If you are, great. If you’re not sure, then read on. If you know you’re not, you are in company of a lot of people. What am I talking about? Disaster preparedness – having basic provisions, basic plans, and basic planning as to how you and your loved ones can survive natural or man-made disaster. The truth of the matter is: your mindset must be one of self-reliance and resourcefulness, especially during the first several days of a major occurrence.
Think about the recent severe weather events and catastrophic earthquakes occurring in various parts of the world; unprecedented wildfires burning thousands of acres in and around populated areas; a dormant volcano transitioning to a major eruption. Think about these types of events occurring here. Consider also incidents such as airplane or train accidents; civil disturbances; terrorist activities; explosion, structural collapse, or hazardous material incidents; or energy and utility system failure.
The City of Edmonds, in partnership with Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management and with the State of Washington Emergency Management Division, has disaster plans in place. Key to the city’s preparedness is our Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP), available for your review on the city’s Disaster Preparedness webpage. The CEMP is a guide for incident management, including mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery actions. In the event of a major disaster, the city will activate its Emergency Operations Center (EOC), located in the Public Safety Building, with a back-up location at Public Works. In case of a regional disaster, our surrounding cities, Snohomish County, and the state will activate similar centers.
The primary purposes of an EOC are facilitating timely situational assessment and coordination of resources, facilitation of communications among personnel and agencies involved with the response, and dissemination of information to the public. Our EOC utilizes a multi-disciplinary approach. Representatives of Police and Fire, Public Works and Engineering, Planning and Building, are all part of EOC operations. Other city departments such as Finance, Parks, and City Clerk are also present in supporting roles. For example, Parks is tasked with coordinating emergency food and sheltering, working with private sector entities such as American Red Cross.
Elected officials, including the Mayor and City Council, are responsible for overall policy direction during an emergency. The Mayor provides visible leadership to the community, proclaims special emergency orders, and provides policy direction to the EOC. The City Council has responsibility for appropriation of funds to meet emergency needs; assists with maintaining continuity of government; and assists with receiving and dissemination pertinent information between constituents and the EOC.
In addition to planning, we train together with our local, county, and state officials for disaster preparedness. Last year, a weeklong, full scale statewide exercise called “Cascadia Rising” involved a coordinated emergency response to a simulated 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami. Federal, state, and local governmental and tribal agencies across the state participated, including the city of Edmonds and Snohomish County. Together we tested response to a disastrous and dynamic situation, the likes of which we have not seen for several generations.
One of the overarching lessons learned was the need for Washington residents to prepare. A catastrophic disaster such as “Cascadia Rising” would result in major damage and disruption to public infrastructure, including roads, bridges, electricity, telephones, water and sewer. Homes and work place may well be uninhabitable. Food, water, and fuel would be in short supply or not available. Emergency police-fire response and medical care would likely be severely compromised. Responses will have to be prioritized.
The role of our residents is of key importance in the response and recovery from disasters. There will not be enough resources to respond to every emergency need. Each resident must be personally responsible for preparing to meet their own emergency needs for at least two weeks. These preparedness items include having a plan, stocking supplies, learning emergency skills like first aid and CPR, and reducing hazards in the home and workplace.
Planning resources for our community are available on the South Snohomish County Fire and Rescue website. Look for ReadySnoCo, and go to information for Neighborhood Ambassador Workshops offered monthly on emergency preparedness; Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training to prepare yourself and family to deal with disasters; regular disaster preparedness information available as ReadyTogether; ReadySunday that brings community preparedness to faith-based congregations; and Fire Corps Volunteers who use their skills to promote public safety and community preparedness.
As first responders, your police and fire departments are your partners in disaster response. However, it is critical that you become involved with your own disaster preparedness mission. Planning is key. It starts with you – today!!
— By Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan