'Operation TRITON 32': Hundreds participate in massive disaster response exercise

(Photo courtesy Operation TRITON 32 team)

COOS BAY, Ore. -- The aircraft taking off and landing all weekend on the south coast was part of a full-scale disaster response exercise dubbed Operation TRITON 32.

The three-day exercise involved hundreds of people from more than 40 agencies.

It was put on to prepare and enhance response activities between local, county, state and federal agencies in the event of an earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

The exercise had been in the planning stages for more than a year.

"We are not expecting for this to run well as far as a mission,” said Operation TRITON 32 lead planner Andy Stubbs. “We want to find the things that don't work. We want to break it; we want to know where our gaps are and where we need to fix things; build foundations for a real incident."

The Cape Blanco Airport was used as a supply and patient transfer point during the exercise.

Built to handle large aircraft, it is expected to be the only airport along the Oregon coast to survive a Cascadia event.

Organizers say all assistance and medical evacuation from outside the coastal area after such an event would have to made by air or sea.

"This real-life Cascadia training exercise is important for the Coast Guard and our local resources because we're able to test our capabilities, test our preparedness,” said Lt. Wes Jones with Coast Guard Sector North Bend. “That's going to ensure the protection of us, the protection of first responders, and the protection of the families, tourists and anyone who's on the coast."

Organizers say this is the first disaster exercise of this scale to be held in Oregon.

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