Washington State, federal officials in dam-related disaster resilience exercises

Published 12 March 2010

Officials from the Tri-Cities area of Washington State, neighboring areas, and federal agencies participate in a exercise aiming to develop a strategy to improve disaster resilience and preparedness in the event of severe flooding along the Columbia River, flooding which leads to overtopping and subsequent breaching of levees in the Tri-Cities area

Dozens of participants recently completed a series of exercises designed to develop a strategy to improve disaster resilience and preparedness in the Tri-Cities area of Washington State (Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland). Participants expect that this exercise-based approach can serve as an effective vehicle for developing integrated disaster resilience strategies for other regions in the United States, said DHS.

Hydroworld reports that the exercise is part of the 2009 Dams Sector Exercise Series — Columbia River Basin (DSES-09). Participants include the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, DHS, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and regional stakeholders.

DSES-09 efforts are based on a severe rain-on-snow scenario that affects a large portion of the Columbia River Basin and leads to significant flooding along the river. The flooding event leads to overtopping and subsequent breaching of levees in the Tri-Cities area. This poses emergency management and public safety challenges and affects several other critical infrastructure sectors, such as transportation and energy, DHS says.

The DSES-09 effort is organized into five tracks:

  • modeling and mapping
  • pre-disaster operational response
  • state and local preparedness and emergency response
  • long-term restoration and economic resilience
  • integrated regional strategy.

Each track was conducted separately. The events follow the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program, maintained by DHS. This is a performance-based exercise program which provides a standardized methodology and terminology for exercise design, development, conduct, evaluation, and improvement planning. The events include a concept and objectives meeting, a pre-exercise seminar, a tabletop exercise, and a follow-up after-action/strategy workshop.


In July 2009 participants held a state and local emergency preparedness/emergency response tabletop exercise in Pasco, Washington. More than eighty people representing twenty-five federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as the private sector, participated in the tabletop exercise. This exercise identified disaster management challenges in many areas, including emergency management organizational structure and decision-making process, public information, energy effects, transportation effects, and infrastructure interdependency-related effects on essential services.

In September 2009 participants held a long-term restoration/economic resilience tabletop exercise in Pasco. A total of sixty participants, including representatives of DHS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Corps, and other agencies, discussed long-term effects from a flood event in the Tri-Cities area. Participants also discussed actions to recover and restore infrastructure and essential services; transitioning from incident response to long-term regional restoration; federal, state, and private sector assistance; and potential prevention and mitigation measures.

The overall DSES-09 effort will culminate with the development of a regional disaster resilience and preparedness strategy for the Columbia River Basin.

– For more information regarding the exercise series, contact the Dams Branch Sector-Specific Agency within DHSOffice of Infrastructure Protection through e-mail: dams@dhs.gov.