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Exercise tests local readiness

Randy Dobbins, of Arlington Heights Fire District 21, right, plans the next step with the Chief Dennis Fenstermaker, of Darrington Fire District 24, left, at a fast water river rescue training on the Sauk River Sunday May 31. - Sarah Arney
Randy Dobbins, of Arlington Heights Fire District 21, right, plans the next step with the Chief Dennis Fenstermaker, of Darrington Fire District 24, left, at a fast water river rescue training on the Sauk River Sunday May 31.
— image credit: Sarah Arney

ARLINGTON — If you hear lots of sirens at 9 a.m., Friday, June 5, don’t panic.

The city of Arlington and its partners in emergency preparedness are planning an exercise with earthquake big enough to cause moderate to heavy damage citywide, according the emergency management coordinator Chris Badger.

Cascade Valley Hospital will become very busy with injured victims, a local school will sustain heavy damage with several injured students, and downtown businesses are asked to determine if they need help or not, Badger said, explaining what to expect.

It’s an exercise to test the city’s level of preparedness after two years of planning, Badger said.

It is also part of a larger regional exercise conducted by the state Department of Health for all hospitals in Snohomish, Skagit, Island, Whatcom and San Juan counties.

“What really brings this together is the fact that the three main entities in the city are working together,” said Mayor Margaret Larson.

“We have been planning and coordinating preparedness and now we get a chance to test out some of our abilities in regards to a moderate earthquake.”

The exercise will be good practice for the hospital, too, according to its chief executive officer Clark Jones.

“The hospital handles multiple patients on a daily basis but adding in a significant number from a local school will really tax our system,” Jones said. “This will give us a better picture of what it will look when we have a large number of injured,” he added.

“We will also be testcommunications among the city, the schools and other regional hospitals which will give us a good indication as to where our holes may be and how we can fix them,” Jones added.

Even students are getting involved.

“Our students are excited about participating in the exercise,” said Superintendent Kristine McDuffy.

“It will give our school emergency team a chance to practice their communication capabilities,” she said.

Downtown businesses, too, are in the game. They’ve been asked to put their choice of sign on the outside of their buildings at 9 a.m. to identify various types of damage.

“Once the earthquake occurs, city employees will go to their disaster rally areas to conduct surveys of damage,” Rankin said.

“They will document the damages they see from the signs and report back to department heads in the emergency operations center where the information will be mapped to help prioritize emergency services.”

Ed Erlandson, of the Arlington Police Department, said that appraising the situation is the hardest thing to do.

“We must conduct a city-wide damage assessment before actually assisting residents so that we can do the most good for the most people,” Erlandson said. “That means prioritizing and we can’t do that effectively if we continually stop to assist the first person we come to. That is why we are asking residents to prepare themselves and their families to be on their own for the first hours after a disaster.”

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