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A tsunami preparedness strategy for the Port of Bellingham

A tsunami preparedness strategy for the Port of Bellingham

Port of Bellingham gets tsunami preparedness advice from state in first-of-its-kind strategy

The Washington Emergency Management Division has completed a Tsunami Maritime Response and Mitigation Strategy for the Port of Bellingham to help the region better prepare for a potential tsunami.

It’s the first maritime strategy developed for the state of Washington, but not the last. Next up: Grays Harbor’s Westport Marina.

“Tsunamis are a risk for all of the coastal communities in Washington State, including our vulnerable port and marina facilities located along the shoreline,” said Maximilian Dixon, the geologic hazards supervisor for the Washington Emergency Management Division. “These facilities are central to the maritime community and are an integral part of the Washington economy.”

“It is an honor to be the first jurisdiction chosen to work through development of this strategy with our state’s Emergency Management Division, Geologic Survey and SeaGrant,” said Kurt Baumgarten, environmental planner for the Port of Bellingham. “The Port looks forward to applying the guidance to our tsunami preparation and planning efforts.”

The Tsunami Maritime Response and Mitigation Strategy for the Port of Bellingham was built upon established maritime guidance from the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP) that has been used to create maritime strategies in California, Oregon and Alaska. This strategy will be used as a template to create strategies for other ports and marinas across the state, which will help them reduce their tsunami risk.

“We hope this strategy will help the maritime communities in Washington more fully understand the tsunami risk they face and assist them in their tsunami planning efforts,” Dixon said.

This is a chart that looks at the response measures the Port of Bellingham could take for a tsunami.  It looks at the specific response measure and then looks to see if it is suitable for the Port of Bellingham. The response is listed as Yes if suitable or under review or No.  Response Measures 	Suitable for Port of Bellingham  Shut down infrastructure before tsunami waves arrive 	Yes  Evacuate public/vehicles from waterfront areas 	Yes  Restrict boats from moving during the tsunami 	Yes  Prevent ships from entering harbor during the tsunami 	Yes  Secure boat/ship moorings 	Yes  Personal floatation devices for port staff 	Yes  Stage emergency equipment outside affected area 	Yes  Activate mutual aid system as necessary 	Yes  Activate incident command at evacuation sites 	Yes  Alert key First Responders at a local level 	Yes  Restrict traffic entering the Port, aid traffic evacuating 	Yes  Identify personnel to assist rescue, survey, and salvage 	Yes  Identify boat owners/individuals who live aboard vessels; establish phone tree or other notification process 	Yes  Repositioning ships within the harbor – ONLY FOR DISTANT EVENT 	Review  Remove small boats/assets from water 	Review  Remove hazardous materials away from water 	Review  Remove buoyant assets away from water 	Review  Moving boats and ships out of harbor 	No  Move large, deep keeled ships from harbor entrances 	No

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce provided funding to the Washington Emergency Management Division to work with ports and regional partners on tsunami preparedness activities.

Among the most vulnerable facilities to tsunami impacts are ports and marinas, which are often built on land created from dredged soil and are thus susceptible to liquefaction in addition to tsunami impacts, notes state Tsunami Program Coordinator Jacob Witcraft, who helped write the report and oversaw many discussions with partners. Ports are a vital component of the maritime industry, which is comprised of key infrastructure for transportation, travel and commerce, Witcraft says.

This is a graphic illustration. It shows a boater in the middle and surrounding the boater are a number of icons and text. The purpose of the graphic is to show that the boater has a lot to think about as a tsunami might be approaching. From the top, it says Vessel Capability and Speed, Provisions and Equipment, Time Before Tsunami Impact, Distance to Land or deep water, skill level of crew, weather, tide stage and state of sea, communication services, vessel draft.

The ability of ports to withstand a disaster and resume operations quickly will be a major factor in the recovery of the local community and economy in the short and long term. Contained within the strategy are specific actions that the maritime community can take to reduce their risk before a tsunami occurs and protect themselves during a tsunami. This guidance is intended for small craft (vessels under 300 gross tons) such as recreational sailing and motor vessels, and commercial fishing vessels.

Witcraft notes the modeling was completed by the University of Washington and the Washington SeaGrant. The Washington Geological Survey produced a suite of Port of Bellingham-focused maps and graphics for the project including a modeled minimum water depth map, a first for the inner coast of Washington.

Measures can be undertaken to improve response capability and mitigate the risk as much as possible, Witcraft says. These response and mitigation actions can help save lives, make the Port more resilient and reduce the time it takes for the Port to recover, thus restoring an integral part of the maritime infrastructure and economy. They can also enhance the Port’s resiliency to more frequent hazards such as extreme storm events, unusually high tides and floods.

The maritime industry in Washington is a $21.6 billion industry contributing directly and indirectly to 146,000 jobs and $30 billion in economic activity.

Read the report at this link. Learn more about the Port of Bellingham