Puyallup of­fi­cials test them­selves in nat­u­ral-dis­as­ter prepa­ra­tion drill

The News Tribune - - Local - BY AL­LI­SON NEE­DLES anee­dles@puyallupher­ald.com

Early Wed­nes­day morn­ing, the news rolled in: the Puyallup River was flood­ing. It wasn’t true — only part of an ex­er­cise — but Puyallup of­fi­cials pre­tended it was the real deal.

“The whole thing is de­signed to test our shel­ter process,” said Tyler Eid­son, Puyallup shel­ter man­ager for the ex­er­cise.

With the city’s Puyallup River prone to flood­ing, city of­fi­cials say it’s im­por­tant to pre­pare for the worst.

That’s why Puyallup Emer­gency Man­ager Kirstin Hof­mann spent the past six months help­ing co­or­di­nate the ex­er­cise.

“There has not been a full-scale shel­ter ex­er­cise in the county for at least five years,” Hof­mann said.

The full-scale ex­er­cises are so rare, in fact, that when other agen­cies found out what Hof­mann was work­ing on, they wanted to be a part of it. There were more than 100 par­tic­i­pants, rep­re­sent­ing the cities of Ort­ing, Belle­vue, Seat­tle, Lake­wood, Kent and other or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Wash­ing­ton State Fair, the Puyallup School Dis­trict and the Amer­i­can Red Cross.

The last ma­jor flood­ing of the Puyallup River hap­pened al­most a decade ago, when more than 40,000 Pierce County res­i­dents were urged to evac­u­ate their homes, The News Tri­bune’s Ja­son Hagey re­ported in Jan­uary 2009.

Puyallup res­i­dents can rest easy know­ing that if it ever hap­pens again, plans are in place — and the city is work­ing out the kinks.

So how did they fare, ex­actly?

Af­ter the call came in, city of­fi­cials gath­ered early Wed­nes­day at its Emer­gency Op­er­a­tions Cen­ter, lo­cated at 2200 39th Ave. SE in Puyallup, which serves as head­quar­ters dur­ing a dis­as­ter such as a flood.

There, they formed teams, from com­mu­ni­ca­tions to lo­gis­tics to plan­ning. Their ob­jec­tives?

En­sure the safety of all A re­spon­ders.

Ini­ti­ate evac­u­a­tion and A shel­ter­ing ac­tions.

Ac­ti­vate and open a

A shel­ter to house about 75 peo­ple.

Pre­pare an ac­tion plan A for fol­low­ing shift to pick up where staff left off.

Dur­ing the ex­er­cise, staff placed a map of the flooded Puyallup area on the wall and mon­i­tored

the river’s rise. In a true dis­as­ter, they wouldn’t know ex­actly when the river would crest, but they try to make a pre­dic­tion.

They also wouldn’t know how long the flood­ing would last but must pre­pare for the next op­er­a­tional crew to take over. Once one group’s shift is over, the next crew must be pre­pared to take the reins seam­lessly.

Pub­lic in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer Brenda Fritsvold acted as part of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions team Wed­nes­day. In the event of a real emer­gency, cit­i­zen calls are di­verted to a call cen­ter at the EOC, where they are then di­rected to Fritsvold. Those ques­tions could range from “I hear the river is flood­ing. Is that true?” to “Where do I go for shel­ter?”

In an emer­gency, all up­dated in­for­ma­tion would be posted to the city’s so­cial me­dia ac­counts and housed on its web­site.

On Wed­nes­day, peo­ple in need of shel­ter — in this case, vol­un­teer ac­tors — gath­ered at the Puyallup Nazarene Church at 1026 7th Ave SW. The Nazarene Church, in ad­di­tion to the Bethany Bap­tist Church at 713 S. Hill Park Drive in Puyallup, are real shel­ters the city would use in an emer­gency. The Wash­ing­ton State Fair also would serve as a shel­ter for farm

TONY OVERMAN tover­man@the­olympian.com

Trixy Pe­taia of Fife waits on her cot as fel­low dis­as­ter ac­tors ar­rive at the emer­gency shel­ter ex­er­cise in the Puyallup Nazarene Church on Wed­nes­day. Pe­taia grew up in Amer­i­can Samoa and has lived through two hur­ri­canes, in­clud­ing one that re­quired her fam­ily go­ing to shel­ter af­ter the roof of their house was torn off. “It is very scary. And prepa­ra­tion is key,” she said.

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