WA Constitutional Amendment on Ballot for Continuity of Government

An amendment to the Washington State constitution will be on the ballot this November to expand government powers in the case of catastrophic incidents. Voters will have the opportunity to either approve or reject the proposed amendment. The measure was passed because of concerns with the effects of a Cascadian Subduction Zone (CSZ) large earthquake and the ability of the government to legally respond. The text of the amendment is as follows, modifying Section 42, Article II (Underlined text is added in the amendment. Strikethrough text is deleted.):

The legislature, in order to insure continuity of state and local governmental operations in periods of emergency resulting from a catastrophic incident or enemy attack, shall have the power and the duty, immediately upon and after adoption of this amendment, to enact legislation providing for prompt and temporary succession to the powers and duties of public offices of whatever nature and whether filled by election or appointment, the incumbents and legal successors of which may become unavailable for carrying on the powers and duties of such offices; the legislature shall likewise enact such other measures as may be necessary and proper for insuring the continuity of governmental operations during such emergencies. Legislation enacted under the powers conferred by this amendment shall in all respects conform to the remainder of the Constitution: Provided, That if, in the judgment of the legislature at the time of ((disaster)) the emergency, conformance to the provisions of the Constitution would be impracticable or would admit of undue delay, such legislation may depart during the period of emergency caused by a catastrophic incident or enemy attack only, from the following sections of the Constitution:

-Article 14, Sections 1 and 2, Seat of Government;
-Article 2, Sections 8, 15 (Amendments 13 and 32), and 22, Membership, Quorum of Legislature and Passage of Bills;
-Article 3, Section 10 (Amendment 6), Succession to Governorship: Provided, That the legislature shall not depart from Section 10, Article III, as amended by Amendment 6, of the state Constitution relating to the Governor’s office so long as any successor therein named is available and capable of assuming the powers and duties of such office as therein prescribed;
-Article 3, Section 13, Vacancies in State Offices;
-Article 11, Section 6, Vacancies in County Offices;
-Article 11, Section 2, Seat of County Government;
-Article 3, Section 24, State Records.

From the Spokesman-Review:

Washington voters worried about “The Big One” – a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered by a geologic fault off the Pacific Coast – might have a special reason to mark their ballot in the November election.

A constitutional amendment was proposed with just such a catastrophe in mind. But opponents say the powers the amendment would give the Legislature are too broad, and the definition of a catastrophic incident that could allow such changes is too vague.

Senate Joint Resolution 8200 sailed through the Legislature as a 21st-century update to a constitutional amendment enacted during the Cold War.

As currently written, that section of the constitution provides for “continuity of governmental operations in periods of emergency resulting from enemy attack.” If a simple majority of voters approve Resolution 8200 on Nov. 5, the section will be broadened so that continuity is ensured not only in case of attack but also in case of “catastrophic incidents.”

Under the existing law, which voters approved in 1962, the Legislature would have the power to move the state capital or a county seat, make changes to the requirements to elect or appoint legislators, pass bills and fill vacancies in state or county offices in the aftermath of an attack. The Legislature could also fill an open governor’s seat if all people in the line of succession set out in the state constitution are unavailable.

In the 2019 session, legislators were more worried about shaking earth and crushing waves than falling bombs, prompting them to add the “catastrophic incidents” clause.

“The catastrophic incident we anticipate will be the big earthquake that will do such damage that we will need to have procedures in place to have government continue operating,” Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, said in introducing the bill to the House last April.

“It’s about The Big One, the earthquake,” Rep. Bill Jenkin, R-Prosser, said. “We know this will be the next disaster.”

The Cascadia Subduction Zone, a major geologic fault line off the Pacific Coast that stretches from Vancouver Island to northern California, has the potential for creating a massive earthquake that could decimate Western Washington and generate a tsunami that would inundate coastal communities.

The quakes occur on an average of 300 to 500 years, with the last one recorded in 1700. The Washington National Guard and the state Emergency Management Division have already mapped out and practiced for responding to a massive quake.

But the amendment doesn’t limit the expanded powers of the Legislature to a quake-induced disaster, nor does it define “catastrophic incident” or how extensive it would have to be, opponents say.

“You would have to trust government to make these decisions with or without your input,” warns the argument against the amendment, co-authored by Rep. Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane Valley. “We should demand a better proposal with clear definitions.”

State statutes do define “catastrophic incident.” It can cover any natural or human-caused event– including terrorism and an enemy attack – with mass casualties, high levels of damage or disruption.

At the same time the Legislature passed the proposed amendment, it also approved a bill that clarifies a governor’s power to suspend certain laws and regulations in a declared emergency for as long 30 days – or more if the Legislature is in session and agrees. If the Legislature is out of session, its leaders can extend that time limit until lawmakers return to session.

Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, argued that was still too broad, and with the potential for problems.

“It could be used by an unscrupulous governor – not saying that we have one,” Hasegawa said. “We have to be careful.”

 

King 5: Prepare to Be on Your Own in a Major PNW Disaster

King 5 News actually had a pretty good article back in December about preparing for a disaster. They did a decent job of listing supplies in order to prepare, other than the expected failure to mention anything about self defense (they do mention having a knife at least). But they cover water pretty well, making plans, preparing for pets, footwear, medication, and using cash so it’s still one of the better mainstream articles I have seen on preparing for a major earthquake. They do fail to say that if you’re living in an outlying area, you may be on your own for well over two weeks, but it’s at least a little implied when they mention responders passing you by to get to more populated areas.

Prepare to be on your own in a major Pacific Northwest disaster

You’re on your own.

If a 9.0 earthquake or a tsunami wipes out homes, roads, bridges, communication, and other infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest, keep that thought in mind. You have to assume no one is coming to help you, and you may not be able to get anywhere to find help, at least for a few days.

It’s not because responders don’t want to help. It’s because, as disaster preparation experts agree, they aren’t ready to jump with a region-wide response when something that big happens.

It’s a sobering thought, and that’s why you need to be ready — now — to be on your own.

“You’re either ready, or you’re not ready (when it strikes). There’s no ‘getting ready’ from that standpoint,” emergency response expert Eric Holdeman said…

If you call 911 because you broke your leg in the quake, guess what. Everyone else is calling 911, too. First responders won’t be able to respond to all of you. They will likely first go to places where there is the highest concentration of people so they can do the most good at once, Holdeman said. That will be schools or nursing homes. If your house is on fire, firefighters may pass you by to get to another, larger disaster scene…

There are some simple things you can start doing now to prepare, and you don’t have to do it all at once.

Prepare for three days?

Nope. Try two weeks…

Thankfully, people are finally understanding that three days of supplies are simply not enough for major disasters. Unfortunately, two weeks is short, too. As we’ve covered before, emergency management officials know that two weeks isn’t enough, but they think they need to slowly introduce you to the idea or you’ll reject it out of hand.

 

City Journal: Off the Richter Scale: Can the PNW Prepare?

Here is another long article on preparing for a major CSZ earthquake from City Journal – Off the Richter Scale: Can the Pacific Northwest prepare for the cataclysmic quake that’s coming? Here is a choice excerpt:

…Local governments can’t possibly stockpile enough food to feed millions during a disaster; they aren’t, in fact, stockpiling anything. People will have to feed themselves until FEMA arrives, and the agency won’t be on the scene in a day, or even a week. Not a single road will be passable. An entire region 100 miles wide and 600 miles long will be ravaged. Many Americans have bemoaned the federal government’s response to Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, but we’ll have hundreds of de facto islands in the Pacific Northwest. Small towns will be cut off, especially in the coastal regions, battered by tsunamis and separated from major population centers by mountain ranges. So the states are partnering with the U.S. military to provide rotary-wing aid drops from Chinooks and Blackhawks onto track fields at schools and similar locations.

Local governments once told everyone to have at least three days’ worth of food on hand that can be prepared without gas or electricity. They have since raised the bar to two weeks. Is that enough? “I don’t trust the federal government to feed me on Day 15,” I say to Phelps. “I don’t either,” he replies. “I openly share your skepticism,” says Jeremy Van Keuren, community resilience manager at PBEM, “but we don’t want to scare people.” It’s hard to encourage citizens to be resilient if they find the prospect too overwhelming. “And the quality of aid we expect to receive at the end of that theoretical two weeks is questionable.” At least it takes four weeks to starve to death…

Emergency management officials know that being prepared for the traditional three days isn’t enough. They know two weeks isn’t enough, but they’re afraid people will tune out if they say to prepare for longer. Don’t be afraid to be prepared.  That people turn off isn’t news in the emergency management field. In the six year old video below, starting around the seven minute mark, an emergency management professional talks about how they’ve stretched preparedness to seven to ten days from 72 hours because that is all that people can handle. She says all the experts say that isn’t long enough.

Risk of Skyscrapers Collapsing in CSZ Earthquake Higher than Thought

New research from the University of Washington has determined that buildings in the Puget Sound lowlands and Willamette Valley will shake more than previously thought in a 9.0 Cascadia fault zone earthquake. Existing high-rise buildings may have a 20-25 percent chance of collapse.

Seismologists and structural engineers associated with the M9 Project at the University of Washington used supercomputers to run dozens of three-dimensional simulations of a magnitude 9.0 rupture of the offshore Cascadia fault zone. UW professor Jeff Berman said the modelling showed enhanced shaking in the vast, sediment-filled basins beneath the Puget Sound lowlands and Willamette Valley. Affected cities include Seattle, Tacoma and Everett, as well as Portland and nearby Tualatin, Oregon.

Berman said when “The Really Big One” hits, the geology of these basins could magnify seismic energy through what he called the “bowl of Jello effect.”

“If you shake a bowl of Jello, you can get the Jello to move a lot faster than the bowl,” he explained in an interview. “That is exactly what is happening in the basin. The ground motions are coming in and you’ve got this bowl that is not as strong and stiff as the surrounding volcanic rock underneath.”

Existing high-rise buildings that were built to minimum code standards have approximately a 20 percent, and maybe as high as 25 percent, probability of collapse, Berman said…

 

Citylab: Vashon Island Community Prepares for Disasters

The Vashon Island community has spent years working to be prepared for an emergency/disaster situation, going as far as forming a non-profit organization – VashonBePrepared – to coordinate the disaster preparedness organizations on the island. From Citylab.com, here is an excerpt from Preparing for ‘The Big One’ in an Isolated Island Town.

…[T]he island community has been building up its emergency preparedness efforts for nearly two decades. The work was initially kicked off when Joseph Ulatoski, a retired brigadier general and island resident, started asking who was responsible if a disaster struck. His questions led to a small group of locals meeting monthly to figure out exactly how they would handle such a situation, Wallace says.

“As time went on, it became clear that we needed to be more organized, structured, and also that we would be in a form that could be recognized by people,” he says.

The result was VashonBePrepared. Today it’s a non-profit, FEMA-sanctioned coalition of the island’s disaster preparedness organizations, including CERT and Voice of Vashon. Its purpose is exclusively to prepare the island for an emergency by helping to coordinate these organizations; it doesn’t actually play a role in real-time response efforts.

“It is a coalition to organize these partner groups to be efficient, avoid redundancy and duplication of effort, and inspire each other to move forward with all these different programs that each of us are running,” says Wallace, who is also the vice president of VashonBePrepared’s executive committee.

One of these key partner organizations is the Neighborhood Emergency Response Organization. Similar, in a sense, to neighborhood watch groups, its leaders have organized hundreds of households into neighborhood groups so they can get to know each other and thus be more likely to help one another if an emergency hits…

Ham radio operators in the emergency operations center radio room. (Courtesy of Rick Wallace)

Click here to read the entire story at CityLab.

California Wildfire Housing Crisis

In what could be a preview of they type of crisis that may be seen in the event of a CSZ earthquake in Washington or Oregon, California is facing a humanitarian crisis in the wake of recent wild fires. Tens of thousands have been evacuated from their homes and 26,000 Paradise residents are now homeless. Norovirus has broken out in three different evacuation shelters. Zero Hedge has consolidated information from several sources in “Situation Growing Worse With Every Passing Day”: Cali Wildfire Sparks New Housing Crisis.

Making things worse, norovirus has broken out in at least three evacuation shelters, requiring isolation tents to try and contain its spread.

As the Sacramento Bee notes – “the situation is growing worse with each passing day.”

Enafaye Nine-Rowe, a member of Chico California Conservation Corps, and California Air National Guard Sgt. Manghirmalani walk past an isolation tent at East Ave Church in Chico on Friday. Daniel Kim dkim@sacbee.com

This is on an order of magnitude beyond what we thought was one of the worst disaster recoveries we would be faced with,” said Kelly Huston, deputy director of governor Jerry Brown’s Office of Emergency Services.

After the Camp Fire erased most of the town of Paradise, destroying more than 9,800 residences, emergency services officials are dealing with what some say is an escalating humanitarian crisis with no quick solutions. Some evacuees will be able to return to unburned homes. Most, now hunkered in hotels, staying with family and friends, or stuck in evacuation centers or unauthorized camps, have no home to return to, and are left wondering where their future lies. –Sacramento Bee

“Wallywood”

Many residents have turned to makeshift communities where sanitation and safety are top concerns. In particular, hundreds of evacuees have been squatting at a camp in a Walmart parking lot, “a ramshackle village some inhabitants call Wallywood, a sardonic mash-up of their location and reduced circumstances,” reports the Bee.

Oregon: No Coastal Hospitals Likely to Be Functional After Large CSZ Quake

A new Oregon State Department of Geology report concludes that “no hospital facilities are likely to be functional due to the expected severity of a magnitude 9 Cascadia earthquake and tsunami damage. Seismic vulnerabilities include building structures; non-structural components that are part of the building as well as equipment; and the limitations of on-site utilities such as power and water. Four of the eleven hospitals are located in the tsunami evacuation zone and face difficulties with tsunami planning. ” The hospitals were constructed before CSZ earthquake expectations were known, and suffere from inadequate seismic resilience.  There are worries about fuel and water accessibility post-quake in addition to the possible damage from the earthquake and tsunami. The hospitals are expected to take over three years to recover from such a quake.

Download the DOGAMI report here (pdf)