West Seattle, Washington
Right about this time Wednesday morning (11:20 am our time on October 4), your cell phone will likely go off with one of those shrieking alert tones you’ve heard after Amber Alerts. It’s a nationwide warning-system test that you might already have heard about since it was announced in August – we’re mentioning it today just in case you haven’t. The test is explained in detail here. In short, at or shortly after 11:20 am Wednesday, your phone should receive the alert – just once – and the screen will show, ““THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” Around the same time, radio, TV, and cable systems will broadcast a similar emergency message. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Federal Communications Commission are teaming up on this and summarized in the announcement: “The purpose of the Oct. 4 test is to ensure that the systems continue to be effective means of warning the public about emergencies, particularly those on the national level.”
Hundreds of West Seattle streets will be closed for block parties on Tuesday night (August 1st), this year’s Night Out. It’s a nationwide night for community-building, with a focus on safety and preparedness, and a great chance to check in with your neighbors if you don’t get to chat much over the course of the year. You can see some of the areas where parties are planned by looking at the map on SPD’s Night Out page. If you’re not participating in a Night Out party, be careful when you’re traveling between 5 and 9 pm Tuesday night, as those are the hours for most street closures. P.S. If you’re having a party and wouldn’t mind us stopping by for a photo, email us – firstname.lastname@example.org – thank you!
Seven hours in, the local amateur-radio operators gathered at South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) for this year’s Field Day are just getting started. They’ll be there for a full 24 hours, until midday tomorrow. It’s part of a national event, so they’re talking with and listening to other “hams” around the country. They’re also talking about technology:
And they even have a swap meet set up for buying and selling equipment:
Ham radio is more than a hobby – it’s also a vital part of the plan for communications in case a catastrophe interrupts the regular methods, so this event is a test/practice too:
Many of the scheduled events for the day are over but you’re still welcome to stop by (all ages invited) to see what they’re doing and how things work – they’re in the north lot and field of the college (6000 16th SW).
For 24 hours this weekend, 11 am Saturday to 11 am Sunday, the north side of the South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) campus will again become a ham-radio hub for the annual Field Day. And it’s all open to the public – you can stop by, observe, participate, and, as organizers explain, “learn more about emergency preparedness, community engagement and service through communication, and the wide world of ham radio!” This is an annual event known as “ham radio’s open house” – and it’s nationwide, as organizers explain:
Field Day is part show-and-tell, part preparedness exercise, and part nationwide contest, aimed at sharpening technical skills and growing the hobby of amateur radio generally. Members will join thousands of other stations set up in fields and remote locations across the country for a weekend of on-air operation. This event is meant to mimic operations in an emergency situation, like an earthquake, where power, internet and cellphone service might be interrupted.
Look for antennas, trailers, and tents in and around the SSC north parking lot and field (6000 16th SW). Field Day is organized locally by Puget Sound Repeater Group and West Seattle Amateur Radio Club. You can see the detailed schedule of events by going here.
In case of catastrophe, it’s likely that volunteers like these will be helping you long before the official emergency responders ever make it out to the neighborhoods. So that’s why the Seattle Emergency Communication Hubs hold regular rehearsals to rehearse how they would help get info – between authorities and neighborhoods, and between community members. Today, one of West Seattle’s “hubs” is part of a citywide drill.
The back lot at Hope Lutheran is the official West Seattle Junction hub, and during the drill – called “Power Down,” meant to simulate a widespread loss of power and regular communication channels (as previewed here) – it and selected others around the city are hubs of activity:
This is what you might see if something major ever happens and requires hubs to activate for real.
In addition to written messages on whiteboards, volunteers are also using ham radio to communicate (voice and internet) – it’s one of the few things likely to be working, with the help of emergency power sources.
This is continuing until 4 pm and you’re welcome to stop by. In any case, be sure you and your family know the location of the nearest hub – see the map here – and if you don’t see one reasonably close by, volunteer to start one!
P.S. You can also learn about the hubs and personal preparedness from volunteers who will be tabling during next Sunday’s Morgan Junction Community Festival.
If you have some semblance of a household disaster plan – even something as simple as how to get out in case of fire – congratulations, you are ahead of the curve. Even if you don’t, it’s never too late to start thinking about preparedness – pre-disaster. This Sunday is your next opportunity to find out how the neighbors-helping-neighbors, volunteer-powered Emergency Communication Hubs would work. A select number of the city’s hubs will “activate” for a power-outage scenario – here’s the poster:
The closest participation hubs are at Hope Lutheran in The Junction (42nd/Oregon) and the South Park Neighborhood Center (8201 10th Ave S). Here’s the invitation from hub volunteers:
Sunday, June 11th, 1:30 pm to 4 pm
“Power Down” is a simulated, large-scale power outage impacting the entire City. Ten Emergency Communication Hubs will “activate” and help neighbors by sharing information, matching needs and resources, and much more! Easy to observe or participate; show up at any time between 1:30 pm and 4 pm and we’ll walk you thru the Hub. You’ll understand how it works very quickly and learn so much! Sign Up here… signup.com/go/APLXyJD
More info at seattleemergencyhubs.org
All the West Seattle hubs are shown on this map. If there’s not one near you – here’s how to get involved and get one going!
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The earthquake that has killed thousands in Turkey and Syria is a massive disaster that reminds us all on a personal level that preparedness is vital. It can be life-saving both during and after a quake. Local preparedness advocates have long been working to find new ways to get more people to get ready.
Toward that goal, a recent family-education meeting at Gatewood Elementary School doubled as a sort of prototype for volunteer preparedness educators to use for future gatherings in other school/neighborhood settings.
Volunteers from the Seattle Emergency Communication Hubs set up tables to share “Urban Survival Skills” – how to prepare your family, your school, your home, your community, as well as “tech hacks” you can use.
If you aren’t familiar with the Emergency Communication Hubs, here’s an explanation. In short, they are spots where volunteer Hub Captains will set up communication-coordination spots if a disaster takes out normal channels of communication. One easy way to start your preparedness journey is to know your nearest hub location (here’s the West Seattle map) – and if there’s not one nearby, get involved and start one! At the recent Gatewood Elementary meeting, participants milled around the tables, learning about the Hubs and about specific points of preparation.
Ann Forrest from Seattle Emergency Communication Hubs helped coordinate the meeting.
She said that in a larger venue, they could have as many as 17 educational stations. As another volunteer, Deb Barker, showed us, some of the tips are simple, like making sure you always have shoes by your bed in case you’re sleeping when disaster strikes and you have to escape through broken glass and other debris. Also – ensure there’s no furniture (like unsecured bookshelves) that might fall on you. This simple list circulated at the meeting offered suggestions:
Partnership with institutional leaders, when applicable, is important in making a plan. Gatewood principal Kyna Hogg explained to the families at the meeting that they do several kinds of drills regularly, including an evacuation drill.
The families also heard from Forrest about Hub operations – including what they’re not meant for, as well as what they are. Example: Hubs won’t be places to get food/water, but they will be places to connect you with information about finding it if you need it. And a point of pride: West Seattle has more hubs than any other part of the city, as the movement got its start here.
So what’s next? A longtime West Seattle leader in the hub organization, Cindi Barker, stresses that this was a pilot, and intended to see whether people found it useful and interesting. So far, she told us, feedback indicated that it was, so they’re working toward another school meeting, possibly for West Seattle Elementary. From there, the concept could spread, If you have questions, here’s how to contact Seattle Emergency Hubs.
Be a neighborhood hero – be the person on your block or in your building who has amateur-radio skills just in case of catastrophe. It’s the communication mode that’s likely to keep working even if everything else goes out. First step: Take a class that’s coming up, so you can get a license. The West Seattle Amateur Radio Club has issued the invitation:
Ham radio is a great hobby and a great way to serve the community. One can communicate locally, around the world or even via satellite. It provides an excellent means of emergency communication. Your license never expires as long as you renew every 10 years (no need for another exam). This is to be a fun, low-key, learning experience; class participation and asking questions are encouraged. However, instructors will not call on individual students during class, so that you can feel free to participate at your comfort level. Conceptual materials will be presented during the first weekend so that you can study efficiently during the following week. Practical scenarios and demonstrations will be presented on the next Saturday. A review session will be offered on the final Sunday.
The classes are all day Saturday, May 7th, Sunday, May 8th, Saturday, May 14th, and then it’s exam day on Sunday, May 15th, all at the Salvation Army Center in South Delridge (9050 16th SW). The classes are free; the test carries a $15 fee. You can go here to register.
The state Department of Ecology has sent advance word of a drill you might notice if you’re looking toward Harbor Island or the downtown waterfront tomorrow (Tuesday, April 12th). Starting at 9 am, the alert says, “Kinder Morgan and NRC will be deploying equipment to exercise their oil spill contingency plans, and test the geographic response plan for that area. Activities will start at the Kinder Morgan facility on Harbor Island [map], and then move to the waterfront near the Seattle Aquarium. Crews will operate oil spill skimmers near Harbor Island and deploy boom near the Seattle waterfront.”
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Another Northwest earthquake swarm – this time off the Oregon coast – is the latest reminder that we live in a seismically active area.
You hear a lot about preparedness, but it should go beyond the “have some food and water stashed away” stage, the District 1 Community Network heard at this month’s meeting, which featured two other topics – “street sinks” and the local Salvation Army Center.
First – the spotlight presentation was from Cindi Barker, an Upper Morgan Junction resident long active with the Emergency Communication Hubs, a volunteer organization that works to ensure neighborhoods have gathering places in case of catastrophe (find your nearest one here) and to raise awareness of other preparedness issues.
Know where your nearest Emergency Communication Hub is? Check the map and memorize it! West Seattle has long been a leader in this aspect of preparedness – with volunteers ready to set up spots to coordinate communication if a disaster cuts the regular channels. To stay ready, volunteers practice – and they’re doing that at two sites in the city these next two weekends, Volunteers are needed to help with the drills, too. Nearest one to us is a week from tomorrow – Saturday, September 25th – at Jefferson Park on Beacon Hill. Here’s their explanation of what they’re doing:
Feeling pummeled by the pandemic? Try tackling a different type of disaster! Seattle’s Emergency Communication Hubs and The Seattle Auxiliary Communications Service Ham radio operators are responding to simulated earthquakes on two different Saturdays in September. The “Double Trouble” exercise will run from 9 am to 1 pm on September 18th and again on the 25th. Hub Volunteers need YOU to make this exercise successful. They need practice responding to the overwhelming requests for help that are likely after the “big one” hits. Everyone benefits from these drills. Volunteers get better at supporting their communities, the public learns what the Hubs can and cannot do, and the overall system gets stronger. Win Win Win.
Saturday, Sept 25th, from 9 am to 1 pm we’ll be on the south side of town – Jefferson Park next to the tennis courts. Getting involved is easy. Once you arrive, you will become an actor for us; you will be handed a piece of paper with a situation written on it and see if the Hub volunteers can help you. The situation will be something that could realistically happen after a large earthquake: Your household needs drinking water. Your pet is lost. The gas station just caught fire but 9-1-1 is overwhelmed. Your participation will help Hub volunteers improve their skills and adapt their processes. Participating in the exercise is valuable for you as well because you will learn SO much about what to expect if Seattle were to have a large earthquake. You can arrive when convenient and stay for as long as you like. More information can be found at www.SeattleEmergencyHubs.org or by contacting Info@SeattleEmergencyHubs.org or by calling (360) 550-2234 or (206) 933-6968.
Tomorrow’s north-end exercise is happening in Maple Leaf.
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).