If you are near the Coast Guard base this morning and hear the tsunami warning sirens go off and see emergency vehicles rolling, it is OK. That is what is supposed to be happening.
From 9:00 to 11:00 base personnel will be conducting a major tsunami simulation that will test all aspects of the base emergency operations.
Lt. Commander Kyle Ensley is the Assistant Facility Engineer on base. He says the drill will give the new tsunami plan for the base a live test to see what works and what needs to be rethought.
He says today’s big two-hour-long test is in response to what planners learned following the 2011 Fukushima quake and tsunami. Mainly that Kodiak’s previous 100-foot evacuation zone isn’t high enough in many areas, and that the old refuge point on base—Peterson Elementary School—would be underwater if such a massive wave was to hit.
“The worst case scenario here at Coast Guard Base Kodiak is much worse than the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake. The worst case scenario would inundate the majority of the central portion of Base Kodiak. It would inundate a quarter of our family housing areas. And our former tsunami preparedness kind of bunker would be inundated.”
Ensley says the new evacuation safe spot is the Federal Aviation Administration Tower basement, which is fully stocked and ready to receive evacuees. The tower got a real-time work out back in January when Kodiak was awaiting a possible tsunami following a massive quake in the Gulf of Alaska.
“Peterson Elementary used to be one of our major refuges and it is no longer safe. Based on the worse case predictions of the USGS. So we have reestablished new tsunami refuges and the primary refuge for the Peterson Elementary students and staff is the FAA Tower here on Base Kodiak.”
Other refuge locations include:
The steam plant on Nyman Peninsula
Aviation Hill Housing
Lake Louise Housing
And the Communication Center at the Buskin Lake.
For today’s exercise, people on base who are not directly involved in the drill are welcome to go to evacuation areas for the practice of it. In fact, Ensley says it’s a good time to learn where the evacuation locations are, and what your family will need to know if a real tsunami hits.
Otherwise, things should run pretty much as normal on base.
Again, if you are near the base between 9 and 11 am, expect to hear the tsunami sirens and to see movement of emergency equipment and other machinery.