Crews prepare for earthquake and tsunami disaster | SierraSun.com

Crews prepare for earthquake and tsunami disaster

Nick Cruit
Sierra Sun

What would you do if a 7.8 magnitude earthquake sent a 30-foot wall of water sloshing about Lake Tahoe like a wave in a bath tub? Be prepared to find out Nov. 6.

As part of Golden Guardian 2008, a series of emergency exercises set up by the California Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, the entire Lake Tahoe region, including California and Nevada state agencies, will be simulating what would happen in the event of a catastrophic 7.8 magnitude earthquake.

While the North Lake Tahoe region will focus on the damage caused by the earthquake, South Lake Tahoe will focus on the effects of a seiche wave, a giant wave created by a significant seismic event.

Agencies taking part in the exercise include the U.S. Forest Service, California State Parks, Calfire, Red Cross, as well as local Emergency Medical Services, hospital personnel, animal advocates and utility companies.

“We will be negotiating facility damage and how to take in an influx of patients,” said Tami Prior of the Tahoe Forest Health System. “We hope to shake out any deficiencies that could happen as a result of the disaster.”

“It’s good training,” said North Tahoe Fire Protection District Chief Duane Whitelaw.

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“When the big one hits it’s nice to have a familiarity for how a big organization comes together rapidly.”

Risk managers are using a scenario based on scientific studies led by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Scripps geophysicist and Tahoe native, Graham Kent. The scenario uses a combination of scientific instruments to produce estimates for earthquake activity over several faults in the region.

Don’t believe a large earthquake could affect Lake Tahoe? Believe it.

Kent and his colleagues calculated the potential for a large, magnitude-seven earthquake occurring approximately every 3,000 years in the area.

Lake Tahoe is one of the world’s deepest freshwater Lakes. At more than 1,600 feet deep, the lake covers 193 square miles over a fault proven to be prone to earthquakes and landslides.

While Prior did not want give away to much information about the drill, she advises everyone to be prepared and be patient with participating agencies.

“This is the biggest drill of it’s kind in the world,” said Tami Prior. “No one exercises the way California does.”

Remaining calm in the face of danger is a difficult task without a plan.

Take the upcoming emergency drill as an opportunity to practice or construct a disaster plan at work and at home.

The North Tahoe Fire Protection District has recently mailed out 12,000 Emergency Preparedness Guides outlining evacuation routes, planning guides and emergency contacts.

Copies of the guide are available at every fire station or online at http://www.ntfire.net if you did not receive one in the mail.