By Margo Getsinger, PREP member
April is the first full month of spring, and a great time to plan how your household is going to be even better prepared for the next windstorm or other disaster. The Point Roberts Emergency Preparedness (PREP) group is here to help. Throughout the year, in addition to planning our own preparedness and participating at local events, we will be writing articles for the All Point Bulletin with various tips, guidelines, links, lists and other useful information.
On March 9, the PREP group met with fire chief Chris Carlton to discuss the successes and lessons learned following the December windstorm, and how to prepare for future disasters and emergencies. To understand the issues from various angles, we are encouraging input from Point Roberts residents. Please send us observations and suggestions as to what did and did not work, and what might work better in future emergencies. Send stories about your households, your neighborhoods, ad hoc efforts, communications and community-wide resources and efforts. Please email stories and suggestions to PREP@whidbey.com.
PREP’s tip of the month for April 2019 is the basis for the first of the nine steps to take immediately following disaster and is the most important: take care of your loved ones. Our loved ones include all people and pets in the household, those not at home at the time, and others we care for, both nearby and far away. How do we take care of our loved ones ahead of the emergency? Take time this month to establish and rehearse a family emergency plan that ensures everyone in the household knows what to do (and not do) in each type of emergency, where to initially meet each other if you have to leave the house, numerous ways to contact each other, how to find out what’s happening in the area and how to contact other special people and emergency resources.
The family communication plan is the core of the household emergency plan. Choose a willing out-of-area person whom all in the household should contact in an emergency, and make sure family members always carry or have memorized that person’s contact information. At a central location in the house, post contact information for everyone living at the house, important family members and friends, plus key medical, vet, emergency and other important numbers and email addresses. Send the complete list to your family contact person as well (update as needed). A detailed online form to use as a model of what might be included is at ready.gov/make-a-plan. Most families use the fridge as the central information point, and the fridge is the primary place emergency personnel check when they come to help.
While you’re together and the family is meeting to discuss your family emergency plan, it’s also a good time to discuss and set up ready-to-go kits for each member of the family – each adult, child and pet.
Curious about the other initial steps to take following a disaster? According to a brochure prepared by the Washington state emergency management division, Map Your Neighborhood, there are nine steps to take immediately following a disaster. Here’s the short version:
1. Take care of your loved ones.
2. Protect your head, feet and hands.
3. Check the natural gas or propane at your house (shutting off if necessary).
4. Shut off water at the house main.
5. Place a “help” or “ok” sign in a visible place to help responders.
6. Put your fire extinguisher where neighbors can see it, to use if needed.
7. If able, go to the neighborhood or community gathering site.
8. Form response teams at the gathering site to start communication, canvassing and response actions.
9. Regroup, share findings and assess what needs to be done.
After experiencing a real disaster event here at Point Roberts, you have probably realized the importance of getting your family and household ready for the next emergency. If you want to help our community be ready for the next one, we encourage you to get involved in PREP, which meets the first Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m., at the community center on Gulf Road. In future articles we’ll discuss more about what you can do, the PREP group and other volunteer opportunities in the community.