MERT - Marine Emergency Response Team

Vashon’s Marine Emergency Response Team (MERT) is a cooperative project between VashonBePrepared and the Quartermaster Yacht Club. MERT was formed to solve a particular island problem. Map analysis shows there are 26 waterfront communities around Vashon and Maury islands which are accessed by only one road and that road passes through land King County has designated as likely to slide in a large earthquake.

Comprised of twelve yachts with skipper and crew, the boats have been training to help Vashon's Emergency Operations Center by visiting via water any cut-off communities. Once ashore, MERT can help assess injuries, damage, and community needs. MERT can also help establish communication between the community and the Incident Command Center. If needed MERT can transport supplies and move people.

Contact Jim Hauser (jameswhauser1943 - at - to learn more or get involved!

What Vashon’s Marine Emergency Response Team can do to assist Ferries after a Puget Sound Tsunami

Current predictions for the effects of a tsunami produced by a 9.1 earthquake off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, from a Seattle Fault event (which could be worse), or elsewhere are for a variety of effects in Puget Sound.

  1.  A tsunami wall will sweep Puget Sound reaching Vashon from 15 minutes to several hours after the event and lasting for potentially many hours. Its height may vary greatly depending on the source event but might be as high as 25 feet in select locations. More details on the predications are maintained at
  2. The wall of water and debris will crest against Tacoma’s Commencement Bay and Point Defiance and wash back along shorelines causing significant damage.
  3. Ferry service, vital to Vashon’s mid- and long-term survival, will be interrupted.
    1. Docks may be out of commission.
    2. Crews may have difficulty arriving where they are needed.
    3. Shoreland wreckage may have filled much of the Sound.
    4. Shoreline wreckage may be clogging ferry terminals.
    5. Demand by emergency services and passengers to return home may also surge.
    6. With local bridges on major inland routes potentially compromised, the state may repurpose the ferries for north-south Puget Sound transport or other priorities.

Vashon’s Marine Emergency  Response Team (MERT) is designed to help and has been practicing since 2018.  It consists currently of 12 boats, some power, some sail, with 24 skippers and crew, all members of the local Quartermaster Yacht Club and operating/training under the direction of the island Fire Chief, working closely with VashonBePrepared and the Vashon EOC.

MERT can operate independently: we have our own fuel, water, food, communications and shelter.  We have access to dinghies for use going ashore where there are no docks.

MERT has trained to help.
  1.  We have detailed maps of and have contacts with residents in each of the island’s 26 waterfront communities whose access roads are likely to be cut off.
  2. We can move to areas of concern – neighborhoods, bridges, boat launchings, and ferry terminals – to assess and report damage via VHF marine radio and via HAM radio if necessary.
    1. Have landslides changed the local shoreline?
    2. Which communities still have electricity, food, water, adequate shelter? 
    3. Are ferry terminals free of debris?  Is the depth around the terminal still adequate?
  3. MERT can transport first responder and ferry crews from one landing place to another.
  4. MERT can transport CERT teams to isolated communities.
  5. Using HAM and/or VHF communications, MERT can work directly with the local fire chief, with King County, or with other disaster relief organizations. 
  6. MERT can move small groups of people from mainland to island and visa versa.  With proper authority from schools and parents, MERT can transport school children and their parents to reunite.
  7. MERT can deliver small amounts of food, fuel, medicines (including pre-arranged pharmacy prescriptions to stranded residents), and even small generators.
  8. MERT can photograph local damage and send the images to decision makers.

- 9 June 2022 Report, James Hauser

Vashon & Maury Island Slide Prone Regions Accessible Via One Road

Slide Prone Areas on Vashon

Click image for a larger version.