Office of Jani Hitchen, Pierce County Council, District 6 announcement.
First, thank you to any of the neighbors on Anderson or Ketron Islands, or those that live in Steilacoom, that stepped up to help shelter or shuttle people stuck between getting home or getting off the island. There were a lot of generous people who opened their homes, their car doors, their parking areas and gave of their time. It is truly a blessing to know people are willing to do this in an emergent situation.
For those who don’t live, work, or visit Anderson or Ketron Island, the County runs a ferry service that provides people and goods a way on and off the islands. On Saturday afternoon there was a failure of one of the generators. While the vessel is capable of safe passage without this equipment working, it is not allowed to do so for safety reasons, per the US Coast Guard’s rules around vessels that move people.
We have two ferries specifically so this type of thing does not happen. But both vessels were out of commission due to systems that needed repairs. One was in process when the second vessel was pulled out of service. When this happened, the emergency response plan for an extended outage was initiated. Yes, there was a plan!
There were parts of the plan that worked great. For instance, though not visible to those watching, the County ferry division worked to assess the damage, source parts for repairs and work with the Coast Guard for possible solutions and workarounds. In addition, they were working through the list of other ferry systems and people moving marine vessels in and around the Sound and beyond. They were working through a list that had already been approved, and initial conversations around costs, timelines, and vessel ability to dock at our facilities.
By Sunday afternoon, the necessary repairs were made that would allow Steilacoom II to return to service. People were finally able to load onto the ferry and service returned to normal.
However, I would like to work on improving the communications aspect of what happened. I saw a lot of rumors and frustrations raised. Some were just people frustrated and venting on social media, but others were based on partial facts and a vacuum of information. I found this troubling. I watched it unfold on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and my email. Once the dust settles, I will work through a debrief of the plan and see how we can improve. Though I always hoped we would never have to use it, now that we have, there is room for improvement.
Publisher’s Note: The above content was taken from Jani’s District 6 email newsletter. Click here to sign up to receive it directly.