Pierce County has unique challenges and inherent vulnerabilities with land area extending from sea level to the state’s highest point, a dormant volcano, Mount Rainier. Puget Sound divides the County, with the portion west of the Sound located on the Kitsap Peninsula and connected to the rest of Pierce County by the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. In addition, a number of islands in the southern Sound are incorporated in the County.
Many of the region’s communities are vulnerable to terrorist incidents and several have highly visible and vulnerable targets. These critical facilities, sites, systems, and special events are often located near routes with high transportation access. Over the last ten years there have been numerous documented terrorist threats, extremist group activities, and possible terrorist cells operating within our borders. The threats and events included conventional weapons, improvised or high-yield explosive devices, bioterrorism hoaxes, and attempted cyber-attacks.
Many of the region’s communities are vulnerable to natural hazards as well. During the past three decades the region has experienced 21 federally declared disasters. The County’s Hazard Mitigation Plan identifies seven hazards to which the Region is most vulnerable: earthquakes, flooding, volcanic, severe storm, landslide, tsunami, and wildland/urban interface fires. Earthquakes and Mt. Rainier debris flows (lahars) pose the most catastrophic threat to life and property. Flooding, while not as catastrophic, causes the region significant damage at the greatest frequency. With the region’s population and built environment continuing to grow at a rapid pace, the vulnerability to these hazards only increases.
While these man-made and natural hazards threaten lives and property in the region, they also threaten the underlying systems upon which our communities are built.