I recently returned to Rainier Beach after attending an intensive emergency training given by FEMA at their training center in Emmitsburg MD. Seventy Seattleites attended “Community Partners in Disaster Response”, a simulated training exercise designed to test emergency management policies, plans, procedures and resources. All major players from SDOT/METRO/Police and Fire Depts./SPU/CL/SCHOOLS/PARKS/AMTRAK, etc. from our city were represented. I was invited by The City of Seattle’s OEM (Office of Emergency Management) to represent all 40 neighborhood HUBS during our exercise. I was proud to be selected and very excited to learn next to the emergency management experts of our city.
Our exercise situation was a snow storm that would not stop…not unlike the major winter storms that plagued the east coast in 2010. We actually heard about “SNOWMAGEDON” from various emergency managers and survivors from New York, DC, Providence RI, as well as Baltimore MD. Hearing how these diverse cities and municipalities dealt with snow (79″) deep in a 2 week period was very valuable. Many policy decisions have to be made at the executive level, for example should businesses and schools be closed before the worst of the weather hits to keep citizens safe. As a group we realized and discussed how decisions made or not made will affect our city during an actual emergency. As a working group we tackled lots of complex issues, from running out of all types of fuels, widespread power outages, roof collapses and low food supplies. As is often the case in “snowballs” (pun intended) troubles quickly multiply and cascading events complicate all daily activities, as well as our ability to recover after a natural disaster.
As a RAINIER BEACH EMERGENCY COMMUNICATION MEMBER, I will share that we need many more HUBS to blanket the city. Our local hub is hosted by Rainier Beach United Methodist Church at Roxbury and 55th. In the event of a real disaster the HUB will serve dual roles of communication and resource sharing, first among neighbors then with city agencies and other officials. During an emergency when phones, power and internet may be down, using our two way radios hopefully we will be able to communicate with Seattle’s Office of Emergency Management as well as other HUBS. Also police, fire, and other city officials will be using the HUB locations as points of contact during times of crisis.
Community action and activation of our local HUBS during times of trouble will be absolutely needed and an invaluable resource to our survival. In the few drills we have practiced as a local hub, I assumed we’d just use our two way radio to tell the city to help us. During this 4 day training, I saw first hand that the city, regional, and state players will be completely “covered up” with their duties, and likely unable to even answer our call! I realized also that I need to make my home as ready as possible and them make positive connections with my neighbors as best I can. Those jobs are up to me.
We have approached some of our close neighbors and had positive interactions towards getting prepared as a group. Let’s all keep up the good work to get ready for a disaster; first as families ready with their own supplies and then as blocks and streets and finally as neighborhoods. At the neighborhood level the more prepared we are and the stronger our relationships with our neighbors: the safer we will all be and the better outcome we will see.
Please join us at our next HUB meeting 10-15 at 7pm and consider starting your own neighborhood preparedness group. Visit http://www.seattle.gov/emergency/programs/snap/ for more info on getting ready.
Photo by amorisin via flickr