The city of Carnation will host its first annual city-wide dam evacuation drill and safety fair on Saturday, Sept. 28.
The town is 16 miles downstream from the Tolt Dam, which is owned and operated by Seattle Public Utilities. In the unlikely event of a breech, the city could be totally flooded in about an hour.
The city’s evacuation plan includes a 20-acre pedestrian only evacuation site in the Tolt Highlands, accessible from two walking paths — one on the southside that is paved most of the way, and one on the northside that is more of a true hiking trail.
The free, all-ages event begins at 9 a.m. at Tolt Middle School with a seminar, informational presentations and a panel discussion. Citizens will learn about the dam itself as well as about alerts systems and escape routes.
Representatives from the city, as well as Seattle Public Utilities, Riverview School District (RSD), Carnation Duvall Citizen Corps, King County Emergency Management, King County Sheriff, Eastside Fire and Rescue, E911 and American Red Cross will be there answering questions.
Then, after a small break, residents are encouraged to participate in the “Hike to the Site” walk up to the evacuation site from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., guided by community volunteers. There they will find a fair with food trucks, informational tents, and local organization booths. Some will be handing out swag.
“We just really hope it will be a fun atmosphere,” said Amy Arrington, city manager. “It will be a great event with some different vendors and some food and some fun, and hopefully we’ll all be a little bit better educated at the end of the day.”
Everyone who hikes to the top gets a free commemorative T-shirt for participating. Registration online through the city’s website is not required but is encouraged for T-shirt availability. (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/carnation-citywide-evacuation-drill-registration-65006828173)
As of Sept. 20, Arrington said 160 people had already registered. The city is hoping to get all residents involved.
Each participant can choose to walk from the middle school or wherever they are, or go back to their homes to practice what the evacuation process would be like from there. The length of the hike ultimately depends on one’s starting point, such as where they live.
“See what it would be like if you were at your house and you had to evacuate, which way would you want to go,” Arrington said. “One [path] is probably going to be closer for you than the other. So just to get you that real life feel we want you to try to take the path that you would normally take when you’re at your home.”
She said the hike from the base to the site is about a 15-20 minute walk, but could be 30-45 minutes for those who live further away. In an emergency, citizens could also evacuate by car and drive out of the area to higher ground.
The event was spurred by the city’s focus on emergency preparedness.
“This is a potential risk,” Arrington said. “Now, Seattle Public Utilities does a great job and the dam is in fantastic shape. But while we know it’s not probable, it is possible. So with that possibility the council really wanted to make sure that all the residents know about this risk and also what to do if something ever happens.”
She said several options for how to educate everyone on the evacuation plan were tossed around and they were inspired by what RSD does each year, which is run a drill and have all the students walk up to where they would be safe.
“But we realized a lot of the parents had never done this walk,” she said. “So we wanted to do something fun and interesting at the top of the hill to really encourage that involvement.”
She hopes the shirts and the fair, which the city will aim to grow each year, will be good incentive for participation.
“Our slogan is we want everybody to be ‘Dam Ready,’” she said with a chuckle.
She said she is thankful for how volunteers and various community organizations have come together to make the event possible.
“Carnation is a small town. City staff is limited. We are really fortunate to have some great partners in this event,” she said.