- October 15’s Great Washington ShakeOut drill reveals City’s Emergency Operations Center radio system was boxed up and inoperable since the remodeling more than a year ago.
- City claimed regular drills with activated EOC.
- State law requires annual emergency plan drills.
- City skipped signing up last year to participate in four-day Cascadia Rising drill next year, joining after Sammamish Comment revealed the inaction.
- Ten days later inoperative radio system discovered in EOC.
- 12 days later City skips its own Preparedness Fair.
- State law requires plan update every two years; last plan dated 2012, being updated now.
The City of Sammamish was a sponsor of the Sammamish Disaster Preparedness Fair held Saturday in City Hall, but it skipped the event. There was no City table or personnel to provide information to citizens of what to do or how to prepare for a major disaster, or to explain just what the City’s role would be in such an event.
Eastside Fire and Rescue and Sammamish Police had tables. So did the Sammamish Citizens Corp, Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District, the Red Cross and several private enterprises displaying (and selling) survival kits. There was even a hot dog stand selling refreshments.
But no table from City Hall.
Sammamish’s own five year old Emergency Management Plan says “City and County governments will take the lead in managing public health, safety and welfare services.”
But as Sammamish Comment revealed October 5, the City skipped signing up last year to participate in a multi-state, multi-jurisdictional, international four-day earthquake disaster drill next June called Cascadia Rising.
Less than 24 hours after The Comment made inquiries with City Council Members and the City Administration, officials began notifying drill coordinators the City will participate after all. Yet 12 days later, no one from City Hall had a table at the City’s own Sammamish Disaster Preparedness Fair.
More alarming, just 10 days after The Comment revealed the Cascadia Rising issue, and nine days after City Manager Ben Yazici called concerns part of the political “silly season” and assured the City Council the City regularly participated in drills, the State held the Great Washington ShakeOut drill. The City activated its Emergency Operations Center–only to find that the radio system was still in boxes from a major remodeling and updating 18 months ago.
City Manager Yazici said in a September 1 City Council meeting that the two water districts in the City are the “appropriate agencies” to participate in Cascadia Rising, but the City’s own Emergency Management Plan (EMP) makes it clear that City Council members and City appointed officials have key roles in any emergency.
“The…plan is for the use of elected and appointed city officials in preparing for, responding to, recovering from and mitigating natural and human-caused disasters,” the first sentence of the EMP says.
Under State law, “it is the responsibility of the City of Sammamish to prepare for, respond to, recover from and mitigate disasters,” the EMP says–not the water districts, which have their own required duties. Responsibility by the jurisdictions must be implemented “cooperatively,” the EMP says.
“Within Sammamish, City government is the primary provider of emergency response services,” the EMP says.
The EOC’s “communications system…provide[s] interoperability with such regional governments as King County, City of Redmond, City of Issaquah, NE Sammamish Sewer & Water District and Sammamish Plateau Water & Sewer District, as well as the Issaquah and Lake Washington School Districts and the components of Eastside Fire and Rescue,” the EMP says.
Except that for nearly 18 months, the radio system was in boxes.
Primary City Responsibilities
Under the EMP, the City is the lead agency within City limits to coordinate emergency response–not the fire department, not the police department, not County or State agencies and not special purpose districts like the Water Districts or School Districts.
Search and rescue, recovery, repairing infrastructure, restoring services–these are all City responsibilities.
Additionally, it will be the City’s responsibility to establish emergency shelters and supply food and water to its residents who don’t have their own emergency plans, supplies and shelter. Under the EMP, schools, fire stations and City facilities are designated as shelters. So are City parks, which become tent cities and sanitation locations.
Telling the public
But how will the public know what the City will do?
The EMP calls for use of KIRO Radio, the designated emergency radio station–which will have all of Puget Sound and beyond to cover–to disseminate information. Use of the City government Channel 21 is called for–if power is available. So is the City’s own emergency radio channel, AM 540–but even City Council members last week said they didn’t know of the channel’s station and that it wasn’t on the City’s website.
Advance information is essential to Sammamish citizens in preparing for a natural or man-made disaster, and the City-sponsored Sammamish Disaster Preparedness Fair last Saturday was a good opportunity for the City to have a table to share this information. But the City skipped the Fair.
Since October 5, it’s become known that:
- Sammamish skipped signing up last year for the Cascadia Rising drill, belatedly doing so only after Sammamish Comment revealed the matter;
- The radio system, critical to inter-agency coordination for the City’s Emergency Operations Center, has been inoperative for nearly 18 months; and
- Sammamish skipped its own Disaster Preparedness Fair last Saturday.
On October 31, the Sammamish Citizens Corp holds its Info Hub from 9am to 1pm, which provides preparedness information. (Since this falls on Halloween, the Citizens Corp also offers a prize to children dressed in Halloween costumes who come to the Hubs with their parents.) Additional information is here.
This is the next opportunity for the City to participate. Whether it will or not remains to be seen.
State Law Requirements
Sammamish is in violation of at least one and possibly two State laws regarding emergency planning.
RCW 118-30-060 (7) mandates that the EMP “shall be reviewed and updated at least once every two calendar years.” (Emphasis added.) The last plan is dated 2012, which means it should have been updated in 2014. The City is currently updating the plan, but it is unclear when this will be completed.
The same RCW, paragraph (8), requires, “No less than once each calendar year, the operational capabilities shall be tested by an emergency operations exercise or by an actual local emergency declaration.”
Although City Manager Yazici claimed at the October 6 Council Meeting that regular exercises had been undertaken, doing so makes it hard to explain how the EOC radio system remained boxed up, undiscoverd, since the remodeling of the EOC about 18 months ago. Sammamish Comment understands there were additional issues uncovered during the Great Washington ShakeOut exercise October 15.
Furthermore, one City Council Member told Sammamish Comment that the last emergency action was the major snow storm as few years ago. He does not recall any emergency drills on an annual basis in recent years.
Calling Concerns part of the political “silly season”
At the October 6 Council Meeting at which Yazici mounted an aggressive defense of the City’s emergency planning, he criticized concerns expressed by Sammamish Comment and its editor as derived by the current election’s political “silly season.” The remark is unfortunate and wrong. The timing of the Great Washington ShakeOut and the Sammamish Disaster Preparedness Fair fell within October. The election is when it is. Sammamish Comment learned of the Cascadia Rising issue at the end of September.
The evidence and inactions by the City Council are clear: emergency preparedness has been given lip service, if that, by the City Administration and the City Council. There has been a failure of leadership throughout the City government.
If this is political silly season, so be it. But if officials think this issue is going away at 8pm November 3 when the polls close, think again.