City of Puyallup announcement.
The City of Puyallup has partnered with local school districts and area jurisdictions to host the largest lahar drill in the country. On April 29, 2022, students from five participating school districts in east Pierce County will walk their respective lahar evacuation routes and get hands-on experience in emergency preparedness.
Starting at 9 am, students, along with the assistance of faculty and first-responders, will walk their respective lahar evacuation routes. This drill will allow students to familiarize themselves with the routes and provide them with the tools to be prepared for a real-life scenario. Preparation and education are key messages that the City and partnering school districts want to instill in the next generation of Pierce County residents. During the drill, three Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs) around east Pierce County will be activated, with each one managed by local law enforcement and emergency responders to make sure that the drill is implemented smoothly.
Puyallup Police Chief Scott Engle comments on the importance of preparedness. “We know that if a real-life lahar were to happen, the Cities of Puyallup, Orting, Sumner, Bonney Lake, and other areas will be impacted,” says Engle. “The response needs to be regional. That is why we have partnered with all these communities to host a region-wide drill. Preparedness matters, and if we can teach young people to be prepared, that helps us from a law enforcement perspective when we respond to these emergencies.”
The idea behind this region-wide drill came during the formation of EPIC, which stands for East Pierce Interlocal Coalition. Formed in 2021, EPIC is a cooperative between Emergency Management departments and first responders from seven cities and towns in east Pierce County, including Bonney Lake, Buckley, Carbonado, Orting, Puyallup, Sumner, and Wilkeson. EPIC’s mission is to protect the lives and property of residents through preparedness and mitigation activities.
Kirstin Hofmann, City Emergency Manager, says that the drill is the culmination of many months of meeting, planning, and coordination between emergency responders and school districts. “We sat down with each school district in the region and came up with a plan for evacuating their students,” says Hofmann. “It took a lot of work, but we really need to thank each school district. They are the ones with boots on the ground handling the kids and getting them evacuated safely. Communication has been critical to this drill, and the schools have been fantastic with keeping an open line of communication with us.”
The drill is for students and faculty only. On the morning of April 29th, residents should expect higher than normal pedestrian traffic in Puyallup, Sumner, Orting, and other areas of east Pierce County. Please drive with caution and expect longer commute times. Although the drill is for students and faculty only, residents are highly encouraged to educate themselves on lahar preparation tips. Some tips to get started can include the following.
- Make a Plan – Identify the evacuation route nearest your home and plan how you are going to evacuate.
- Have an Emergency Kit – Stock your kit with essential items such as an N95 mask, first aid, water, food, a flashlight, blankets, and other items.
- Communicate – Create a list of phone numbers for family members and friends. Establish regular contact with them before, during, and after an emergency.
A lahar, an Indonesian term for “mudflow”, is a debris flow composed of rocks and water that typically flows down after a volcano eruption along a riverbed. A lahar can also occur during a non-eruptive state, also called a “no-notice lahar.” Mt. Rainier, one of the most breathtaking natural wonders of Washington, is an active volcano with a high probability of an eruption. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) predicts a lahar event to occur in the next 500 to 1,000 years. If a lahar occurs, communities along the Puyallup Valley would be subject to imminent danger. For more information about lahar detection and Mt. Rainier, please go to the USGS website at www.usgs.gov.