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Preparing for ‘The Big One’ in an Isolated Island Town

Vashon Island is just a few miles from Seattle. But if a major earthquake hits, the community expects to feel a world away.
Vashon Island residents work in their Emergency Operations Center to discuss how to respond should a major earthquake take place.
Vashon Island residents work in their Emergency Operations Center to discuss how to respond should a major earthquake take place.Courtesy of Rick Wallace

When the ground starts shaking, Rick Wallace has three things to do: check on his wife and house, find his emergency stashes of food and water, and get to work.

As the manager of the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) on Washington State’s Vashon Island, it’s up to him to get the emergency operation team in motion when “the big one” hits the Pacific Northwest. That means jumping on his ham radio and instructing each volunteer member in the community to go to EOC headquarters (a large space at the main fire station) and report to the Island Incident Commander (normally the fire chief).