Navy prepares for worst-case disaster

NAS Whidbey Island will conduct an earthquake simulation June 13-17.

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island will be conducting an earthquake simulation as part of an annual, multi-day disaster response exercise called Citadel Rumble on June 13-17.

Naval Base Kitsap, Naval Magazine Indian Island and Naval Station Everett are also participating.

The exercise tests the Navy installations’ ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from hazards caused by a natural disaster. Each year the team chooses a disaster to simulate.

“There’s a FEMA list of ten most likely all-hazards events — earthquakes, wildfires, seismic events like volcanoes, things like that — that we train to certain readiness levels for,” said Shawn Lightfritz, NAS Whidbey operational readiness and training officer.

This year’s exercise is carrying over from last year, when the exercise simulated the day of the earthquake to four days after. This year the training will run from day 10 to 14.

“Last year’s exercise was focused on the initial response,” Lightfritz said. “This year’s exercise is more focused on the transition from initial response to consequence management.”

NAS Whidbey is required to run four exercises a year.

Citadel Rumble is a national-level exercise. The response areas focused on are finance, operations, logistics and planning sections.

“I, as the training officer, write a scenario that challenges each one of those sections with certain cues to drive them into working their issues through their plans,” he said. “This year’s exercise, we’re focusing on identifying mass casualties and dealing with that.”

The training will involve people who are injured or misplaced. The administrative section will focus on how to identify all the casualties, as well as all of the survivors in the area. They are also simulating damage to a large portion of the flight line and many buildings on base.

There are three levels of exercises. One is a tabletop exercise where people are gathered in a room to have a discussion. The command post exercise takes the plans that came out of those discussions to test if the plan actually works.

The last step is a full scale exercise where people are out in the street and the simulated disaster and response is acted out.

The United States Geological Survey is also involved.

“Last year we had USGS actually on scene,” Lightfritz said. “They were doing core sampling on the base for seismic studies and they sat in on our exercise and requested to come back this year to participate in the exercise again.”

The Southern Whidbey Island fault is an earthquake-causing geologic fault that passes through the southern part of the island. The exercise involves a worst-case scenario of a Cascadia subduction zone slip.

“We are 200 years overdue for that event,” Lightfritz said.

FEMA scaled back their Cascadia Rising exercise to a tabletop exercise due to COVID.

“But us being the Navy we soldiered on as if it was a normal year and we just continued on with our exercise,” Lightfritz said.

People near NAS Whidbey may see or hear activities related to the exercise but it is not expected to impact the public outside Navy property. Exercise activity that might be observed include messages played over the Navy’s emergency notification loudspeaker system and increased emergency response vehicle and personnel activity, according to a press release.