Eastside Fire & Rescue firefighters head east to battle blaze

August 21, 2012

Eastside Fire & Rescue sent a tender truck crew east to assist fighting the Taylor Bridge Fire. Contributed by Eastside Fire & Rescue

Local firefighters made the trip across the Cascades to fight the Taylor Bridge Fire, which scorched more than 22,000 acres between Cle Elum and Ellensburg in recent days.

Eastside Fire & Rescue sent at least five local firefighters to the blaze. EFR is a party to a statewide agreement to send resources to respond to major wildfires.

Officials sent a Preston-based tender truck, used to carry water or flame retardant to remote areas, along with two career firefighters when the fire initially broke out Aug. 13, EFR Deputy Chief Bud Backer wrote in an email.

Since then, two more EFR firefighters have been sent to assist crews on the front lines. Josie Williams, EFR public information officer, is also in the area and helping to dispense information about the fire.

The state intends to reimburse the agency for firefighters’ time and any overtime costs needed to fill the firefighters’ positions back home. EFR also receives rental fees from the state for the vehicles used fighting the fire.

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Issaquah residents can drop off storm debris at Tibbetts Valley Park

January 26, 2012

NEW — 12:35 p.m. Jan. 26, 2012

Issaquah residents and business owners can drop off tree branches and other woody debris from recent storms at Tibbetts Valley Park on Saturday and Sunday, officials announced Thursday.

The drop-off site is scheduled to open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the park, 965 12th Ave. N.W. Only storm-related woody debris is accepted. Though representatives plan to monitor drop-offs, customers must unload material themselves.

Waste Management customers — plus Allied Waste customers subscribed to yard waste service — can also set out compost and yard debris for curbside pickup.

Use the typical 96-gallon cart, another 96-gallon cart, or another three 32-gallon containers, compostable bags or bundles.

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Prepare for national Emergency Alert System test

November 3, 2011

NEW — 6 a.m. Nov. 3, 2011

City leaders reminded Issaquah residents to prepare for a national Emergency Alert System test.

The test, scheduled for 11 a.m. Nov. 9, is a chance for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to try out the Emergency Alert System, a national alert and warning system for the president to address the American public during emergencies.

The test is meant to help federal agencies and local participants, such as Issaquah and King County, determine the reliability of the system and how well such messages notify the public during local disasters, such as earthquakes.

During the test, a message indicating “This is a test” is broadcast on radio and television. The test could last up to three-and-a-half minutes, and could include a typed message on the TV screen.

The practice run includes local radio and television stations, cable television, satellite radio and television services, and wireline video service providers.

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City, King County changed disaster preparedeness since 9/11 attacks

September 13, 2011

The decade since 9/11 has reshaped how Issaquah and King County leaders prepare for disasters and manage the response to emergencies.

The attacks also meant increased attention — and dollars — for emergency management efforts, although local officials said the initial focus on counterterrorism sidelined plans about other dangers, such as floods and earthquakes.

“All of the sudden there was a big focus on emergency management in general. That was good news from an emergency management perspective,” said Bret Heath, city public works operations and emergency management director. “The bad news is that it shifted from all hazards to almost strictly terrorism immediately following 9/11.”

Issaquah planners focused on more common emergencies — floods, snowstorms, windstorms and the like — in the years before the attacks.

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King County reminds locals to prepare after Vancouver Island earthquake

September 9, 2011

NEW — 2:10 p.m. Sept. 9, 2011

Many King County and West Coast residents felt the earth tremble Friday afternoon as a magnitude-6.4 earthquake occurred off Vancouver Island.

The tremor struck at 12:41 p.m. at about 14 miles beneath the surface. The earthquake occurred about 170 miles west of Vancouver. Residents as far south as Seattle reported feeling the tremor.

King County Executive Dow Constantine used the earthquake as a reminder for local residents to prepare.

“Over the past 10 years, in concert with our regional partners, we have worked to build a whole-community approach to disaster planning, response and recovery,” he said in a statement. “Strong communities begin with each of us making a personal commitment to prepare, and then reaching out to our neighbors to build the networks that will be crucial when disaster strikes.”

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Helicopter is part of Department of Energy radiation study

July 5, 2011

NEW — 6 a.m. July 5, 2011

Western Washington residents should not be alarmed as a slow, low-flying helicopter scopes the area from July 11-28.

The helicopter is part of a U.S. Department of Energy aerial survey of the Seattle area. The agency is measuring baseline levels of radiation in order to make a comparison in the event of a nuclear emergency, a King County Office of Emergency Management email states.

The agency intends to measure radiation levels in nearby communities, but no area east of the western shore of Lake Sammamish is scheduled to be included. In order to take the measurements, the helicopter is due to fly at about 300 feet above the ground at about 70 mph.

The study is financed by a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant and has been in development since 2009, prior to the Fukashima nuclear disaster in Japan, Sammamish Deputy City Manager Lyman Howard said.

*This article contains corrected information.

Volcano Awareness Month is a reminder to prepare for disasters

May 24, 2011

Issaquah faces risk from volcanic ash amid Cascade eruption

Majestic Mount Rainier, peeping through the gap between Tiger and Squak mountains, stands as a constant reminder to prepare for emergencies.

The looming volcano, like Mount Baker to the north and Mount St. Helens to the south, is active and although geologists do not expect Mount Rainier to erupt anytime soon, emergency planners remind residents to prepare. May is Volcano Awareness Month.

“It’s one of the things where we actually have to remind people that a volcano is one of our hazards,” said Bret Heath, city Public Works Operations and emergency management director. “Everybody looks at Mount Rainier down in the valley there on a nice day and goes, ‘Ah, beautiful mountain’ — until it goes off.”

Issaquah sits outside the area under threat from Mount Rainier lahars, a debris-strewn mudflow streaming from a volcano, but volcanic ash, or tephra, could impact transportation and air quality in East King County. In the area surrounding the mountain, lahars pose a greater hazard than lava and poisonous gases.

Though lava flows might not extend more than a few miles beyond Mount Rainier National Park boundaries, lahars could reach as far north as South King County.

Heath and other emergency planners identify volcanic eruptions as a potential threat to Issaquah.

Carolyn Driedger, hydrologist and outreach coordinator at the U.S. Geological Survey Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash., said numerous volcanoes in the Cascade Range remain active.

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State removes hurdle for cities in need of disaster assistance

May 24, 2011

Floodwaters inundated Snoqualmie in January 2009 and, even as nearby Issaquah dried out from a major flood, officials sent equipment to the other flood-plagued city.

Issaquah and other local governments previously needed to negotiate a patchwork of interlocal agreements among local governments, law enforcement agencies and emergency service providers in order to receive aid from other jurisdictions during a disaster.

Under legislation signed last month, asking for help from other agencies in Washington is simpler for Issaquah and other local governments.

Bret Heath, city Public Works Operations and emergency management director, said the measure allows local governments to request aid from other jurisdictions in Washington, even if the parties do not have interlocal agreements in place.

“Prior to this, it was easier to bring resources in from out of state than it was from other counties,” he said.

The measure could serve a crucial need during a regional disaster, such as a major earthquake.

“Typically, during those types of emergencies, all of the jurisdictions in King County are in the same boat, if you will,” Heath said. “We’re not in a position where we can share resources with each other, because we’re all maxed out. So, we need to bring resources in from outside.”

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Citizens help others prepare for disasters

April 5, 2011

In Issaquah, a city of more than 30,000 people, only a handful of the population has completed the most rigorous training to respond to disasters.

The unfolding disaster in Japan — caused after a magnitude-9 earthquake rocked the island nation early last month — renewed attention on emergency preparedness on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

Even in a city as focused on preparedness as Issaquah, some gaps remain in the system.

The city has spearheaded lessons in Map Your Neighborhood — a program to coordinate disaster recovery on a block-by-block basis and identify special skills, such as medical training, among residents — for dozens of neighborhoods, although less then 300 people had completed the more rigorous program, Community Emergency Response Team training, by mid-March.

City and independent emergency planners said the numbers belie the effect of trained responders, especially as CERT members start to educate family members and neighbors in disaster preparedness and response.

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Remember: In earthquakes, drop, cover and hold is best bet

March 27, 2011

NEW — 8 a.m. March 27, 2011

King County emergency planners set out to correct misinformation spreading on the Web about the best method to take cover in earthquakes.

The county Office of Emergency Management recommends the drop, cover and hold method as the safest bet.

“Unfortunately, emails have circulated recently, touting the ‘triangle of life’ technique, which incorrectly claims that people can use ‘voids’ or ‘empty spaces’ as a way to survive earthquakes,” Emergency Management Director Hillman Mitchell said in a release. “Simply put, the technique is not applicable for earthquake experiences in the United States.”

Information about the “triangle of life” started to circulation in email messages and on the Web in the aftermath of the Japan earthquake.

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