldiers practice during a decontamination drill at a training facility in Richland.

    Associated Press

    Washington Army National Guard soldiers practice during a decontamination drill at a training facility in Richland.

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, state officials are given information about one emergency scenario as a National Guard Airman practices ...

    Associated Press

    In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, state officials are given information about one emergency scenario as a National Guard Airman practices a high-angle rescue drill behind in Richland, Wash. With the approach of a fire season that is expected to be above average in the state this year, and with a new batch of state officials and staff that came on board when Gov. Jay Inslee was sworn in earlier this year, the state Department of the Military organized a full-day briefing that involved a trip across the mountains to prepare them for their roles during an emergency, and let them know the role and capabilities of the stateís National Guard. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

SHARE: facebook Twitter icon Pinterest icon Linkedin icon Google+ icon Email icon |  PRINTER-FRIENDLY  |  COMMENTS
By Rachel La Corte
Associated Press
Published:
  • A Washington Air National Guardsman leans across the open rear bay door of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter on June 19 as the craft banks sharply over the Y...

    Associated Press

    A Washington Air National Guardsman leans across the open rear bay door of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter on June 19 as the craft banks sharply over the Yakima Training Center near Yakima, part of a drill that involved the National Guard and state agencies.

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, state officials watch one emergency scenario as a National Guard Airman practices a high-angle rescue dr...

    Associated Press

    In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, state officials watch one emergency scenario as a National Guard Airman practices a high-angle rescue drill behind in Richland, Wash. With the approach of a fire season that is expected to be above average in the state this year, and with a new batch of state officials and staff that came on board when Gov. Jay Inslee was sworn in earlier this year, the state Department of the Military organized a full-day briefing that involved a trip across the mountains to prepare them for their roles during an emergency, and let them know the role and capabilities of the state's National Guard. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

  • National Guard Spc. Omar Isiordia practices pulling on protective equipment during a drill in Richland.

    Associated Press

    National Guard Spc. Omar Isiordia practices pulling on protective equipment during a drill in Richland.

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, National Guard Lt. Col. James Bridgman, left, explains a drill as Washington State Patrol Chief John Bat...

    Associated Press

    In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, National Guard Lt. Col. James Bridgman, left, explains a drill as Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste looks on in Richland, Wash. With the approach of a fire season that is expected to be above average in the state this year, and with a new batch of state officials and staff that came on board when Gov. Jay Inslee was sworn in earlier this year, the state Department of the Military organized a full-day briefing that involved a trip across the mountains to prepare them for their roles during an emergency, and let them know the role and capabilities of the state's National Guard. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, state officials are briefed at the state's Emergency Operations Center, in Camp Murray, Wash. With the a...

    Associated Press

    In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, state officials are briefed at the state's Emergency Operations Center, in Camp Murray, Wash. With the approach of a fire season that is expected to be above average in the state this year, and with a new batch of state officials and staff that came on board when Gov. Jay Inslee was sworn in earlier this year, the state Department of the Military organized a full-day briefing that involved a trip across the mountains to prepare them for their roles during an emergency, and let them know the role and capabilities of the state's National Guard. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, state officials are greeted on arrival via National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters at the Yakima Traini...

    Associated Press

    In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, state officials are greeted on arrival via National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters at the Yakima Training Center in Yakima, Wash. With the approach of a fire season that is expected to be above average in the state this year, and with a new batch of state officials and staff that came on board when Gov. Jay Inslee was sworn in earlier this year, the state Department of the Military organized a full-day briefing that involved a trip across the mountains to prepare them for their roles during an emergency, and let them know the role and capabilities of the state's National Guard. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, the pilot of a National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter points out the top of Mount Rainier just above th...

    Associated Press

    In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, the pilot of a National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter points out the top of Mount Rainier just above the clouds while ferrying state officials south of the mountain and west of Yakima, Wash. With the approach of a fire season that is expected to be above average in the state this year, and with a new batch of state officials and staff that came on board when Gov. Jay Inslee was sworn in earlier this year, the state Department of the Military organized a full-day briefing that involved a trip across the mountains to prepare them for their roles during an emergency, and let them know the role and capabilities of the state's National Guard. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

  • Washington Army National Guard soldiers practice during a decontamination drill at a training facility in Richland.

    Associated Press

    Washington Army National Guard soldiers practice during a decontamination drill at a training facility in Richland.

  • In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, state officials are given information about one emergency scenario as a National Guard Airman practices ...

    Associated Press

    In this photo taken Wednesday, June 19, 2013, state officials are given information about one emergency scenario as a National Guard Airman practices a high-angle rescue drill behind in Richland, Wash. With the approach of a fire season that is expected to be above average in the state this year, and with a new batch of state officials and staff that came on board when Gov. Jay Inslee was sworn in earlier this year, the state Department of the Military organized a full-day briefing that involved a trip across the mountains to prepare them for their roles during an emergency, and let them know the role and capabilities of the stateís National Guard. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

CAMP MURRAY -- Depending on the season, Washington state faces a variety of natural disasters.
Wildfires in the summer give way to floods and storms in the winter. And earthquakes, tsunamis and volcano eruptions are a risk year round.
With that in mind the state Department of the Military organized emergency preparedness briefings for state officials, many of whom are relatively new to their roles, having arrived in Olympia this year with Gov. Jay Inslee.
Officials traveled recently to the state's Emergency Operations Center at Camp Murray, about 20 miles north of the capital, and discussed disaster scenarios, including the prospect of a three-county wildfire in Eastern Washington, a drill that could prove timely considering this year's wildfire season is expected to be severe.
"We cannot stop Mother Nature," Lit Dudley, the exercise and training manager for the state Emergency Management Division, told the group of about two dozen state officials and staff last week. "However, once the emergency has happened, we can do everything in our power to limit the impact on citizens."
Cabinet members, state agency heads and others discussed plans and procedures for how a given state agency would become involved in an emergency.
For example, in a wild blaze, the Department of Transportation would be involved in any road closures. The Department of Health would step in if smoke significantly diminished air quality, which would be measured by the Department of Ecology. The Department of Commerce would be brought in to help businesses that might be impacted.
Agency heads also raised concerns that might otherwise be overlooked during a fire response.
Agriculture director Bud Hover noted a potential concern for the state's nearly 730 organic farms that could be harmed if fire crews used chemical flame retardants.
"The impact to the economy if that ability of those farms were degraded to a point where they could no longer function could be great," he told the group.
He said his agency would attempt to protect farmers by urging firefighters to avoid using chemicals near organic operations.
Bernie Warner, secretary of the state Department of Corrections, said the exercises showed how all elements of state government are intertwined during a disaster.
"It's not just a one-dimensional approach of somebody goes and puts out a fire," he said.
While at Camp Murray, state leaders toured the joint force headquarters of the Army and Air Force National Guard. From there they boarded a pair of heavy-duty military helicopters that flew them to the Yakima Training Center.
The Chinook helicopters, known for their twin rotors, dropped the government workers into a National Guard wildfire training exercise.
Guard members were facing the scenario of a series of wildfires caused by lightning in eastern Washington and chemical and fuel explosions in Kennewick.
In one tent on the site, soldiers gathered around computer screens and considered information such as a mock weather forecast, meanwhile large monitors on the wall showed units out fighting blazes.
Nearby, officials saw about 200 guard members train by digging fire lines and carrying hoses.
From there, the group of state leaders went to the Hammer training facility in Richland, where soldiers responded to a variety of scenarios, ranging from a potential toxic leak from an overturned tanker to a search-and-rescue exercise from a building.
Mary Alice Heuschel, Gov. Jay Inslee's chief of staff, said that briefings allowed those new to state government, such as herself, to become better prepared.
"We have to make sure there's an awareness of what it takes to pull this together," she said.
Major Gen. Bret Daugherty, commander of all Washington Army and Air National Guard forces and director of the state's emergency management programs, said the training was a good way to remind state officials of the National Guard's role in any disaster.
With the National Guard having faced numerous deployments during the wars in Iraq in Afghanistan, Daugherty said "we just have not had the time to spend re-educating ourselves and focusing on our domestic responsibilities in the way that we really feel we need to do."
Daugherty, who also serves as Inslee's homeland security adviser, said that he plans to have additional training opportunities for Cabinet members in the coming months, including one dealing with floods and winter storms and another addressing earthquakes.
"The war is thankfully coming to an end," he said. "And that allows us an opportunity to focus back on our traditional mission of domestic response."
------
Follow Rachel La Corte at http://www.twitter.com/RachelAPOly or http://www.facebook.com/news.rachel








Story tags » Emergency ManagementEmergency PlanningState

More Northwest Headlines

NEWSLETTER

HeraldNet Headlines

Top stories and breaking news updates

Calendar

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus