Cascadia Rising: Regional Response and Continuity of Operations
Matt Solum, NOAA/National Weather Service, Western Region Headquarters, Salt Lake City, UT
Scott Carpenter, NOAA/National Weather Service, Western Region Headquarters
Leslie Waite, NOAA/National Weather Service, Western Region Headquarters
Jeff Zimmerman, NOAA/National Weather Service, Western Region Headquarters
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Abstract
FEMA Region X hosted a Functional Exercise the week of June 6, 2016 centered around a 9.0 earthquake and associated tsunami off the central Oregon coast. A large magnitude Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) fault earthquake and tsunami is perhaps one of the most complex disaster scenarios that could affect the Pacific Northwest. In this scenario, it is likely that four National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs), a River Forecast Center (RFC) and a Center Weather Service Unit (CWSU) would be taken offline and/or damaged for an unknown, but likely extended period of time.

This multi-agency exercise provided the NWS with an opportunity to test, develop and practice emergency response plans and procedures describing how a regional office could best provide support during and after a significant disaster like a 9.0M earthquake and follow-on tsunami. The expectations were to utilize a simulated major disaster of substantial magnitude  to improve internal collaboration at Western Region Headquarters (WRH) and the Western Region Regional Operations Center (WR ROC) by introducing many of the staff to the fundamental concepts that define the Incident Command System (ICS) . In addition to internal collaboration within WRH and the WR ROC, the exercise also allowed internal NWS testing of continuity of operations and service backup, including AWIPS, among the offices that would likely be offline and/or damaged. The exercise also allowed for testing of hydrologic forecast services provided by the River Forecast Centers (RFC), and emergency communications including HF SHARES Radio, satellite phones and GETs Cards.

This presentation will describe challenges involved with internal coordination and collaboration in developing NWS capabilities for response to a catastrophic natural disaster affecting a large geographic area. Best practices and lessons learned from this exercise will also be shared.