(Editor’s note: As we bring you a spotlight report each night during Disaster Preparedness Month, we find ourselves repeatedly emphasizing that because of dedicated community volunteers, West Seattle is way ahead of most other neighborhoods in the city – especially for having the Emergency Communication Hubs. That’s part of why West Seattle reps were a big part of a special summit downtown today. This firsthand participant’s report includes important reminders on why preparedness is up to all of us.)
Story and photos by Karen Berge
West Seattle Emergency Preparedness Committee
More than 45 people attended the Community Preparedness Summit this morning at the Emergency Operations Center downtown. West Seattle was well-represented, perhaps a third or more of the participants.
Four of us from the West Seattle Emergency Preparedness Committee (Cindi Barker, Ron Zuber, Deb Greer and I) have been working with Mark Howard from the city Office of Emergency Management and groups from Magnolia-Queen Anne-Interbay and Wallingford-Fremont to plan this event. Several other communities who are just beginning preparedness efforts also provided brief updates on their efforts: Capitol Hill (Angela Wallis), View Ridge (Peter Shaw) and Belltown (Ron Turner). One person from the Green Lake neighborhood also attended. Mark Howard emceed the event (photo):
Many of the other attendees at the Summit were community leaders or those who have some role in preparedness for their communities already; one of the goals of the Summit was to motivate the group to continue working on that effort. Other goals: Inform attendees of the overall Emergency Preparedness work that is being done and where preparing at the community level fits into this effort; provide an overview of where each community is at and where they want to go; identify current issues and challenges; identify the need to maintain interest and structure beyond initial interest in order to create a sustainable structure.
Presenters included Richard Conlin (President, Seattle City Council); Barb Graff (photo above – Director, Seattle Office of Emergency Management) gave a keynote presentation on the importance of preparing at the community level. She mentioned one very interesting statistic: There are 208 firefighters on duty today and the same number will be duty on the day of the emergency. Most of us have the skills to be able to help in a crisis; ordinary skills such as changing a flat tire or comforting someone who is crying will be needed, not just medical expertise. Characteristics needed are compassion, creativity and determination.
Steve Erickson (Magnolia) presented the common aspects and challenges of the 3 neighborhoods. Each of the 3 neighborhoods spoke about their unique aspects and challenges. Cindi Barker gave the presentation for our West Seattle group, Frank Gaul gave the presentation for Magnolia-QA-Interbay, and Mary Heim covered Wallingford-Fremont.
Other quotes and takeaways from the presentations:
· We help or we be helped.
· Prepare any way you like: the outcome is what matters…that we get prepared.
· Preparedness needs to be a lifestyle, not a special activity.
· Our plans are only as good as your ideas.
· The common concept of the hubs in each community is to have neighbors helping neighbors; come to the hubs if you can help your neigbors with unmet needs.
· There are too many of us for them (the city) to take care of us.
Following the presentations, there were 3 break-out sessions on the topics of Radio Functionality, Hub Site Functionality, Outreach and Support by Partner Organizations. Highlights from the break-out sessions were presented when the group reconvened. The Summit concluded with a brief summary of issues and tasks ahead, then a quick tour of the EOC facility.
Deb and I attended the breakout on Outreach and Partner orgs. Many good ideas that can be leveraged for future emergencies came out of that session; they included repurposing shipping containers for storing supplies or using as shelter, and taking a generator in the back of a truck to help those who need electricity.
Footnote: Cindi Barker shared this document about the unique features of the West Seattle Hubs. And our nightly reminder: One product of the aforementioned West Seattle Emergency Preparedness Committee is the thorough West Seattle Be Prepared website – take a look if you haven’t already – check out more of it, if you have!