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Lahar Evacuation & Response Plan

Living near Mount Rainier has potential hazards that include eruption, lava or ash fall and mudflows known as lahars. Pierce County Emergency Management, the U.S. Geologic Survey and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have joined together to create a plan for responding to any Mount Rainier emergency that may occur. The Sumner-Bonney Lake School District has been an active partner in planning and preparing for the evacuation of all schools located in the valley as might someday be required.

What is the District response plan for a volcanic eruption or lahar? 

In conjunction with Pierce County Emergency Management Services, the District will receive immediate notification of volcanic activity at Mt. Rainier through emergency communications to district administrators and building principals. Each school will be contacted so that emergency support and response by students and staff can be initiated. In Sumner, emergency sirens will sound throughout the community to alert all residents to the hazard. All valley schools will immediately evacuate. It is anticipated that the county will receive advance indications of increased volcanic activity at the mountain and that the valley schools may already be operating in alternative modes prior to any eruption or lahar flow.

Please contact your building principal to learn more about how your school is preparing for emergencies related to natural disasters or severe weather conditions. District level response plans can be reviewed at the Central Administration Office.

What is the lahar evacuation plan?

The current plan includes a provision for evacuating students from valley schools via pedestrian routes. Students and staff will walk east towards Bonney Lake and ascend to the ridge where District Transportation services will shuttle students to shelter at hilltop schools. The plan was developed in coordination with law enforcement agencies as a part of the larger county emergency response. The county plan includes diverting vehicle traffic and restricting traffic flow to northbound routes and either east- or westbound traffic. These traffic restrictions will prevent the public from driving into the mudflow as well as limiting the District’s ability to provide bus transportation to students in the valley.

How much time is there to evacuate?

Experts predict that the valley floor in Sumner will fill to a depth of thirty feet with mud and debris. It is estimated that there is approximately (after the lahar alert) 60-90 minutes for safe evacuation from the valley.

Where will students and staff shelter?

Each valley school is assigned to a hilltop school, known as "sister schools," for sheltering and managing student-parent relocation, depending on the district's ability to bus students and staff to sister schools. Families should report as soon as practicable to the student-parent reunion center located in the gymnasium of their assigned sister schools. It is important that families make plans to reunite with their children at the relocation schools, not at their attendance school, so that the schools can evacuate quickly and safely. Driving directions to all schools are located on the District homepage. Please be patient during this process, as there will likely be many factors out of District control.

Here's a list of "sister schools:"

  • Daffodil Valley Elementary - Crestwood Elementary
  • Maple Lawn Elementary - Emerald Hills Elementary
  • Sumner Middle/Community-Based Transition Program - Mountain View Middle
  • Sumner High/Elhi Hill High School - Lakeridge Middle
  • Early Learning Center - Bonney Lake Elementary

Pierce County Emergency Management Lahar Warning Sirens

Pierce County Emergency Management tests its 24 outdoor lahar warning sirens on a monthly basis. Monthly drills take place on the first Mondays of the month, at 12 noon, which will coincide with the monthly testing of the State's tsunami sirens along the coast.

These drills will check the siren equipment and monitor sound coverage throughout the valley. At the designated time, outdoor warning sirens will wail for approximately one minute. The All Hazards Alert Broadcast sirens are located in Fife, Orting, McMillan, Puyallup, Riverside, Alderton, and Sumner.

Sirens are located in the following Sumner locations:

  • 15502 96th St. E. along the Sumner-Orting Highway
  • Sumner High School, 1707 Main St., in Sumner
  • Sumner Industrial District North, 24th St. E. and 142nd Ave. E., in Sumner

To coincide with these drills, Emergency Management will test its other new program, Pierce County ALERT. This new system is a mass communication tool that allows the County to contact residents and businesses during emergencies or other significant events. Several days prior to the siren drill, Emergency Management will call residents of the Puyallup Valley to remind them about the test. (Puyallup residents will be notified by their own mass notification system.

County residents and businesses can "opt-in" to receive messages from Pierce County Emergency Management online.

Lahar Evacuation Routes

March 21, 2024 Drill Routes:

Full evacuation routes in the event of a real lahar:

Daffodil Valley Elementary:

Maple Lawn Elementary:

Sumner Middle School:

Sumner High School:

SBLSD to participate in regional lahar exercise March 21

In our ongoing commitment to safety and preparedness, the Sumner-Bonney Lake School District is participating in a regional lahar exercise, which is designed to test and improve the ability to evacuate or shelter students and staff in the event of an incoming lahar from Mount Rainier. The drill is only for schools, not the general public or surrounding residences. 

WHEN

The lahar exercise will begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday, March 21. There will likely be some staggered start times for operational effectiveness. 

HOW 

All schools will participate by either evacuating or sheltering in place, depending on their location in the valley or on the hill.

Evacuation (valley)

  • Schools: Sumner HS, Elhi Hill HS Program, Sumner MS, Daffodil Valley Elem, Maple Lawn Elem, Sumner Early Learning Center, and the Community-Based Transition Program.
  • Under staff supervision, with assistance from local police personnel, students will follow a designated evacuation route on flat, paved sidewalks with one street lane closed. 
  • Students will complete about 80 percent of the route, stopping before gaining significant elevation with an end at the Gordon Family YMCA. 
  • With the exception of Sumner High School, buses will transport students back to their school where they’ll complete the remainder of their school day as normal. Total time for the drill is approximately one hour. 

Shelter in place (hill)

  • Schools: Bonney Lake HS, Lakeridge MS, Mountain View MS, Bonney Lake Elem, Crestwood Elem, Donald Eismann Elem, Emerald Hills Elem, Liberty Ridge Elem, Tehaleh Heights Elem, Victor Falls Elem.
  • Students will shelter in place by remaining at school inside their classroom.
  • Teachers have the option to deliver lahar-related lessons and activities, sharing more about lahars and what to expect should we experience one. 
  • The shelter-in-place drill should last no longer than five minutes. 

WHO

Coordinated by the East Pierce Interlocal Coalition Emergency Management Team, participants in this regional, full-scale lahar evacuation exercise include these surrounding school districts, cities, towns and emergency management agencies: 

School Districts 

Cities/Towns

Emergency Agencies 

Sumner-Bonney Lake

City of Sumner

East Pierce Fire & Rescue

Puyallup

City of Bonney Lake

Central Pierce Fire & Rescue

Orting

City of Puyallup

Orting Valley Fire & Rescue

White River

City of Orting

Pierce County All Hazards Type III Incident Management Team

Carbonado

City of Buckely

Town of Carbonado

Town of Wilkeson 

SBLSD has worked closely with the Sumner Police, Bonney Lake Police, and Public Works departments in Sumner and Bonney Lake to coordinate this exercise to ensure the utmost safety of everyone involved. We value our strong partnerships with law enforcement and emergency management agencies in preparedness activities all year long. 

WHY 

Mount Rainier is beautiful, but it’s also an active volcano. The US Geological Survey predicts that a lahar event could occur in the next 500 to 1,000 years. While we hope that doesn’t happen in our lifetime, everyone in our area should be prepared just in case. 

Teaching the next generation of Pierce County residents how to prepare for a lahar is critical. This exercise, deemed to be the largest full-scale drill in the nation, will familiarize students with evacuation routes and give them the practice and knowledge to be prepared for a real-life evacuation. 

MORE INFO

As we get closer to the March 21 lahar exercise, we will send families more information with details, such as evacuation routes, as it pertains to their school.

If you live in the community, please expect more pedestrian traffic than usual and rolling road closures. Please avoid driving in east Sumner, especially Main Street and Valley Avenue on March 21 between 8:45 and 10:30 a.m. 

image: Lahar fact sheet 2024