Disaster? Expect to hunker down

By Meg Olson

When Washington state released the after report on the Cascadia Rising training exercise held to prepare communities for a catastrophic event, Virginia Lester saw one over-riding message for Point Roberts.

“We will really need to fend for ourselves for a period of time,” said Lester, and that period will likely be weeks, not days. Lester is currently chair of the Point Roberts Emergency Preparedness Committee (PREP).

In the event of a catastrophic earthquake and/or tsunami, Lester said state and county efforts would focus on communities anticipated to suffer the severest damage and with the largest populations. “Our most important goal is to be able to manage on our own for as long as possible until the airlifts with supplies get to us,” she said.

At home, Lester said, residents should be prepared with three weeks of food, water and needed medication. As a community, the more people who are trained as part of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), the better.

The team works as “helpers” to the fire department, which coordinates community response in a major emergency in conjunction with the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.

“The fire chief wants to make sure there aren’t just a bunch of cowboys out there. Helpers need to be trained and you need to practice to be effective,” she said.

Last June, fire chief Christopher Carleton organized a drill to help the department and CERT members work seamlessly together, and another drill is being planned, Lester said.

A refresher course for the approximately 40 residents who have undergone CERT training is scheduled for January 28 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Benson Road fire station. Lester said everyone was welcome to attend to learn what the team does, “and they’ll definitely learn something,” she said.

A full CERT training course will be offered in February, with 26 hours of training over a three-day weekend. For more information call Lester at 945-2827.

The communications group, chaired by Tom Bailey, also participated in the Cascadia Rising exercise under the umbrella of PREP. “We were also part of the steering committee meetings for the establishment of the Whatcom Emergency Unified Communications Center,” Bailey said.

The group has 18 members who practice weekly calling into the radio controller of the local radio net they operate. “These are the people who would, in a real live incident, pass on any information from our membership to the county and keep track of what is going on here on the Point,” Bailey said.

The communications group also offers training to community members wishing to join the effort. Interested parties can contact Bailey at 945-0773.

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