In case you just couldn’t make it to the Senior Center of West Seattle last night for the first training session sponsored by the all-volunteer West Seattle Be Prepared – above, you will find WSB video of the session, in its entirety. The leaders were David Shannon and Sarah Rothman from the local branch of the American Red Cross. If you don’t have time for an hour-and-a-half video, here’s our report on the highlights (added 8:59 am):
By Katie Meyer
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
“Our volunteers are our most precious asset and resource, and without them, we can’t do it,” declared Deb Ticknor, Red Cross Readiness Manager, leading off the first session in a new West Seattle series with an overview of how the Red Cross responds to local disasters.
“If something happens here in Washington, say we have a major wildfire and a landslide at the same time, a lot of families would be impacted, and our local chapters would respond. We would bring in people from around our state who are Red Cross-trained, so when a disaster hits we’re ready to stand up and provide services that our community needs.”
However – you need to be prepared, too, and that was the point of the session – don’t expect somebody else will rescue you (not immediately, anyway).
Held at the Senior Center of West Seattle, last night’s event was the first in West Seattle Be Prepared‘s Training and Education Series. The speakers also included David Shannon and Sarah Rothman from the Red Cross chapter serving King and Kitsap counties. They explained, demonstrated, and answered questions, about the many services The Red Cross provides (funded solely by donation dollars), and the importance of individual citizens learning how to be prepared and strengthen their community should disaster strike.
“We have more than 800 chapter-trained volunteers, one-third of whom are available at any given time. Also a ‘reserve corps’ of citizens on standby, trained ahead of time. Those ‘Search Capacity Volunteers’ have all the Red Cross training, and are called only in major disasters.” Ticknor noted that regular volunteer teams are on standby 24/7 and recounted some of the events to which they have responded.
One audience member jokingly said, “Sounds great, I don’t need to do anything” to which Ms. Ticknor replied “Remember ‘Three Days/Three Ways’? “If we were to have a major event in our state that impacts infrastructure – it takes three days to mobilize people from around the country. When there’s an earthquake, do you want to come to a shelter that might not be safe yet? It takes some time for government agencies to certify the location is safe. If we were to have a major event that affects infrastructure, you need to be ready to take care of yourself for a minimum of three days until things are mobilized. FEMA now suggests two weeks. Party line for the Red Cross is three days. Personally? Three weeks.”
Shannon spoke next: “We’re looking at building a strong neighborhood community: that’s what it’s going to come down to in the event of a major disruption – our police, fire, etc will be really taxed, stretched thin for the initial three days – it’s good to have more than three days’ supplies, but three days is the base amount that people should have. It will take some time – there are logistics issues, bridges could be out, the logistics of setting up a shelter, a safe facility that could be used, getting information out, staffing, getting supplies there – those three days (and hopefully more) of you having your own supplies is going to be essential.”
After a disaster hits, the fire and police departments do what’s known as a “windshield” assessment: “The fire department looks around for infrastructure damage, at facilities like hospitals, major infrastructure, roads, reporting the status of that up the chain of command to the FEMA officials, so decisions can be made where resources can be put best into service. Neighborhood preparedness is critical, we’re all going to be surviving such an event as a community – get to know your neighborhood – who has a chainsaw, tools to get through trees down on a house or car, who has skills, any nurses, doctors, who is CPR trained, is there someone who can set up a little feeding area, someone who can watch kids?”
(From the PowerPoint used last night)
Our state has several different possible disaster events from floods, wind and winter storms/power outages, wildfire and brush fires, and volcanic eruptions, to something that’s been on many minds since the recent events in Japan: earthquakes. Noting that the Pacific Northwest had 44 small earthquakes in just the last two weeks (the highest was 3.4), David mentioned West Seattle’s vulnerability to earthquakes with three fault lines coming through the area, and stated that “Preparedness is not just something you can check off and forget, it’s a practice, like we practice things for our health, we keep working towards it.” Some preparedness tips:
HAZARD HUNT: Look around your home and see if something fell over, would it hurt someone? Block an exit? Keep you from getting to your loved ones? Break your heart?
SUPPLIES: Have one kit at home, one in your car, and one at work:
Home: drinking water and non-perishable foodstuffs: Minimum recommendation is one gallon of water per person per day, but it’s better to go above that, and plan for week or two out. Keep it fresh by replacing it at the same time you change your clocks for daylight savings time: every 6 months. Have one area where your emergency supplies are contained, because you can’t run around collecting items in a crisis!
Keep a “go kit” where you can grab it if you must leave your home immediately: a small backpack containing some water, a little food, medications, first aid kit, flashlight, radio, heavy gloves, phone numbers, and your documents: birth certificates, photocopies of insurance information, your drivers license, your will, passport, etc., in Zip-Lock bag. Include some cash in low denominations because cash machines might not be working.
Car: Kit suggestions included granola bars, bottled water, blanket, radio, flashlight, first aid kit, hand warmer packets, et al.
Don’t forget a radio – “it’s going to be your link to getting information: where is the shelter open in my area? What’s going on? What’s happening? You can even charge your cell phones off some hand crank batteries.”
COMMUNICATION PLAN: Designate your out-of-area contact, someone that lives outside of this geographic area or out of the state. When local phone lines are jammed and your family members can’t get in touch with each other locally, that person is easier to call long distance, and they can be your “message center.” You let them know you’re OK, then your other family members can call them, and they relay the message, they’re the loop. (Sometimes if phone service is all down, you may be able to get through easier sending a text message or e-mail.)
Back to practicing your preparation plans: “Try it as if your house really was on fire – getting out, getting to neighbors house, etc. It’s muscle memory – in stressful situations, you’ll rely on the experience of practicing that plan.” Ticknor chimed in with “You can plan and plan and plan, but if you don’t PRACTICE your plan, you’re planning to fail.”
Before presenting some CPR tips, Rothman reiterated how a Hazard Hunt in your home can prevent injury: “The number one injury after earthquakes are cut feet – people running around, running on broken glass. Keep sturdy shoes under your bed!”
More ways to “control your environment” include securing items that would fall, such as picture frames and tall furniture like bookshelves and display cabinets. Use wall bolts or straps – and remember to strap your hot water heater to the wall. What’s recommended if you’re in bed when an earthquake hits? “Cover your head with a pillow, and stay there.”
“Our goal is to have one person trained in CPR in every household. In King County we have more people trained per capita than any county in the US.” A full CPR training class is about five hours – two hours CPR, with three hours of first aid. Sarah demonstrated the steps to take when encountering someone who might need help, including “The Three C’s” before beginning CPR:
Check that the scene is safe, look for your own safety there
Check the victim – tap their shoulder, talk to them
(Call 911 if person doesn’t respond – assign task to someone on scene)
Check for signs of life – breathing, pulse.
After demonstrating a CPR cycle of two rescue breaths followed by thirty chest compressions, Sarah noted that the Heart Association is moving toward recommending that civilians do “compression-only” CPR – and that is also “a successful method that will still increase someone’s chances for survival a lot!” The use of an AED (automated external defibrillator) was also shown.
Sarah fielded questions about legal liability, i.e. “Can you get sued if you try to help?” Read Washington’s “Good Samaritan law, as it does protect regular citizens from legal liability “if they help in a situation without receiving anything in return, and you’re not negligent. Act within good faith, and within the scope of your training. You need to ask for permission to help them, per the law. (If person passes out, then it’s “implied consent.”)
“What about a child? If they’re unconscious or conscious, can you help them?” “You need to ask for their parent or guardian’s permission. If none to be found, the situation is one of “implied consent.”
One-hour overviews of CPR/first aid training are available for free; contact the Red Cross office. There’s a wealth of disaster preparedness tips, guidelines, and other useful documents at their website, and “we are available at the Red Cross office, if you have questions while making plans, or need advice, call us or e-mail any time.”
West Seattle Be Prepared plans more training ahead – keep an eye on their website (as well as here on WSB); their updates can be found here, which is separate from their main, resource-laden site here.