Of turkey sandwiches, personal responsibility, and emergency preparedness



Thomas Goldstein (of Washington Bus fame) and I had lunch together Tuesday, and although it may sound like a  snore-inducing discussion, we talked about Seattle’s emergency preparedness opportunities. We met at Bakeman’s on Cherry Street, where a typical disaster only involves dribbling cranberry sauce off a turkey sandwich  down my front.

I am sure you already know –as an alert reader — that April is Emergency Preparedness Month.  And while I’d like to think that the biggest worry in my immediate future is Bakeman’s running out of dark meat, I know it’s important to get organized and be able to take care of myself and my husband should the sky really fall or the Earth truly tremble.

As we saw recently in Japan and most every other major international disaster, several days can pass before vital services are restored.  Neither you nor I want to be the turkey caught unaware and unprepared.  Are you ready to join me and wipe the symbolic cranberry sauce off our shirts and get to work on preparing to care for ourselves and our family in an emergency? Could you connect with and lend a hand to your neighbors, too, should they need the help?

I am chagrined to admit that I’m not prepared like I should be,  even though I have a list of my neighbors’ phone numbers and know the emergency prep mantra by heart. You know the one – it’s plugged often by King County’s Office of Emergency Management and features the “3 Days, 3 Ways” initiative:

1. Make a plan

A plan is a pre-determined set of action steps that you will take during a disastrous event. As we never know if or when a disaster will strike, identifying our actions beforehand increases our safety, lessens our anxieties during an event, and alleviates some of our fears towards disasters.

2. Build a kit

Have a Disaster Supply Kit at home with a minimum of three days worth of food, one gallon of water per person per day and including a battery-operated radio, flashlight, batteries, blanket, extra clothes, study pair of shoes, ibuprofen, thermometer, alcohol-based hand wash.

Have basic items such as food, water, light, first aid kit and a blanket for your car, work or school. Include extra change should you need to use a phone booth.

Have special needs items in your kit like a supply of needed medications for a minimum of three days, an extra pair of eyeglasses or extra cane, surgical mask, and food/water/leash for your pet.

3. Get involved

Know resources around you, including agencies and groups that provide safety training. Be a resource to someone else who may need help preparing. Remember: during a major disaster we will depend on each other.

What the 3 Days plan provides is a framework that you can evolve based upon the people in your household and the layout of your home and property.   My husband and I have about 1000 square feet in our condo, and trying to find the space to stash the recommended three day supply –six gallons of water– can be a challenge. Likewise, that case of refried beans, soup and canned peaches to get me and mine through three days takes up more shelf space than we have.  Under the bed perhaps?

Come to think about it, I’d rather turn to a stash of purified water in a 5-gallon jug then have to make do with what’s in the upper toilet tank.  Wouldn’t you?  Find space, I will.

If you’ve done your due diligence and checked out the 3 Days site, vist the City of Seattle’s Office of Emergency Management for more tips and information. You can also see what others are doing in Seattle — check out our West Seattle and Fremont neighbors for example. If you need something a bit more interactive, try http://www.sf72.org/home. The City of San Francisco created a series of responsive icons that you can click on for specific tips. While there, take the Earthquake Quiz and see how you do. That site can be translated into one of five languages, too.

I understand that in San Francisco people can opt-in to a web site and get local emergency info texted to them.  Thomas Goldstein told me he was in SF recently and learned via text that a gas main had burst in an area where he was headed.  He responded accordingly.

Messaging can address the gamut of problems, from Thomas’s broken gas main and hill slides to major traffic wrecks or tsunamis. Seattle needs this kind of messaging capability, too, and I’m working with Council President Richard Conlin and now Thomas Goldstein to make this happen.

“AlertSF is a text-based notification system for San Francisco’s residents and visitors. It sends alerts regarding emergencies disrupting vehicular/pedestrian traffic, watches and warnings for tsunamis, flooding, and Citywide post-disaster information to your registered wireless devices and email accounts. Registrants can also sign up to receive English-language automated information feeds and/or alerts targeted to specific areas of the City.”

How have you prepared yourself and family for possible emergencies?  Please let me know what you’ve done to get prepared and email me at sally.bagshaw@seattle.gov.  I’ll share some of the best ideas I receive.

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