Citizens are encouraged to be ready for disaster, quake drill

April 6, 2010

By Kelly Hendrickson

On Wednesday, April 21, between 9:45 and 10 a.m., there will be a statewide earthquake drill. The “Drop, Cover and Hold” exercise is part of Washington state’s observation of Disaster Preparedness Month.

“I encourage all citizens to increase their knowledge and awareness of proper safety measures to follow before, during and after a disaster,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire in a press release.

One local group leading the way is the Issaquah Citizens Corps, a team made up of volunteers that promotes and provides emergency response education and training to the public free of charge. Offerings include the Map Your Neighborhood program, which provides free trainers to visit local neighborhoods.

At these “parties for preparedness,” neighbors can learn what to do in the critical first minutes following a disaster, identify skills and plan how to work together, set up a neighborhood meeting location and map out hazards including natural gas and propane outlets.

In addition, the corps also teams with the national Community Emergency Response Team organization to offer classes, including first aid training, basic firefighting, light search and rescue, and how to turn off utilities. Space is limited, so it’s best to sign up early.

Aside from classes and seminars, there are basic, simple things everyone easily can (and should) do to make sure they and their families are prepared, because when a disaster happens, it may not be possible for emergency responders to reach you right away.

People “need to be able to rely on their own skills and training” and “become self sufficient,” said Josie Williams, spokeswoman for Eastside Fire & Rescue.

EFR’s press release for Disaster Preparedness Month offers the following tips:

First, know your surroundings. This includes both home and work, because wherever you are, you need to know where the safest areas are and where the exits are. Everyone should also know where shutoff valves for water, gas and electricity are located and how to operate them.

Second, make sure you have enough supplies on hand to last a minimum of five to seven days. These should include water, food and any required medications. Don’t forget to have the same emergency items in a kit in your vehicle — you may not be home when disaster strikes. Another good item to have is an emergency hand-powered radio. Many companies make ones that feature built-in flashlights and cell phone chargers.

And third, plan a location for your family to meet in case of separation. This includes having an out-of-state contact. When an emergency happens, local phone lines can be damaged and/or flooded with calls. The out-of-state contact can function as a messenger in case of separation and an outside link to vital information and news.

During an emergency, residents of Issaquah can stay informed by listening to the city of Issaquah’s radio station, 1700 AM, or calling the city’s information line at 837-3028. If power is still available, information can also be obtained by going to the city’s Web site, www.ci.issaquah.wa.us, or by tuning in to ICTV Channel 21.

Kelly Hendrickson is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.

On the Web

Learn more about preparing for a disaster and get detailed Issaquah Citizens Corps class descriptions and dates here.

The Washington Military Department offers a helpful series of video tutorials about shutting off water, gas and electricity, and how to run a generator, in the “Preparedness” section of its Web site.

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