When it comes to natural hazards in Puyallup, the area is vulnerable to pretty much all of them.
In past years, Puyallup has dealt with its fair share of flooding, severe weather, earthquakes and landslides. And with Mount Rainier not far away, Puyallup is also one of the many cities vulnerable to a volcanic eruption and lahars.
With all of that in mind, Kristin Hofmann, emergency operations manager for the city of Puyallup, said it’s best for Puyallup residents to be aware of what they can do to stay safe in any scenario.
“Our recommendation is all-hazards preparation — be prepared for anything,” Hofmann said.
Once every five years, Puyallup tackles an update to its Hazard Mitigation Plan. The plan “serves as a blueprint for reducing risks to life and property by lessening the impact of known potential hazards.” The plan aims to achieve a variety of goals, including reducing the “vulnerability of the City’s economy to disaster” and improving “community understanding of the particular hazards that threaten the city.”
So how do these natural hazards rank in Puyallup? According to Puyallup’s current Hazard Mitigation Plan, Puyallup is most vulnerable to earthquakes. In 2001, Puyallup sustained damage from a 6.8 earthquake, but is at risk for more damage if a shallower earthquake were to occur.
Puyallup is also at risk when it comes to volcanic eruptions. Mount Rainier is one of the most hazardous mountains in the world due to the population within the mountain’s lahar zone, which includes Puyallup. Windstorms are tied with volcanic hazards with the second highest rating among the hazards affecting Puyallup. Strong wind batters Puyallup more frequently than other hazards, and windstorms occur annually. Other severe storm hazards include snow, ice and freezing rain. Residents on South Hill are more vulnerable to severe storms, being located on higher land than the Puyallup Valley.
But the most common hazard in Puyallup has to do with flooding. Flooding, as well as earthquakes, can also result in landslide hazards, several of which occurred this year.
The Hazard Mitigation Plan is updated as new land is annexed and population grows. And now, the Hazard Mitigation Plan prepares for more than just natural hazards.
“One of the biggest things we’ve added is all the technological and man-made (hazards),” said Debbie Bailey, program coordinator for the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management.
This year, the Hazard Mitigation Plan looks more closely at man-made hazards such as abandoned mines, levees and dams, terrorism and even wild urban interfaces, or forests mixing with urban areas that could increase fire risks.
Bailey said new hazards are always being considered.
“In our next update, we want to look more at climate change,” she said.
An open house was held on Nov. 14 to inform the public about the updated plan and to hear comments and concerns from citizens. There, citizens also learned some tips for what to do in such events.
Residents can prepare by having plans for what to do during emergencies or evacuations, making sure their homes are retrofitted and up-to-code for earthquake risks and creating “Grab-N-Go Buckets.” Hofmann supplied residents with a checklist of supplies they should have in their emergency buckets, and to keep them inside both cars and houses, just in case:
▪ Toiletry kit
▪ First Aid Kit
▪ Trash bags
▪ Important documents
▪ Weather radio
▪ Pocket knife
▪ Roll of duct tape
▪ Adult poncho
▪ Toilet paper
▪ Water and non-perishable food
▪ Cell phone charger
▪ Change of clothes
▪ Games and Toys
Residents can also sign up for Pierce County ALERT, which is a free service that sends emergency alerts that may affect neighborhoods, workplaces and schools through text messages or emails. Residents can sign up at piercecountywa.gov.
The updated Hazard Mitigation Plan will be presented to the State and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and will be completed next year.