The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Heidi Zemach
For The LOG 

Visitors shaken at fire department open house


Heidi Zemach | For The LOG

Tony Luiken, outreach specialist with the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management ran the new earthquake simulator truck, during Seward Fire Department's open house on Saturday.

The main attraction was the earthquake simulator that shook and rolled for the 35 visitors to a Seward Fire Department open house on Saturday. The Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management division's new earthquake simulator truck traveled to Seward, then on to Moose Pass over the weekend. It has been travelling the state, from community to community, and had just returned from its first trip to the Crab Festival in Kodiak.

People could sit inside the truck on one of the plush car seats, without seat belts, and hang onto a single grip bar as they were violently shaken for about 45 seconds, thus experiencing what an actual earthquake might feel like. Those who ran the simulation began at a moderate 4.5 magnitude and gradually increased the shaking to the level of a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, while standing outside and calmly explaining what they were doing. Participants were reminded that the 1964 Alaska earthquake measured 9.2 and lasted five minutes.

In case the experience wasn't quite realistic enough, a small monitor mounted on the front wall showed a video of what appeared to be two terrified teenagers inside a car that was also being shaken, its windows eventually smashing.

Most children thought the experience was pretty fun, and asked to go again, said operator Tony Luiken, an outreach specialist for the state Division of Emergency Management. But everyone realized a little more graphically how violently an actual earthquake can shake, and perhaps the experience would move them to plan ahead for the actual thing. There were informational brochures and emergency plans folks could take and fill out.

Prior to entering the simulation, people were told that if they ever felt the ground shake beneath them, they should immediately drop, seek cover from falling objects and hold on.

If they were in the Seward Tsunami Inundation Zone, and the shaking lasted for 20 seconds or more, however, they should get up and move to higher ground as fast as possible. Don't wait for an emergency siren to sound, or an announcement to be made, Luikin said. A land-based tsunami, one triggered by a local underwater landslide beneath the Resurrection Bay basin, could already be on its way. In the '64 earthquake, the first local tsunami hit Seward just one minute after shaking began, Luikin said. And it wasn't just a single wave, it was a series of them, so he warned people to stay well away from the waterfront until told by emergency officials it is safe to return.

The Tsunami Inundation Zones, those areas that would be affected by tsunami's based on the historic '64 earthquake model, and updated to account for today's geographic conditions, include the entire community of Lowell Point, anywhere along Seward waterfront and a block or two beyond, the Seward Small Boat Harbor as far north as Port Avenue, or a little past it, and above the Seward Highway near the boat harbor, including the Seward Lagoon.

Visitors also toured the small fire department, purchased T-shirts, watched an old video marking its 100th anniversary, and ate potluck food and drinks that the firefighters had graciously provided.

The most common question they asked was why the local fire department was continuing with the local burn ban although plenty of rain had occurred in the Seward area over the past few days, said Seward Fire Chief Edward Athey. The Kenai Peninsula-wide burn ban was still in effect, so the city fire department decided to stick with the state-sanctioned burn ban, which took legal precedence over its own, Athey said. State enforcement agents still had the authority to ticket those they encountered burning campfires, he said.

Athey was pleased with how well most people responded to the burn ban in Seward over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, although it was only announced by the state forestry division at 4:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon before, making getting the word out difficult. Local authorities only had to deal with one illegal fire within the city limits, he said, although six illegal campfires were extinguished in Moose Pass.

Three Seward firefighters and one fire truck responded to the immense Funny River wildfire in Soldotna during the previous week, Athey said. Although local volunteer firefighters aren't paid when they respond to Seward fires or other emergencies, they do get paid well by the state for fighting the major wildfires.


Reader Comments


Our Family of Publications Includes:

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2017