Earthquake drills planned at region’s naval stations

Bases in Snohomish and Island counties will practice what to do in an emergency, beginning Wednesday.

EVERETT — Local sailors are getting ready for a major earthquake drill this week.

Every naval base within the northwest region is expected to participate, including Naval Station Everett and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

The exercise is planned for three days, starting Wednesday. People who are close by might hear loudspeaker announcements and notice an increase in emergency vehicles. The bases plan to work with local law enforcement.

Officials don’t tell everyone exactly what’s going to happen, said Kristin Ching, spokeswoman for Naval Station Everett.

“They want to kind of surprise us,” she said. “They want to see us respond to the scenario instead of preplanning too much.”

The groups expect to practice from about 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. daily. Sound systems are going to be used as if it’s an actual emergency. That means they’ll be at full volume.

Naval Station Everett replaced its loudspeakers this summer. Neighbors heard the noises as crews were testing it out. Workers had to go through the full range of volumes to find the right decibel level, Ching said.

There have been more drills at the base lately, with one or two per month. Ching expects that number to go down by the beginning of the year.

“You might have newer people come in and it’s important they get together as a group to respond before an actual crisis,” she said.

The earthquake exercise happens every year. It’s called the Citadel Rumble. Naval bases in the region work together to strengthen communication.

“An earthquake is definitely one of the largest scenarios that are more likely than not to hit this location,” Ching said.

In the case of a real natural disaster, the Navy would have to be federally requested to help the surrounding area. The bases also would set up an organization center, where military families could go for support.

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