The City of Seward will conduct an emergency preparedness drill this Friday, April 19, the first in what Assistant City Manager Brennan Hickok hopes will be an annual effort to assess the city’s response to natural disasters, particularly earthquakes and tsunamis.
The exercise comes on this year’s Good Friday, a nod to the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake and associated tsunami that devastated waterfront Seward and left a permanent mark on the city.
“The whole purpose is two-fold,” said Hickok. “One is for the city and the city’s departments to identify what they’re supposed to do, where they’re supposed to be, and then figure out where the holes are already existing in our system, because we’ve gotten some public backlash from the last couple events.”
Some residents have complained of mixed messaging and faulty communication during tsunami warnings for the Seward area last year. During a November tsunami warning, the Kenai Peninsula Borough incorrectly signaled the all-clear and subsequently reversed itself, a maneuver that the city copied.
Hickok hopes the exercise will help the city, “establish a baseline,” assessment of the city’s capabilities and, “identify some areas that require improvement.”
“And then next year conduct another one and grow from there,” he added.
The drill will feature tsunami warnings that will sound like the real thing, as was the case with a March 27 drill held by the Kenai Peninsula Borough. The city will set up its Emergency Operations Center at City Hall, and city departments will go through the motions of a disaster response.