SEATTLE — The message is clear - be ready to be on your own for as long as two weeks following a major earthquake and tsunami.
"You've got to balance the thinking that you might have time, against the reality that it might be tomorrow," warned Robert Ezelle, head of Washington's Emergency Management Division.
In 2016, Ezelle helped lead massive exercise involving some 23,000 people from the state's National Guard, first responders and county, city and tribal governments along with assets from the U.S. Navy.
The exercise called "Cascadia Rising" was a real-time stress test of the state's' ability to deal with a magnitude nine earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone.
The Subduction Zone is a fault running for more than 600 miles from Cape Mendocino, California up past Washington and Oregon to the north of Vancouver Island, Canada.
Just days into the 2016 exercise, Ezelle and his team realized that previous federal guidance for people to be ready with three days of everyday supplies was not enough.
The new guidance: be ready for two weeks. With damaged roads and bridges, it could take a long time for help to arrive.
First responders could also become victims of a quake. The demand for help would be overwhelming, and for many of us getting that help would take time, whether we live in the country or the city.
Ezelle puts it this way, "The chances are, you'll survive it. The challenge is, surviving the aftermath."
Many of the agencies that took part in the first earthquake exercise are getting ready for the second, called C-R-22, set for the year 2022.
"Communications, mass care and shelter, public health and medical," said Ezelle. "Transportation, then energy. Looking at those basic areas and making sure we've invested time in the planning – how we're going to work together at all levels of government in all those areas and go back and test those plans to see how effective they have been."