Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Shake, rattle and...trolls

How the popular, wild-hair dolls helped us prepare for earthquake response

By Barbara LaBoe

A real earthquake would be a hair-raising event, but luckily, the only hair really raised in last week's Great Washington ShakeOut were the trolls in our bridges.

While all of our agency practiced "Drop, Cover and Hold On" during Thursday's earthquake drill, our Northwest Region added some extra effort – and flair – to their post-drill activities. And, believe it or not, troll dolls played a starring role.
Engineers Let Curvers and Jared Bentley hold the troll doll they found during
a post-ShakeOut drill bridge inspection in Skagit County.

For the first time, the region's project engineer staff practiced Level 1 post-earthquake bridge inspections following the ShakeOut. After a real earthquake, these initial inspections would be one of our first actions after accounting for all of our staff.

The quick inspections – roughly 10 minutes – are to identify collapsed bridges as well as others that will need further inspection by specially trained bridge damage inspectors before vehicles return to the bridge. Using engineers from outside the Bridge and Structure Office allows our Emergency Management officials to quickly gain situational awareness and plan response and recovery efforts. It also allows us to deploy our limited number of bridge inspectors most efficiently.

Crews in King, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties broke into teams and traveled 14 pre-identified bridge inspection routes. Instead of quake damage, drill organizers hid small troll dolls on one bridge along each route.
Small trolls in plastic bags were placed along each bridge inspection route to allow Northwest Region crews to
practice looking for damage on bridge structures after the Oct. 18 ShakeOut drill.

Each doll – three inches tall including hair -- was placed in an area that should be checked during the initial visual inspections. Teams had to provide a photo of their bridge troll to complete the bridge inspection paperwork.

The results? Crews on 10 of the 14 routes found their troll (we believe the four others were discovered by others and "liberated" before our crews got there). But even the teams that came back troll-less got valuable experience driving the inspection routes.
A green-haired troll can just barely be seen on the side of a bridge during the post ShakeOut bridge inspections drill.

The trolls were a fun addition to the drill and make for some great pictures. But the real reward is knowing the region is better prepared for when a real emergency strikes.