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Get ready for the Big One at the Seattle Disaster Relief Trials

PQSF8X1bWere you scared shitless by that New Yorker story about the Cascadia Subduction Zone? Want to be ready to help if a big quake takes out the Viaduct and other major transportation systems? Do you think it’s really fun to haul stuff around on a bike?

Then you should sign up for the annual Seattle Disaster Relief Trials. Registration for the September 12 event opened today. It costs $15 to participate or you can volunteer.

The 2015 Seattle DRT will start at Garfield High School during the city’s Summer Parkways open streets event in the Central District.

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The event simulates a major disaster in Seattle, and participants have to complete tasks to help with rescue efforts. You can ride either a standard bike or a cargo bike, and because it’s organized by FamilyBike Seattle, obviously there’s a biking with your kids option.

It’s a fun time, but it’s also empowering and educational. After all, Seattle will be slightly better prepared for disaster with a bunch of people ready to move people and things over terrain impassable by cars.

OK, sure, bikes aren’t gonna totally save Seattle when the Big One hits. But as Jonathan from Bike Portland wrote recently, a big part of being ready for an emergency is being part of a community. And bikes are a uniting force.

And being ready to carry a cargo bike full of water jugs over a barrier probably won’t hurt, either.

Here’s a video giving you a taste of what you’ll get into:

Seattle Disaster Relief Trials from Brittany Alsot on Vimeo.

Q13 also did an awesome report recently on the event featuring Morgan Scherer of FamilyBike Seattle:

Description of the event from the event page:

Imagine the impact 8.5 magnitude earthquake on the Cascadia fault, and the subsequent tsunami would have on Seattle.  Buildings collapsed, roads in shambles, people displaced, services disconnected. Without roads that are passable to vehicles, how do we provide essential services to injured and scared residents?

Enter, CARGO BICYCLISTS!  Bikes can traverse the city even when roads seem impassable, and can bring needed medical supplies, person-power, blankets, tools, water, and relief equipment to disaster victims all over the city.  In coordination with Emergency Community and Communication Hubs, these bicyclists will know where to go and what to do, so that their relief activities are targeted to where they are needed.

Join the Disaster Relief Trials to feel the empowerment of biking through the city bringing emergency supplies to grateful citizens!  For the Responder class the DRT is a race, and prizes will be awarded to the top finishers in.  The Resilient, Citizen, and Family classes are more leisurely, and you will have time to participate in family-friendly mini-workshops at each checkpoint: water filtration, emergency baby carry, preventing exposure, sanitation, bike maintenance and more!

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11 responses to “Get ready for the Big One at the Seattle Disaster Relief Trials”

    1. I did something like that, with a more modest amount of rain on the ground, in Occidental Park. One of the rain gutters running north-south through there had filled and I didn’t notice it in the dark, and it grabbed by tire like a train track (even wide tires don’t help you in this case — my 33mm tires give me a bit of leeway with tracks, but the gutter was a couple inches wide). I am probably not going to be the savior of the apocalypse on my bike. Maybe on foot.

  1. Southeasterner

    It actually is a great idea to plan on how to get out of the city by bike on earthquake day. My wife and I already have primary and secondary routes planned to get out of the city that don’t involve the car. If traffic is rough on a typical weekend imagine everyone in the city during an evacuation. I-5, I-90, I-405, etc will be parking lots, that will just be made worse as people run out of gas as they sit idling with the A/C (or heat) blasting.

    1. Matthew Snyder

      Care to share your planned routes? In a real earthquake scenario, most or all of the major bike paths (Burke Gilman, East Lake Sammamish, Interurban, etc) will likely be jammed with cars. I’m not sure what the best alternative would be.

      I did the disaster relief trials the two years ago and it was a lot of fun. I think I finished last on my heavy and not-particularly-nimble cargo bike, which was definitely overkill for the fairly limited cargo they had us carry. I can’t say I learned very much about disaster preparedness, though, as the goal seemed to be to zip through the checkpoints as fast as possible, rather than to stop and learn at each one. It sounds like they’re trying to address that by offering different categories for different riding styles this year.

      1. Are bike paths really turned over to cars in these scenarios? Getting all the intersections to work for heavy car traffic seems like a lot of trouble for a very small amount of car capacity. I’d be more inclined to worry about landslides and debris blocking trails.

      2. jay

        Al, I imagine they are “turned over” the same way the contents of stores are “turned over” to the looters.
        On some of the trails, there are enough bollards that trying to drive on them would be really really stupid, therefore I’m sure Matthew is correct, they probably will be jammed with cars that managed to squeeze in at one point just to get stuck at a tighter spot, and then get blocked in by the hundred cars that followed them.

        The organizers of the Portland DRT describe theirs as a day 3 resupply mission, after 3 days some of the craziness will have subsided, but after only three days there shouldn’t be too many people with guns out scavenging yet. But if the Feds don’t make in pretty soon after that, you’d best be somewhere far away.

        Coming soon: the “Beyond Thunderdome” cargo bike alley cat :)
        Well, maybe not so soon, but when (if) they start tearing down the viaduct, Alaskan way during rush hour should be suitably post-apocalyptic venue.

        “I got some groceries, some peanut butter,
        To last a couple of days
        But I ain’t got no bars, ain’t got no charge,
        Ain’t got no i-tunes to play”

        If one really wants their bike to be useful after a disaster: http://rockthebike.com/store/pedal-powered-stage-gear/111-handbuilt-24-hub-generator-wheel.html

  2. Wells

    I’m trying to locate some information on the new seawall design. I need accurate cross-section views of as many segments available. Recently I saw one published somewhere but now can’t find it. Anyway, it’s looks rather top-heavy and its balance off-center. I do not trust the DOTs and am forced to be skeptical. I think the seawall could fail. I know the bore tunnel as proposed will fail. But, the Plan B that’s circulating might be the remedy for both. Washington State DOTs are the worst.

    1. Peri Hartman

      Here’s a link:


      It looks extremely sound to me. There is plenty of anti-overturning and counterweighting on the upland side. The pedestrian cantilever is probably of minor significance in the whole structure. Of course, I don’t have any of the actual engineering calcs.

  3. Harrison Davignon

    This a great idea since not everyone drives in Seattle.

  4. […] do the things we’d need done in a natural disaster. Cheer them on at the start line! (See Tom’s post on Seattle Bike Blog for more info and great […]

  5. […] Also, there’s still time to register for the Disaster Relief Trials (Seattle Bike Blog is a sponsor). The emergency-simulating bicycle alleycat will be headquartered around the Summer Parkways event. Learn more in our previous post. […]

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