#Whew: Earthquake provides lessons learned

#Whew.

In social media terminology, where hashtags (the # symbol) help make terms searchable, that’s the word of the day after the lower Kenai Peninsula survived a magnitude 7.9 earthquake and the first, real, no-kidding blare of our high-tech tsunami warning system. Sleep-deprived Homerites guzzled coffee and shared their experiences on Tuesday. To sum it up:

• At 12:31 a.m. as we either dozed off to dreamland or had already fallen asleep, a really, really big quake that seemed to roll on for hours pretty much shot any chance of getting a good night’s rest.

• Within minutes, those flying-saucer shaped sirens went off, and a robotic voice advised those in low-lying areas to seek higher ground.

• Our colleagues at KBBI AM 890 Public Radio went on the air and also issued a tsunami warning. General Manager Terry Rensel and News Director Aaron Bolton stayed through the early morning providing accurate, timely information. Terry and Aaron, hat’s off to you for providing a valuable service rooted in early 20th century technology.

• Smart phone push notifications and robocalls went out warning of the tsunami. Some of those alerts were not necessarily timely.

• Citizens went to high ground in an orderly, cautious manner. As Homer City Manager Katie Koester said, “I was really impressed mostly by the community — how cooperative and responsible they were.”

• Some people drove their vehicles to Homer High School, road turnouts and South Peninsula Hospital. At the high school, the official evacuation site, people waited patiently for the all-clear. While people appeared concerned, everyone stoically hung together.

• Officials from the city to the U.S. Coast Guard to the hospital implemented emergency plans and got ready for the worst. Public Works drivers moved heavy equipment from the vulnerable area at the yard off the Sterling Highway to the high school.

•#Whew. The worst did not happen. No one was injured. No one died. The only report of damage was a broken water line — fortunately, one of two the city uses to get water from the reservoir to the treatment plant.

Call it the grace of God, good planning or civic preparedness — by the time the tsunami warning had been downgraded to an advisory, other than some lost sleep, we emerged the way we want to in disasters: alive.

In the days and weeks after, officials will be reviewing their response to see how it can be made better. One first lesson: those high-tech robo calls didn’t work as advertised, with some residents receiving them after the predicted time the tsunami was to hit. Federal, state and borough officials, and telecom providers need to work out the kinks if they’re going to go boldly into the 21st century. A lot of people rely on smart phones for information. Provide it.

What did work is technology like AM radio. That’s a good reason to support KBBI. They can provide information quickly and widely and in the same way President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill kept Americans and Brits informed during World War II. If you don’t have a radio, get one.

Also refresh your own family emergency plan. Put together your “go bag.” Visit the Division of Homeland Security’s Emergency Preparedness page for information at https://ready.alaska.gov/Preparedness/Outreach/Eqprep.

#Whew. This will be the quake Homer talks about for years and the standard by which we measure our emergency response. You did well, citizens. Vow to do better when the next Big One hits.

More in News

Dollynda Phelps discusses current issues in the cannabis industry with local business owners on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Cannabis industry meeting raises concerns over Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office

Cannabis cultivators, retailers and consumers squeezed into a small Kenai living room… Continue reading

The wall of the Red Chris tailings pond is a little less than 350 feet, or about the height of a 35-story building. It follows the same design as the Mount Polley tailings dam, which broke in 2014, sending 24 million cubic meters of toxic mine tailings into the Fraser River watershed. It is designed, however, to hold 305 million cubic meters of mine waste — seven times more than Mount Polley. Both mines are owned by Imperial Metals. (Courtesy Photo | Garth Lenz via Salmon State)
Transboundary mine faces $200-million cash crunch

With a strike, falling copper prices and more than $554-million ($723 million… Continue reading

Niko Mogar is shown in a June 2018 booking photo. (Photo provided, Homer Police)
Police arrest Homer area thief on new counts

A man charged last month with burglary and vehicle theft faces new… Continue reading

Homer area residents listen to the Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018 Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting at Homer City Hall in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Residents talk Kachemak Selo school at assembly

While no major action was taken at Tuesday’s Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly… Continue reading

Ken Castner III answers a question at a city council and mayoral candidate forum Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018 at Alice’s Champagne Palace in Homer, Alaska. Castner is running for Homer mayor. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Castner running for mayor to promote unity

Although Ken Castner has served on numerous city commissions, committees and task… Continue reading

Homer area school announcements

Homer High School Friday — Homecoming football game against Seward High School… Continue reading

David Lewis, a former member of the Homer City Council, makes his final remarks during his last meeting as a council member Monday, Oct. 9, 2017 in Cowles Council Chambers in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Lewis takes second try at Homer mayor

Veteran Homer City Council member David Lewis will take another run for… Continue reading

Borough elections 2018: What you need to know

In between the August primary election and the November general election, Homer… Continue reading

Supreme Court finds Griswold due process rights violated

The Alaska Supreme Court on Friday found the Kenai Superior Court violated… Continue reading

Most Read