West Seattle, Washington
It’s been 20 years since our area’s last major earthquake. The next one could happen in 20 more years, or 20 decades, or 20 minutes. Preparedness is vital. It can also seem overwhelming – where do you start? Spend a little time at 7 pm Wednesday (May 26th) getting some inspiration with HPAC, the community council for Highland Park, Riverview, and South Delridge. Here’s their preview:
We’ve been coping with a pandemic, and a major bridge closure, but are you ready for our next big seismic event?
If we had a major earthquake tomorrow that left us without water for several weeks would you know how to harvest water from your hot-water tank or make a makeshift toilet?
Both before and after a disaster, reliable information about services and supplies is just as important as preparedness for keeping people safe. The Highland Park Improvement Club is a member of the Seattle Emergency Hub Network, whose goal is to train Hub Captains and community volunteers to help provide important information both before and after a disaster strikes. Erika, one of the HPIC Hub Captains, will join us to give an overview of the Emergency Hub network, HPIC’s role, and give a preview of the types of events we have planned with the HUB in the coming months.
Other neighborhood concerns are welcome as always, HPAC says. Info on watching/participating via videoconferencing, or calling in by phone, is here – where you’ll also find info on the first in a series of upcoming webinars on the city’s earthquake plans.
That’s the question the American Red Cross has for you. If you’re not sure – they have something else for you – a free personal online session to review fire safety. Here’s the explanation they asked us to share with you:
The goal of the Home Fire Campaign is to reduce home fire fatalities by educating clients on home fire safety and installing free smoke alarms in homes that do not have them. Due to COVID, we have pivoted to delivering free virtual home fire safety sessions to interested clients. These virtual calls take less than 20 minutes and review topics such as the most common causes of home fires, how to create and practice a home fire escape plan, how to test your smoke alarms, and additional local hazard preparedness information (e.g. earthquake). Interested folks can request a free virtual appointment on our website.
You can go here to set up that appointment. (You might even be eligible for a free smoke alarm if you don’t have one already.)
The state’s “Good Samaritan Law“ will expand to protect emergency-services volunteers in more circumstances, thanks to teamwork between West Seattle advocates and legislators. The bill has passed both houses of the Legislature. It’s explained in this announcement as:
House Bill 1209 expands Washington’s Good Samaritan Law by providing that a person is not liable for any act or omission while providing volunteer nonmedical care or assistance at the scene of an emergency or disaster, unless the act or omission rises to the level of gross negligence, or willful or wanton misconduct.
The main sponsor, Pierce County Rep. Dan Bronoske – who happens to also be a firefighter – explains, “Say a flood is approaching and the only way to help you escape is to break down a door or windows, response teams would be able to take that emergency step without fear of personal liability. That does not mean you would be left without financial help like insurance or disaster aid, just that the emergency volunteers responding would be protected too.”
Key advocacy came from the volunteers of the Seattle Emergency Communication Hubs; West Seattle-residing Hubs advocate Cindi Barker tells WSB they first approached West Seattle state Rep. Eileen Cody, who in turn worked with Rep. Bronoske to make the bill happen (Cody and West Seattle Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon are among the co-sponsors). Barker tells WSB, “The Seattle Emergency Communication Hubs have been aware of this issue for several years; the question of liability protection often comes up when we do outreach about emergency preparedness and talking about helping our communities after a disaster. The State Attorney General’s Office had provided us information that a general response after an earthquake would not be covered by the Good Samaritan provisions because when it was written, it addressed medical responses only. Even most recently, during the COVID response, some people have held back from volunteering, worried about the liability. So we decided to fix that gap.”
Next step will be for Gov. Inslee to sign the bill into law; no date for that is set yet.
Exactly 20 years ago, at 10:54 am February 28, 2001, West Seattle and the rest of the region was shaken in a big way by what went into the history books as the Nisqually Earthquake, after its South Sound epicenter. The magnitude 6.8 quake was big but not The Big One – that is considered to be still likely someday, maybe in our lifetimes, maybe not. But you need to be ready – there are abundant reasons why, such as what’s shown on this USGS map of how the area stacks up in shaking risk; note that some parts of West Seattle are considered at higher risk than others.
Meantime, preparedness remains vital. Every time there’s an anniversary, we remind you that a single, simple action you can take is to know your nearest Hub:
Shown on that map are the Emergency Communications Hubs – community-powered, pre-planned locations you would go in case of major catastrophe, if regular communication channels were disrupted. Be sure you and your family know the closest one. If there’s not one anywhere near your neighborhood, you can organize one – start here. Quakes are still happening – usually too small to feel (check this map for the most-recent ones) – but still without warning; even though an “early warning” tool is in development, it would give you seconds at best.
P.S. So where were you when the Nisqually Quake hit?
Amateur (ham) radio is more than a hobby – many hams play vital roles in community preparedness work, and other volunteer roles such as safety logistics for big community events (the West Seattle Grand Parade, for example). But you need a license – and that requires a test. The West Seattle Amateur Radio Club recently provided a round of testing with unique challenges posed by the pandemic and more. WSARC’s John Walling sent the photo and report:
Five people took the FCC Amateur Radio Service License Exam provided by West Seattle Amateur Radio Club. Three exam levels were provided: Technician (for new hams), General, and Extra (for existing hams). Three new hams passed the Technician exam, one ham moved up from Technician to General, and one ham moved up from General to Extra.
The exam was held with a two-week lead time and under adverse conditions caused by COVID-19 and high levels of smoke from wildfires. The test was planned for outdoors but was moved indoors to avoid the smoke hazard and was held with safe distancing and COVID-19 precautions. As each participant signed in, their temperatures were taken with a forehead infra-red thermometer to verify they had normal temperatures. Masks were worn by everyone. Hand sanitizer and wipes were plentiful. Five Volunteer Examiners (VE) and a VE Coordinator (VEC) supervised the exam according to ARRL guidelines.
Testing facility was provided by Beckwith and Kuffel (1313 S. 96th).
WSARC has more info and photos here
For more than a decade, we’ve been reporting on West Seattle’s Emergency Communications Hubs – community-powered operations that, if we’re lucky, we’ll never need – places you would go in case of major catastrophe, if regular communication channels were disrupted. West Seattle was a leader in hub creation, and it’s now a citywide program. Right now that program is crowdfunding for the first time to cover its fairly nominal operation costs. Longtime local preparedness leader Cindi Barker sent the announcement:
The Seattle Emergency Communications Hub Network is an ALL-VOLUNTEER force dedicated to helping Seattle communities prepare for a disaster. We work closely with City of Seattle officials, are incorporated into the response plan, but choose to remain independent of formal city control. This allows us to remain nimble and respond to our communities as the unique entities that they are. Currently, we have nearly 60 Emergency Communication Hubs throughout Seattle where trained neighbors will gather to help organize and support their communities after a large disaster.
We continue to focus on skill training and education of our existing hubs and we are determined to increase our outreach to communities of color, to non-English speakers, and to those with accessibility or economic challenges. This has been an exciting time as we navigate new paths and learn how to reach out to all communities with sensitivity. More on that in the near future but for now, we are turning to the community for support.
Hub Volunteers have shouldered our operating expenses for fourteen years. For the first time ever, we are asking our supporters to cover our expenses for the next two years as we migrate to a more sustainable business model. It isn’t a large amount – $5,500. Our network costs include website maintenance, videoconferencing capabilities, translation services to engage more Seattle residents, and multi-language printed materials such as how-to manuals, outreach materials, essential forms, and self-help posters.
If you can donate – here’s where to do it. And even if you can’t – check out the West Seattle hub map above (as well as more resources here) and be sure your family and neighbors all know about your nearest hub!
Received today from the state Fire Marshal’s Office – a potentially life-saving reminder:
The Washington State Fire Marshal’s Office advises residents that home furnishings have changed over the last few decades from natural materials to synthetic materials. Synthetic fabrics, padding, glues, and resins in newer furnishings burn hotter, faster, and produce more toxic gases and smoke than natural materials.
Studies have shown that room fires with older, natural materials get hot enough to reach “flashover” (the point when all of the materials in the room ignite) in about 30-45 minutes. Whereas newer synthetic materials reach flashover much quicker, in about four to eight minutes.
Additionally, when natural materials burn, the smoke includes hydrogen, carbon, and carbon monoxide. When synthetic materials burn, additional toxic gases including benzene, formaldehyde, and hydrogen cyanide are created.
This means that it is now more important than ever for families to respond and escape quickly in the event of a fire.
· Residents should be sure that their home has operable smoke alarms installed in every bedroom and in the hallways on each floor of the home.
· Plan and practice a home fire escape plan. Be sure everyone has two ways out of each room.
· Check doors for heat before opening them. If the door is hot, use another way out.
· In a fire emergency get outside immediately, and never go back inside the home.
· Smoke is poisonous. Stay low and get outside immediately. Never go back inside.
· Gather at a designated meeting place and call 911.
Here’s a video with a side-by-side comparison of how natural and synthetic furnishings burn.
Thanks to West Seattle preparedness advocate Cindi Barker for the tip on this: A survey that gives you a chance to reflect on what you wish you had known before the pandemic hit – how prepared were you for some of the challenges these past five months have thrown at you? As the city-conducted survey explains, “We want to learn more about impacts to our community so we can help people be more prepared in the future.” You can answer the survey by starting here.
Marked on those map are West Seattle’s Emergency Communication Hubs, designated sites where volunteers would coordinate communication in case of a catastrophe that disrupted normal methods. On this 19th anniversary of the 6.8-magnitude Nisqually Earthquake, memorizing your nearest Hub location – and ensuring your family knows it too – is one quick preparatory step you can take to prepare in case of The Really Big One. Not seeing one near where you live? Here’s how to change that.
Just in case this catches your eye tomorrow, the Port of Seattle sends this FYI:
Orion, the general contractor at Terminal 5, will be performing a water rescue drill on Thursday, November 14, from 11:00 am – 11:30 am at T-5’s north-end derrick barge, the St. Helens.
On Wednesday, thanks to a reader tip and photos, we reported on the new emergency-communications tower going up by Myrtle Reservoir Park, at the city’s highest elevation. Our initial inquiries left a lot of questions unanswered but we connected with the right people today and they answered those questions by putting together this news release:
The Puget Sound Emergency Radio Network (PSERN) Project is upgrading and expanding the current, aging King County Emergency Radio Communications System (KCERCS). A West Seattle radio tower, located on land owned by the City of Seattle is part of that. It’s located on an existing KCERCS site and the PSERN Project is replacing the tower as part of a critical emergency radio system upgrade.
PSERN will primarily be used by law enforcement, fire fighters, and other emergency personnel to communicate with each other during E-911 activities – from small incident responses to major emergencies like earthquakes. The PSERN system is comprised of 61 radio towers engineered to provide the best coverage available using direct, line-of-sight technology between towers to communicate with each other, in combination with other technologies. This is not a 5G cellular site; the technologies are different.
The tower will be ready to respond to emergencies after construction and testing is complete. Construction of the new PSERN tower and equipment installation will take another six to nine months to complete. The old tower will then be torn down.
The project began its work on the West Seattle tower location in late summer 2019 and has followed local jurisdiction permitting requirements, including a land use sign on site. Additionally, the project chose to pay an additional cost to paint the tower a color allowing it to better blend in with its surroundings.
Construction and materials costs for the PSERN West Seattle tower equipment are approximately $800,000, paid for out of the PSERN Project.
PSERN was approved by King County voters in April 2015.
PSERN is an 800 MHz digital network.
The system will cover all populated portions of King County, along with the three major highways in the eastern part of the county.
It is a large, complex program comprised of more than 80 subprojects. That includes the 61 radio sites based around the county in a wide variety of terrain, 19 dispatch centers, deployment of up to 19,000 radios, and other system components.
PSERN Project Partners/Owners:
Eastside Public Safety Communications Agency (EPSCA)
King County – lead agency
City of Seattle
Valley Communications Center
The system vendor is Motorola.
When the project is complete, the system and all project assets will be operated by a new municipal nonprofit corporation, the PSERN Operator.
P.S. We found documents for the project permits in city files, which shows it’s been in the works for four years. The tower is 140 feet tall.
Students at Explorer West Middle School (WSB sponsor) ended their day today with a lesson in preparedness.
Rain didn’t get in the way of their participation in the Great ShakeOut earthquake drill.
The drill was more about testing their plan for what the school would do after a quake than what to do during one. That includes assessing and treating injuries, with role-playing during the drill.
Parents had a role too – picking up students at day’s end, they had to sign them out the same way it would work during an actual emergency.
P.S. If you’re looking ahead to middle school next year, Explorer West has an open house coming up next week – 6:30 pm Tuesday (October 22nd).
You might already know this through your workplace, or your kid’s school – tomorrow is the annual “Great Washington Shakeout” earthquake drill, with more than a million people expected to fake a quake at 10:17 am (on 10/17). The goal this year: To be sure you know how to “drop, cover, and hold on” to protect yourself as best you can once the shaking starts. P.S. For West Seattle-specific preparedness info – covering more than quake readiness – go here!
With 7.1 and 6.4 magnitude quakes in Southern California the past two days, you might be thinking about preparedness, since we’re in quake country too. So here’s one simple thing to do: Know where your nearest Emergency Communication Hub is. The map above shows the ones in our area. These are spots where community volunteers will set up alternative ways of communicating, from amateur radio to paper-and-pen message boards, if we’re hit by a disaster that disrupts regular communications. They can be rendezvous spots too, so know where yours is, and be sure your loved ones know too. If you wish there was one closer to you – get involved and make it happen.
P.S. For more preparedness info, plan to visit this year’s Delridge Day festival five weeks from today – Saturday, August 10th, at Delridge Community Center Park – which will include the next Urban Survival Skills Fair, just like the one at the West Seattle Bee Festival back in May.
Before the weekend wraps, we have one more community meeting from this past week to recap: The West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network‘s final meeting before summer hiatus. Here’s what happened when the WSBWCN gathered Tuesday at the Southwest Precinct:
PRECINCT UPDATE AND COMMUNITY Q&A: Capt. Pierre Davis said crimes against persons are up 14 percent, largely because of the string of robberies earlier in the year. Property crimes are down 13 percent. Citizen diligence remains helpful – he admits you’ve heard it many times, but, “if you see something, say something.” In the Southwest Precinct jurisdiction, South Park remains an area of emphasis – the Anti-Crime Team is there, serving warrants. Alki Beach is a West Seattle area of emphasis and they started early this year, including one group of dedicated traffic officers.
This past weekend, amateur-radio operators and emergency-preparedness specialists gathered at South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) for the annual Field Day. Community members were welcome to stop by, observe, and learn. In case you weren’t able to, local videographer Mark Jaroslaw created the video above explaining how – in case of catastrophe, particularly The Big One – what was happening on Field Day ultimately will help you be safer in the aftermath. Participating entities included the Puget Sound Repeater Group, Seattle Auxiliary Communication Service, West Seattle Amateur Radio Club, Western Washington Medical Services Team, Red Cross, Search And Rescue, Seattle Emergency Hubs, and the Seattle Office Of Emergency Management.
Do you know where your nearest Emergency Communication Hub is? If you don’t, finding it on the map and memorizing it is the single most important takeaway from that story. Two of the hubs – volunteer-staffed rendezvous points that would be set up in case of catastrophe – are “activated” right now as part of a citywide drill, explained in the announcement:
The drill simulates conditions the day after a magnitude 6.7 earthquake along the Seattle Fault has caused extensive infrastructure damage. The damage from such a quake would likely include a failure of grid power and cellular service, making communications and emergency services a challenge. Because the Hubs are key gathering points for neighborhoods, communications between the Hubs, (Auxiliary Communication Service), and the city’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) are critical. Much of the exercise will involve moving simulated messages around the city using field- deployed, off-grid communications.
The two hubs participating in the drill, which continues until noon, include Hiawatha and Morgan Junction Park. We stopped at the latter:
Though to the unknowing passerby it might have looked like a lot of standing/sitting around, everyone has a role, and periodic drills like this are vital to keep plans and skills top-of-mind.
Again, these preparations – and what would happen if disaster struck – are all-volunteer efforts. It’s been stressed time and time again that the “officials” will be overwhelmed so especially in the early aftermath, you have to be ready to help yourself, your family, your neighbors. And if you are interested in setting up a hub – here’s how.
Saturday’s West Seattle Bee Festival offers much to look forward to, including the first-ever Urban Survival Skills Fair. Cindi Barker says it’ll be a fun way to find out about disaster preparedness. Here’s what else you’ll find at the USS Fair in a big tent in the north end of High Point Commons Park, by the Bee Garden (Lanham/Graham), during the 10 am-2 pm festival:
The Urban Survival Skills Fair offers an opportunity to gain a variety of preparedness-related skills and useful knowledge from experts. Topics may include:
Amateur Radio — Learn about one of the few communication tools that do not depend on the internet.
Develop a disaster communication plan — Communication is critical during a disaster. What should you consider when making your own plan?
Learn some useful camping hacks and share your best hacks with us!
Build an emergency toilet! We’ll have 50 free toilets to give away (first come, first serve). Learn what to do if the sewer lines have broken or if there is no water.
Prepared Communities — Learn more about the network of Seattle Emergency Communication Hubs and about the West Seattle Emergency Communication Hubs.
Prepared Families — Take some high impact, low-cost steps that can help your family and household make it through any situation.
Prepared Neighbors — Learn about the City of Seattle’s SNAP (Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare) program.
Prepared Pets — What steps can you take to make sure that your pet stays safe in a disaster?
Prepared Schools — Do you understand the “reunification process” that schools may implement following a disaster?
Smartphone Emergency Apps — Take steps before a disaster to download useful tools…many will function even without a cellphone signal. Do you know of other apps?
Utilities — Do you know when or if you should shut off utilities such as gas, water and electricity, and how to do so safely?
Water — Do you know how to properly store and purify water? Following the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, people were without running water for over a year.
This should provide a great opportunity for people who attended our “Is West Seattle Prepared?” events last fall to get more detailed information and hands on skills for preparedness. For those who were not able to attend, videos of those events were just completed and are available at the following links:
Introductory comments, October 7, 2018:
Glenn Farley, KING 5 News
Keynote Speakers, Nov. 3, 2018:
Dave Nichols, WS Resident, Certified Professional Emergency Manager and ShelterBox Response Team Member
Sandi Doughton, and author of “Full Rip 9.0: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest”
Keynote Speakers, Oct. 7, 2018:
Ken Neafcy, WS Resident and Certified Professional Emergency Manager
Harold Tobin, Director, Pacific Northwest Seismic Network. University of Washington Professor, Dept. of Earth and Space Sciences
City of Seattle and King County Public Health – Role of Government in Disasters, Nov. 3, 2018:
Seattle Fire Department – Lt. Andrews, Station 29
Seattle Police Department – Lt. James Britt, SW Precinct.
Seattle Office of Emergency Management – Melanie Cole, Outreach and Training Specialist
King County Public Health – Carina Elsenboss, Preparedness Director
Skills Training, Nov 3, 2018
Scout Troop 282
What should be in your disaster kit
MacGyver Tips – what you can do with a garbage bag.
As for the rest of the Bee Festival – look for that preview Thursday!
Thanks to Mark Jaroslaw for pointing out that today marked exactly 70 years since Puget Sound’s biggest earthquake of the 20th century. The 7.1-magnitude South Sound quake at 11:55 am April 13, 1949, led to the deaths of eight people. Two were students – at schools in Tacoma in Castle Rock. Here in West Seattle, damage at a school was among the most notable in the city, mentioned with other nearby damage in the HistoryLink.org summary of the quake: “… At Lafayette Elementary School in West Seattle, the large brick gable over the main entrance collapsed. Three bridges crossing the Duwamish River were jammed shut due to shifting earth. …” The school damage – to a building that was predecessor to the current Lafayette – is featured in this post by historian Paul Dorpat. But because – like the 2001 quake – it was centered in the South Sound, that’s where it hit hardest; The Olympian published a story today featuring quake survivors’ memories.
SO, ARE YOU READY? The anniversary is another reminder that you need to be prepared for the next big quake. If you need some inspiration, next month you’ll find it at the West Seattle Bee Festival – an Urban Survival Skills Fair presented by West Seattle Be Prepared is part of the plan for the festival, 10 am-2 pm on Saturday, May 18th, at High Point Commons Park.
If you were in this area 18 years ago, right now you were coping with the aftermath of the Nisqually earthquake, which hit at 10:54 am on February 28, 2001, with a magnitude of 6.8. Someday, the experts say, something even bigger will hit. It’s the natural disaster you most need to prepare for, and you are lucky to have neighbors who are dedicated to helping. To mark the anniversary, they’re sharing the video (by local videographer Mark Jaroslaw) from two of the keynote presentations at a full-house preparedness event in West Seattle back in November:
Journalist Sandi Doughton and preparedness Dave Nichols were just two of the presenters; we covered the entire event and published this report afterward. As our headline noted, the most important preparedness plan is the one for your home, your family, your neighborhood – especially in the early aftermath, even the professional responders will be overwhelmed, and you need to be ready to be self-reliant. Lots more resources, by the way, are available at West Seattle Be Prepared.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
On the long to-do lists that usurp most days for most people, it’s easy to let the maybes slide beneath the certainties.
Thanksgiving? Definitely a week and a half away.
Catastrophic earthquake? Could happen tomorrow … or not in your lifetime, or your children’s lifetimes, or their children’s lifetimes.
Still, about 200 people filled the auditorium at Hiawatha Community Center a week ago to start their weekend getting practical advice for getting ready for the latter.
It was a power-packed few hours, going beyond the standard advice you might have tuned out despite best intentions.
The longtime local volunteers of West Seattle Be Prepared and the West Seattle Emergency Communication Hubs were elated by the turnout. It was the second of two nearly identical weekend sessions they had organized, the first one a month earlier at High Point Community Center. They’re hoping to do it again in 2019. Before our toplines: Highlights from videographer Mark Jaroslaw:
The event provided more than preparedness advice – it gave a bigger view, too, as well as a behind-the-scenes window into how public servants are, and are not, getting ready:
Taking cover under classroom desks was only part of the plan as Explorer West Middle School (WSB sponsor) participated in today’s Great Washington ShakeOut earthquake drill. No matter how ready you are, an earthquake or natural disaster can lead to injuries, so EWMS practiced dealing with those too:
Preparedness means having supplies on hand (this includes suggestions):
And it means everyone’s involved. Here’s EW head of school Evan Hundley:
There was a communications component too – this text was sent to EWMS parents:
P.S. As mentioned in our daily highlights list and calendar, Explorer West has the first of three open houses for prospective families tonight – 6:30-8 pm, 10015 28th SW.
It was a one-shop preparedness stop at High Point Community Center on Sunday afternoon – the first of two big educational events local volunteers led by West Seattle Be Prepared are presenting this fall. Thanks to Karen Berge for sharing photos and notes! And yes, it wasn’t all deadly serious – above, Brian Nozynski from the West Seattle Amateur Radio Club shared a “MacGyver Moment” of improvisation with Cindi Barker of WSBP. (What he’s wearing is a “giant contractor’s bag” you can buy and carry everywhere – it can be used as clothing, sleeping cover, and more.) Informational displays were of course part of the event:
KING TV journalist Glenn Farley moderated; speakers were from a variety of organizations and areas of expertise, including Harold Tobin of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, who Karen reports “talked about the science of earthquakes – the different types, the frequency and potential magnitudes and the damage that might occur. He also talked about the new early warning system and what some of the benefits of that technology are. Even if it provides only 5 to 10 seconds of warning, it would allow time for citizens to drop-cover-hold and for critical operations to be paused or stopped.” Local Scouts helped present disaster-skills training:
Their presentations included disaster kits, water purification, and disaster sanitation. A recurrent theme: Emergency responders will be overwhelmed, so you have to be prepared to care for yourself and your loved ones – advice included having 2 weeks of provisions, and have disaster kits in your home, workplace, and vehicle. Before the three-hour-long event concluded, attendees were urged to get familiar with their nearest Emergency Communication Hubs and the volunteer captains for them.
P.S. Though signups are already full for the next presentation in November, there are other things you can do if you didn’t register in time – request SNAP training for your group, block, building, etc.; go play Disaster Trivia this Wednesday; browse the WSBP website and learn lots more about being ready.