The elderly and mentally ill are at risk in Washington state should a disaster strike.
The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP for short) released its State-by-State Report Card that assesses how each state ranks in five critical areas: Access to Emergency Care, Quality & Patient Safety Environment, Medical Liability Environment, Public Health & Injury Prevention and Disaster Preparedness. After assessing those five areas, Washington state received an overall grade of “D+” and an “F” in Disaster Preparedness.
The report does note that Washington “earns an A- in Public Health and Injury Prevention, which is the fifth highest score in the nation.” Essentially, Washingtonians buckle up, pay attention while driving, use hand sanitizer and only a handful of our population still smokes.
But should a disaster strike, we are in trouble. It will be survival of the fittest.
Washington state failed to implement improvements in preparedness that other states have deployed and as a result plunged from a rank of 33 out of 50 and a “C” grade in 2009 to a rank of 50 and an “F” grade in 2014. In addition, the state has not set aside funds — nor has a budget line item — for disaster preparedness funding that will cover a health care surge. Which means: Should a disaster strike, funding and procedures that would ensure treatment to those who are medically or mentally vulnerable are severely lacking – if you fit this profile, you should be concerned.
With rail, air traffic, a major freeway and a sea transport channel as its borders, Edmonds has significant exposure to a potential catastrophic disaster and its residents stand a good chance of being “on their own” when the big one hits.
Efforts to address and safeguard against these concerns on a local level have been underway for the past year. The Disaster Medicine Project (DMP) – a joint effort between Fire District 1, Swedish Hospital and Operation Military Family – is training hospital staff on Basic Disaster Life Support and will soon be expanding its training to include veterans (many of whom are already qualified in triage, emergency communications, decontamination and rapid response methods).
One of the primary goals of the project is to have a highly-trained and skilled Rapid Response Team available to South Snohomish County residents that will augment emergency service personnel when a disaster does strike. In a normal disaster, a 48- to 96-hour state and federal response time is not uncommon.
Funding for the project, despite several grant attempts, has failed and is yet to materialize. The project is presently funded through gift-in-kind efforts of the DMP partners.
Bottom line: Don’t expect fire, police, National Guard or the feds to come to your immediate rescue in the case of a catastrophic disaster. Immediate response will be up to this community. And rest assured, funding will materialize…but typically that happens AFTER the disaster.
– By Michael Schindler
Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.