Preparedness Month, first report: West Seattle Be Prepared

View West Seattle Emergency Communication Hubs in a larger map

Once again this year, WSB is taking time every night in April – proclaimed Disaster Preparedness Month in our state – for at least a tidbit of special coverage (sometimes more) to help you get closer to the goal of being ready for anything. This time, we are going to focus specifically on earthquake preparedness, still so top-of-mind following the recent Japan megaquake/tsunami disaster, preceded by the New Zealand quake. But first out of the gate, the most important thing we can do is make sure you are tapped into West Seattle Be Prepared, a volunteer-led effort with online and offline components. The biggest one is the designation and mapping of “Neighborhood Emergency Communication Hubs” around the peninsula. As explained on this page of the West Seattle Be Prepared website, the hubs are “emergency community gathering sites in case a major disaster occurs that makes it impossible to get information and help in the usual ways.” Check the map (above, and here, with a downloadable/printable version here). Know your nearest hub. If you don’t see one near your neighborhood – that’s only because volunteers haven’t come forward yet to designate and plan one (maybe you can help?). Hub or no hub, bookmark and browse West Seattle Be Prepared; also check out its new blog-format site, with more-topical information, like a newly launched events calendar; join the WSBP group on Facebook; and “follow” @wsbeprepared on Twitter. Saturday night, we’ll start getting down to quake-preparedness specifics. If there’s anything specific about earthquake preparedness or earthquake risks you’ve long wondered about, leave a comment or e-mail, and we’ll be sure to find experts to address it during our month of coverage.

8 Replies to "Preparedness Month, first report: West Seattle Be Prepared"

  • 22blades April 2, 2011 (8:19 am)

    Having returned from Japan during the initial days of the crisis,I can’t tell you how important this is when the infrastructure dissapears. Along with food, water and shelter, important dissemination of information is critical. I hope the residents and businesses take note of this in a new light. Thank you for bringing light to this!

  • 22blades April 2, 2011 (8:27 am)

    A side note; I’m not a computer expert, especially on how networks are setup or located. When the rolling blackout were about to start, I was surprised every time that the internet would go down about 15 minutes before the lights went out. I depended on Skype to comunicate back home. I guess my point is that power issues are internet issues.

    • WSB April 2, 2011 (9:04 am)

      Thanks, 22. It’s one reason we pay for five different paths of Internet access (wired and not wired), even knowing something big could take them ALL out, we thought we’d at least increase the odds. Some of the folks involved with WSBP and other preparedness efforts have ham-radio setups for neighborhood communication by data and voice if need be (we have been to some of the drills). And our commitment is that even if it comes down to us helping physically run pieces of paper around (our nearest hub is one mile downhill to the Thriftway), we’ll do that. Makes me think one interesting story would be to ask wireless companies about their readiness – do their towers have generators? What are their backup plans? How strong are their installations? And for wired companies too … hmm … TR

  • Yardvark April 2, 2011 (8:39 am)

    Thanks again to the volunteer-led group of folks that are putting these plans together. They’ll make a HUGE difference when and if disaster hits.

  • kr April 2, 2011 (2:23 pm)

    WSB, two questions I have that I’d love to see covered:
    1) You work outside West Seattle and an earthquake happens. The viaduct closes automatically, the lower bridge may be incapacitated or open and the upper level bridge is closed for precautions (if it’s still up). How do people plan to get back to WS? I’ve thought about many of the options and almost all involve crossing a bridge or swimming at some point. Given that all of Sodo and most of the waterfront is in the liquefaction zone and will likely be a complete mess, what’s the next best way to get back to WS? Does the city have a policy on bridge shutdowns in an emergency? If we did get a 9.0 quake, does the city or state have any predictions on whether or not our bridges will survive?

    2) Communication without cell or landlines. Does anyone know if long range walkie-talkie’s will work in an urban environment like downtown? I’ve read that even ones that advertise 22 mile ranges are often reduced to fractions of that in dense urban areas with lots of interference. I know a little bit about local HAM radio networks but not enough to have any idea what I’m talking about. Would it be easy to set up in an office or do you need a big antenna?

    FEMA and others have some great templates for filling out family emergency preparedness plans and part of that is an out of state contact but you never know how long it will be before phones may be back up.

  • M April 2, 2011 (6:16 pm)

    How does one go about setting up a neighborhood hub? The people at the top of 35th would have to go a long way downhill to either hub 6 or 7. If there is information about how to set one up, I’d certainly look into taking the initiative for getting one going up here for us in the high altitudes.

    Edit: Nevermind. I saw Holden and for some reason thought Thistle. My mistake. :+)

  • Karen Berge April 3, 2011 (11:52 am)

    To M & others who would like to establish additional hubs, contact our group! You’ll find more info about how the current hubs were established in the Learn More section of our website:
    To kr: Your first question would be better answered by the Office of Emergency Management or those that work for the city. We’ve linked to many of their very detailed documents from our site. You’ll find them at the top of our Additional Reading page in the Resources section: ,
    That said, I can tell you that our group is continually thinking about and discussing these issues with the OEM and other organizations. If the bridges and city services are unavailable,it will be even more important for us to be prepared as a community.
    I’m not our group’s radio expert, but can tell you that we are primarily using handheld GMRS radios (they don’t have big antennas) to connect the hubs & have several “repeaters” in place that allow us to communicate across the city despite hilly terrain & tall buildings. We test the radios weekly & usually have good results. .
    Sometime this month, we’ll post more specific info about using radios to our site; meanwhile, you can find more details about our radio tests in the Learn More section & you can find links to the HAM radio group websites on this page:

  • rzuber April 4, 2011 (10:21 pm)

    kr, I am the radio guy that Karen alluded to. The radios that I think you mean are what we refer to as “bubble wraps”. They take forever to open because they are form fitted in plastic and hard to open. They my say 22 mile but that is hilltop to hilltop or “line of sight”. So in downtown next to the buildings you would not have too much success I’m afraid. It also depends on where you are trying to reach with your radio call. Around here you will be lucky to get 3 to 5 miles. We use special radios like Karen said that use repeaters. Because the West Seattle area is so large, the repeaters that are on high spots can pick up the radio signal and retransmit it at the same time. This allows Fauntleroy to talk to Alki and Morgan Junction to talk to Alaska Junction. Let me know If you have any more questions about the radio system we have set up. Glad to answer any that you may have. (WQJE383/KC7RWT)

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