Backpack Kits for Wallingford Community Volunteers from March 2010 - photo by K. Lindsay
Recent earthquakes in Haiti, Chili, Japan and Sumatra might turn some thoughts towards preparedness, considering that we live in an earthquake zone. Mary Heim, and members of the Wallingford Community Preparedness Project, want to turn those thoughts into practical action.
Four Layers of Preparedness
Most of us know the need for personal and family preparedness. Also, for our businesses. Simple steps to prepare can be done daily: store water, assemble first aid kits for home, the car, work – and the kids’ schoolbag – and establish an out-of-area contact. Talk about and practice your plan with family, co-workers and employees.
“Secure your house,” Heim sternly stated, or your business. After a disaster, this will be the first focus. Once loved ones are safe and secure, we can focus outward. The triangle diagram Heim uses describes the next level as SNAP/Block Watch Preparedness.
The City SNAP, or Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare, program trains neighbors so communities can be better prepared. “Get to know your neighbors,” Heim suggested, to find out their skills – nursing, construction, security, etc. – and identify the most vulnerable – elderly, youth, etc.
From tending to immediate neighbors, Heim hopes volunteers step up to her level – Neighborhood and Community Preparedness. After that comes the last – City Preparedness. The Office of Emergency Management works hard to organize a strong system of police, fire and aid response. Yet, in our city, with a complex network of vulnerable bridges, dependence upon City services may be unwise.
Neighborhood & Community Preparedness
“The planning we’re doing is at this community level,” Heim explained. The Preparedness Project seeks to connect neighborhood blocks together. “If someone at B.F. Day Elementary School needs something, maybe someone at John Stanford International School has it,” she demonstrated.
Heim attended a SNAP training on Queen Anne, where she met others doing preparedness at the community level. Since then three pilot projects – in Wallingford, Queen Anne/Magnolia and West Seattle – successfully petitioned the Seattle City Council for a one-time $7,000 grant to purchase equipment and do outreach. City staff document the best practices among these pilot groups and help guide other communities, like groups organizing on Capitol Hill and View Ridge.
“Basically, I stole it all,” she said, “we benefitted from all they did.” Heim has worked closely and learned from the Queen Anne/Magnolia mapping project and the West Seattle work with radio communication, and HAM radio operators.
Heim bought radios with the grant money, designed portable information kiosks and outfitted her volunteers with backpacks that include materials they might need like a binder of instructions, maps, notebooks, the radios, rechargeable batteries, a hand-crank flashlight, mechanical pencils, glow sticks, utility tape, a whistle, pocket knife, a neon security vest, etc.
“The priority is to take care of home, block and then the community level,” Heim pointed out. Within the community will be a number of central locations and, “we’re going to use [these] hubs as rallying points.” On April 3, a bicycle group, SpokesPeople, will host a ride among the designated hubs.
In interests of covering their whole area, the Preparedness Project identified hubs that overlap into Fremont and other neighboring communities – near B.F. Day (and Fire Station #9), Gasworks Park and West Woodland. Fremonsters, and Greenlake neighbors, can get involved to work at these hubs – as we may well gather at these prepared sites during disasters.
Volunteers are desperately needed, for training, to make the Project work. “I need enough volunteers so the bench is five or six people deep for each of the hubs,” she explained, as not all trained volunteers may be available or accessible when disaster strikes.
“The more we can get it in front of people, that they need to prepare themselves,” Heim explained, “the better off we all are.” As horrible as tragedies can be – the recent serial earthquakes, Hurricane Katrina, September 11th or the 2008 Seattle snowstorms – they can provide warning about the need to prepare. Fremonsters, and all interested, are invited to attend a monthly meeting of the Wallingford Community Preparedness Project on 4th Tuesdays (next one March 23) from 5:30 – 7 p.m. at the Wallingford Community Senior Center at the Good Shepherd Center (4649 Sunnyside Avenue North).
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