With the coronavirus continuing to impact how training and meetings are conducted, Seattle District flood team managers found ways to adapt, overcome and even improve on this year’s spring flood exercises.
Flood teams held the standard 10 basin flood exercises on the eastern side of the Cascades, some of which were virtual and some in the field at local levees allowing for social distancing. In addition, the district conducted a Joint Flood Response training exercise with Yakima County and the City of Yakima in April 2021 at the Yakima County Fairgrounds.
Nearly 60 flood responders attended the training with about half from Seattle District and the rest from the city and county. Responders broke down into four groups and rotated through four hands-on training stations: Crisafulli pump set-up and operation; Sandbag machines; Sandbag placement; and Hesco and Supersack training.
At the Crisafulli Trailer Pump station, participants learned about the self-powered pump driven from the power take-off fitting on tractors and capable of pumping thousands of gallons of water per minute. Next, they worked in teams to assemble long hoses and prepare the pump for operation.
“We’ve used these pumps for years, but they’re not requested often so this is a great opportunity for our flood responders to get familiar with the equipment,” said Keith Rudie, Seattle District flood control manager.
For sandbagging machine training, both Yakima County and Seattle District brought their own machines to the exercise allowing all responders to get familiar with each piece of equipment. Responders learned how to safely operate each machine, make any necessary adjustments, and fill sandbags at a rapid pace.
The third training station was sandbag placement where responders worked in small teams to construct wall and ring dike barriers after discussions on placement and base-to-height dimensions.
“While it sounds rudimentary, there has been a demand for this type of hands-on training,” Rudie said. “Going through a practical exercise and constructing these barriers, instead of just reading about it, provides a better understanding of why we construct them in a specific way.”
At the Hesco and Supersack training station, responders were briefed on the application and set up of both barrier types. Then responders practiced connecting and setting up a Hesco barrier, which can be used as a semi-permanent structure when flood fighters need to cover a large area rapidly where individual sandbag placement would not be practical.
“This was really great training, and it gives me confidence that I’ll be ready when the time comes,” said Joel Robles who works for the Wastewater and Stormwater Division for the city of Yakima. “This is the first training I’ve had like this and it’s important because the more training and experience you have, the better you will be able to perform your job.”
For Seattle District and its flood responders, the training was equally valuable according to Daryl Downing, natural disasters program manager.
“This was a good exercise that included educating and familiarizing local sponsors on available resources and training both local and Corps flood teams on the typical field tasks required during a flood fight,” Downing said. “Also, in a flood fight, a lot of these tasks are done in poor conditions, in the middle of the night when it’s raining out. This gave everyone a chance to train during the day, in more ideal conditions, where they can learn and be better prepared for future flood fights.”
Currently, Seattle District is seeking flood team volunteers to round out teams that deploy to the field and for positions in the Emergency Operations Center.
“Flood responses are very kinetic, exciting and sometimes chaotic environments where you have to think on your feet and execute in a short period of time,” Rudie said. “It’s an incredibly rewarding experience, to work the process from thought to completion so quickly and then recognize the positive impact for the communities where you’re working.”
District employees interested in volunteering should contact Jennifer Brito in Emergency Management for more information.