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So you think you're prepared? | Guest View


Last updated 10/18/2017 at Noon

If you are, great. If you're not sure, read on.

If you know you're not, you are in company with a lot of people. What am I talking about? Disaster preparedness, having basic provisions, basic plans and basic planning as to how you and your loved ones can survive natural or manmade disasters.

The truth of the matter is that your mindset must be one of self-reliance and resourcefulness, especially during the first several days of a major occurrence.

Think about the recent severe weather events and catastrophic earthquakes occurring in various parts of the world; unprecedented wildfires burning thousands of acres in and around populated areas; a dormant volcano transitioning to a major eruption.

Think about these types of events occurring here. Consider also incidents such as airplane or train accidents; civil disturbances; terrorist activities; explosion, structural collapse, or hazardous material incidents; or energy and utility system failure.

The city of Edmonds, in partnership with Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management and with the state’s Emergency Management Division, has disaster plans in place. The key to the city's preparedness is our Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (bit.ly/2yEtNIj), available for your review on the city's Disaster Preparedness webpage.

The plan is a guide for incident management, including mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery actions. In the event of a major disaster, the city will activate its Emergency Operations Center (EOC), located in the Public Safety Building, with a backup location at Public Works. In case of a regional disaster, our surrounding cities, Snohomish County and the state will activate similar centers.

The primary purposes of an EOC are to facilitate timely situational assessment and coordination of resources and communication among personnel and agencies involved with the response, as well as to disseminate information to the public.

Our EOC utilizes a multidisciplinary approach. Representatives of the police, fire, Public Works and Engineering, Planning and Building departments are all part of EOC operations. Other city departments such as Finance, Parks and the city clerk are also present in supporting roles.

For example, Parks is tasked with coordinating emergency food and sheltering and working with private sector entities such as American Red Cross.

Elected officials, including the mayor and City Council members, are responsible for overall policy direction during an emergency. The mayor is expected to provide visible leadership to the community, policy direction for the EOC, and to proclaim special emergency orders.

The City Council has responsibility for appropriation of funds to meet emergency needs, as well as assisting with maintaining continuity of government and receiving and dissemination pertinent information between constituents and the EOC.

In addition to planning, we train together with our local, county, and state officials for disaster preparedness. Last year, a weeklong, full-scale statewide exercise called Cascadia Rising involved a coordinated emergency response to a simulated 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami.

Federal, state, and local governmental and tribal agencies across the state participated, including Edmonds and Snohomish County. Together, we tested response to a disastrous and dynamic situation, the likes of which we have not seen for several generations.

One of the overarching lessons learned was the need for Washington residents to prepare. A catastrophic disaster such as Cascadia Rising would result in major damage and disruption to public infrastructure, including roads, bridges, electricity, telephones, water and sewer.

Homes and work place may well be uninhabitable. Food, water and fuel would be in short supply or not available. Emergency police and fire response, and medical care, would likely be severely compromised. Responses will have to be prioritized.

The role of our residents is of key importance in the response and recovery from disasters. There will not be enough resources to respond to every emergency need. Each resident must be personally responsible for preparing to meet their own emergency needs for at least two weeks.

These preparedness items include having a plan, stocking supplies, learning emergency skills like first aid and CPR, and reducing hazards in the home and workplace.

Planning resources for our community are available on the South Snohomish County Fire and Rescue website at http://www.firedistrict1.org/.

As first responders, your police and fire departments are your partners in disaster response. However, it is critical that you become involved with your own disaster preparedness mission. Planning is key. It starts with you – today!

Al Compaan is Edmonds' police chief.


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