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Jun 26, 2018

Washington Emergency Management Division

Washington helping Hawaii's volcano response

Posted by Washington Emergency Management Division

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A “spatter cone” from a fissure to  the Kilauea volcano goes 180 feet into the air. (USGS Photo)


Washington IMT heads to Hawaii for volcano response, as EMD program coordinator returns

Washington’s volcano program coordinator is returning from a five-day stint in Hawaii, observing the erupting Kilauea volcano, just as a new six-person team is being dispatched to continue operations.

Brian Terbush, who helps with preparedness activities for Washington EMD’s volcano program, said he spent the time working out of an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Hawaii.

“Our state has enormous volcanic threats and this was a great opportunity to get hands-on experience working in an EOC, which is responding to an active volcano threat,” Terbush said. “We have a lot we can learn from this.”

On Friday, Washington EMD’s Logistics Division also received a call for more help from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency under the national Emergency Management Assistance Compact.

A six-person support team, comprised half of employees from the state Department of Health and half from the state Department of Corrections, have responded to the call for help. The six-person Washington Incident Management team will conduct EOC operations to facilitate continuity of operations, planning and logistics at the Hawaii County Emergency Operations Center in Hilo for the current eruption of the Kilauea Volcano. The team travels June 26, reports to work June 27 and is expected to travel home on July 11. Hawaii is paying for the endeavor.

Type 3 teams manage initial action, extended attack, or expanding incidents sometimes until transitional teams can arrive or until completion of the incident. Both the DOC and DOH team members have experience in type 3 events and incidents

Washington state has responded in recent years to Emergency Management Assistance Compact requests for assistance in California, responding to wildfires, as well as to the East Coast for states facing hurricane threats.


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A lava channel from the erupting Kilauea volcano enters the ocean eight miles away. (USGS Photo)


Terbush says he’d love to go back if they need his help again. Terbush said he also worked with staff from the Cascades Volcano Observatory, typically based out of Vancouver, Washington; but who were also on loan in Hawaii.

“This is such a unique opportunity,” Terbush said. “I received a better idea for how a state EOC responds to a volcanic crisis, how they support the locals and respond to FEMA and work with other groups like USGS and Civil Defense in Hawaii. There’s especially a lot of work for such a geographically isolated event. We have a lot in common despite the different eruption sites. When our volcanoes erupt, there will be the same uncertainty in a timeline and a view from a distance and we’ll have to think about what would happen long into the future.”

All of this is happening as Washington state officials improve their own preparedness level for volcanoes here. Washington state has five major volcanoes in the Cascade Range – Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams.

On June 27, Terbush is hosting a tabletop exercise at Camp Murray with local, state and federal jurisdictions to talk about what would happen if Mount Rainier were to erupt.

“We’re going to make sure all of our standard operating procedures are synced up,” Terbush said, noting that the exercise is about ensuring that not just scientists and first responders are in the loop on eruption notices, but the public at large, too.

In October, a five-day, full scale exercise is also planned in Whatcom County involving a hypothetical Mount Baker eruption, which will look at administrative decisions, include a search and rescue exercise, how the area would respond to a lahar (a giant mudflow) and how to deal with recovery planning. The exercise comes on the tails of a similar one last year that looked at cross-border communications between Canada and the U.S.

Terbush says if residents are worried about volcanoes in their own backyard, they should first know if their home is in the path of a potential lahar by contacting their local emergency management office or look up their Volcano Hazard Information Map via the state Department of Natural Resources.

Residents can also sign up for notifications about their local volcanoes, courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey.

More information about preparedness and our state’s volcanoes can be found at https://www.mil.wa.gov/volcano

Follow live updates on Kilauea in Hawaii via USGS Volcanoes.