Skokomish school builds evacuation route for community

Skokomish (April 25, 2008) – Worse case scenario: It’s mid-day and a large earthquake occurs along a fault line that runs between the two Cushman dams in the Skokomish River Valley. Both dams are breached, and the roads and bridges leading out of the valley are severely damaged. It is estimated that the resulting flood would put the Skokomish reservation under 32 feet of water within one to two hours. Homes, tribal government buildings and the Hood Canal School would be severely damaged or destroyed.

But before the water level rises, the reservation’s 1,200 residents and the school’s 350 students are able to get to higher ground using an evacuation trail built by the students this spring.

As part of the school’s environmental curriculum, the school’s seventh and eighth graders worked with the Skokomish Tribe’s Department of Natural Resources to develop the quarter-mile long trail that leads to an elevated area in the woods, 100 feet above the floodplain. The trail is across the street from the school and reservation, across Highway 101. During an evacuation drill in April, it took 18 minutes for all the students to get to this safe zone.

“There is the chance that people could be trapped on this delta area if something really catastrophic happens,” said Ron Figlar-Barnes, the tribe’s natural resources coordinator. “This is important to everyone who lives within the Skokomish delta. Now that the trail has been tested, it’s proven to be a viable option for evacuation.”

The project began when Figlar-Barnes was working on a Federal Emergency Management Agency pre-disaster mitigation plan, where the scenario was identified as a potential disaster. Figlar-Barnes talked with Laurie Byrd, a math and environmental education teacher at the school, about students creating an escape trail as a natural resources project.

The kids took off with the idea and Byrd and Figlar-Barnes helped the students map out the route. The students cleared the trail and help plan and facilitated the school evacuation drill. The school plans to hold a drill once a year and incorporate the community next year.

“Having partners such as the tribe’s natural resource department, local fire departments and tribal police made this project a great success,” Byrd said.

The trail will be developed further to include a rescue helicopter landing site 300 feet above the Skokomish floodplain.


For more information, contact Ron Figlar-Barnes, Skokomish Tribe natural resources planner, at (360) 877-2110 or [email protected]; or Tiffany Royal, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission information officer, at (360) 297-6546 or [email protected].