Jan 152011

A group of the usual suspects gathered at the fire hall the other night to discuss disaster preparedness. (By “usual suspects” I mean some of the 20% that does 80% of the volunteer work on the island. The 80/20 Rule seems to be an inviolate law of nature). The interest in disaster preparedness should be universal because it is the one issue that will affect everyone. Some years ago the Fire Department started a Disaster Preparedness Program which focused on Map Your Neighborhood.  This involved neighborhood pods getting together to discuss how to check on each other in emergencies and how to take care of other basic functions such as turning off water and propane. In addition there were admonitions to acquire a hardhat, flashlight, gloves and a sturdy pair of shoes to keep near ones bed. Map Your Neighborhood got off to a strong start, then stalled.

Interested parties are trying to revitalize Disaster Preparedness on Lummi Island by suggesting a new tack. That is to encourage organizations to take responsibility for specific functional areas. These areas might be: shelter, mapping, food bank, communications, mapping, equipment, potable water, hardware supplies, medical, transportation, fuel supplies, power generation, septic (wasted disposal).

One needs to keep in mind that our Fire Department is a response organization that will not have the time or manpower to do any of the above in the event of an emergency (and by emergency were are talking in terms of an event lasting more than a couple of days). On the other hand, the Red Cross offers support for several of these functions (shelter, food bank, communications and medical).

On January 29, from 8am-4pm the Red Cross will be on the island to train enough volunteers to open and operate a Red Cross shelter on the island should we become isolated during a disaster. Specifically, they will give an overview of Disaster Services, teach how to set up, run and close a Red Cross shelter during a disaster and simulate working with procedures on how to set up, run and close a shelter. The training is free of charge. Anyone interested should contact  Bobbie Hutchings 758-7191. Also see Wynne Lee’s post here.

The next meeting of this planning group will be Feb. 7 at 7pm at the Fire Hall.  Anyone with an interest is encouraged to attend.


  13 Responses to “Disaster Preparedness”

  1. The Fire Dept instructs their volunteers to take care of their families first, then respond to the needs of others. Ten or so volunteers doesn’t stretch very far with a population of somewhere between 1000 and 3000, depending on the time of year. Thanks to Terry Terry for several doses of reality in a big disaster the other night.
    So, if the 80/20 rule is even close, then my little stash of emergency supplies isn’t going to last very long for my family, much less the other 80% wandering around looking for help. It’s a really ‘gut wrenching’ experience to prioritize ones own needs over that of their neighbors. My 5 day supply would be gone in a day under that formula, but I don’t know if I have the heart to turn someone away.
    Of course, it’s much better to have 80% prepared for whatever, with only 20% needing help. That’s manageable.
    So bravo to Terry, Duncan, John G. and especially Bobbi for trying so hard to to make any emergency we face less of a DISASTER.

  2. People should keep a minimum of 2-3 weeks worth of food around for disasters. The idea of a 3 day emergency supply doesn’t cut it on an island. We are 1 earthquake away from a really bad day. The mormons stress keeping a years worth of food around. A bit excessive but it doesn’t cost that much for a 20lb bag of basmatti rice, a bag of beans, box of matches and some oatmeal. You can barter cup for cup if your diet starts getting boring but at least your eating.
    If there is a disaster in the NW and on this island the first few days will be a clusterf#ck, doesn’t matter if General George Patton is back to run the show. The fire dept will be overwhelmed and people will have to step up and help each other. Better to keep a little extra around.

  3. Good advice Jim. The Jaun De Fucia plate is about due for a 9+ earthquake. It’s rated among the MOST dangerous fault zones in the world by USGS – right up there with Chili and anything Asia has.
    Every major city along I-5 would be overwhelmed for weeks, just like New Orleans. Lummi Island would truly be an island for everything,
    Are we prepared for such an event? Not even close!
    BTW, you can have a cup of anything we have in the cupboard for all your years of service to the island, expecting nothing in return.

  4. The Lummi Island Fire Department web site: http://www.lummiislandfire.com/ has many useful links for emergency planning, including The Whatcom County Emergency Management site: http://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/dem/ , and Whatcom Ready: http://www.whatcomready.org/

  5. Quite a few islanders attended a LICA general meeting a couple of years ago where Brian Atwater, the USGS scientist who has been studying earthquakes for years was our guest speaker. He made it very clear that we sit on a very significant fault zone and that it is just a matter of time before we experience an earthquake. He predicted the earthquakes in Haiti and Chili. You can google Brian Atwater for more information about his research. The Directors of Emergency Management for Birch Bay and Lummi Nation also attended that meeting and have begun preparations. The tsunami warning system on the reservation were the result of Brian Atwaters research. There is a lot of information out there to support our community efforts to be prepared.

  6. My door-stop is a gallon jug of water with a few drops of bleach, refreshed on occasion.
    I carry a bright wind-up scuba-rated flashlight whereever I go which can charge phones and USB devices.

    When I lived in the woods, I collected 55 Gal. drums of water from my hill (roofs and driveways are good candidates for this). Drums can be connected with siphon hoses o automatically fill in unison. Combine this with your landscape watering tactics into a drip feed system, and you’ll have a visibly clear idea how much water you really use. You can also use this with a ramp and tower outside your bathroom, with a line valve directly to your tailet tank.
    Of course I had to bicycle my water five miles up a hill back then, and learned that one can rinse shampoo with a 1 qt. drip shower. Somehow I was still able to make uncontaminated sparkling meads up there though. Another trick I still use is having a 75′ length of 3/8″ vinyl hose to siphon clear bathwater to the front yard.

    Talk to your local cell providers, and see if you can get the local towers to run their own server with backup power for emergencies. In combination with 4G USB modems, you’ll thus also keep up an intranet, if not internet service. Skype is my only phone service, for $60/yr I get unlimited long distance calling to phones, and a phone number that regular phones can reach me at. ..but it requires internet.
    When I was 9-11 years old, I used to install phone lines, on and off the phone grid, but these days my urban LA phone company has stopped even servicing the copper wires that go to our apartment bldg.

    The best pantry items are often the cheapest way to eat anyhow. Even living four blocks from a supermarket, I live pantry style. If pineapple drops from $1.34 to $1.08/can, I buy a case. Remember to rotate; Anything which arrives, say a can of beans or chipotle, gets marked with a black Sharpie marker. It being January, my groceries will get a ‘11.1’ on them. The catfood cans are simply stacked in a queue, first-in, first-out. Save all your yogurt lids to allow safer stacking of cans and bottles. Considering I’ve gone 2 months without a trip to a convenient supermarket, I’m not too worried about temporary ferry outages. In a quake your cabinets will be scrambled. You might prefer to keep bottles separately in a low cabinet at the back fringe of the kitchen, away from bare feet.

    My bed is by the front door. I’ve practiced being down the stairs in about 3 seconds, before the plaster starts falling and the stairs detach. (I once lived in a 2-bed stilt cabin which came to rest on a redwood during a quake which took out the Santa Cruz, CA downtown).

    Presumably the fire dept. pointed out that generally, triangles of safety, like next to a bed are best.
    Also by the door is my bicycle trip bag. Rather than choose what to bring for excursions, I choose what not to bring, thus in an emergency, I have a sweat-suit, trail-mix, toothpaste, wind-up flashlight, flashers, notebook, radio/ipod, etc.on me without a moment’s extra thought.

    Hopefully the fire department owns a nice hydraulic jack for lifting roof beams, otherwise you should at least know who does. Careful with automotive jacks. I lost a co-worker to a seal failure on one. Scenic Estates has some risk of sliding down the hill. When I was younger, my solution to that was spherical concrete-rebar homes which safely roll hill, which is to say I have no useful solutions on that matter. Even a solid post & beam toboggan cubicle could get crushed by a fir tree, and still might end up buried 100′. Perhaps a counterweighted one-use tree elevator, that’s presuming the trees don’t get buried as well. The sanest thing is probably to stay with someone on the flatlands if the ground surpasses a specified water saturation level. I doubt there’s any useful response time once the ground shifts. I’ve never heard of people even monitoring this. If you have about a week of solid downpour, consider leaving the hills. Slides happen in spite of solidly forested faces. Think of hill surfaces like a steep-downgrade bumper to bumper with semi-trucks. No sort of retaining wall can hold up the whole mountain-side once ground anywhere on it loses it’s grip.

    I presume the N.W. is not immune to forest fires, and once they start, helicopters dumping sea water is about the only solution. So it comes down to prevention. People are fond of BBQs. We take them for granted, but if they were a new invention you’d never see mobile devices with open flames being approved for sale, at least not with OSHA style regs on asbetos mats, fire extinguishers, and such. But on a wood deck, next to wood siding, under a tree? I suppose I’m not used to damp northern forests, but rather the notion that any cigarette ash is likely to cause a fire in the woods if not guarded intently.

    If you wanted to go old school I suppose you could have a water reservoir on the peak, and a system of water troughs with water gates on fire-roads, but unless modern society collapses entirely, this seems like too much effort.

    So again, best hints I can offer: keep a travellar’s sack and water jug by the coat rack; learn how to manage a pantry; have your own water tank.

    Life saving courses were more popular when I was young. I took them myself (though I could probably use a modern refresher course).

    Alas, people today just stand by because in this age of litigation, people have been sued when just trying to help, because they accidentally compounded a back injury or something.

    One glum answer to this situation is to have people sign waivers, indicating that they will not hold volunteers liable for life-saving attempts, and indicate having signed this waiver by wearing a red-cross collar pin or something.

    Another answer would be to insure certified volunteers from such liability.

    This can be automated via internet or a phone-in system, otherwise with 700 residents, it would require a full time operator position.

    Likely, in power outages, slides, and such, people won’t even have phone/internet access, but at least having a check-in database which knew of who was on the island where before an emergency occurred is a start.

    It doesn’t just have to be just for natural disastor emergencies though, especially with an aging population. I have in the past had a slipped disc which would occasionally immobilize me. I have read about an old woman who slipped in her apartment, who eventually suffered her 12 cats eating her alive.

    For such circumstances, or even for the healthy person at risk of a stroke anyhow, it would be nice to have a system which checks up on people at least weekly. Preferably, the system calls them instead (in case one has transcended calendars), and they simply push a button to indicate they are still alive and mobile, or enter a voice-menu to indicate they will be on vacation.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if such sytems already exist, and can be had for $400 plus a monthly phone bill. I’m quite healthy, but would gladly pay $1.25/yr to ensure that no one forgets about me if get food poisoning or something.

    Of course this system would require volunteers to actually make calls or visits when a scheduled check-in did not occur. Volunteers at three ends of the island could rotate weekly shifts, and be exempted from system fees.

    By embedding Skype into the co-op database, I could possibly create this system with no hardware or maintenance cost (depending on how it ties up my phone line), and have volunteers or the fire department maintain a back up to be used for disastor check-ins.

  9. Thanks Mike, Hope to never have to take you up on the offer but appreciate it nonetheless. I don’t remember where I saw it but there was a map of recent NW quakes and 2 of them were centered between Lummi and Orcas, albeit quite small. Still got me motivated to buy some extra food and coffee.

  10. Actually Kristal, it’s against the law to fail to render aid to someone who is injured, and if it doesn’t place you in jeopardy. The Good Samaritan Law” was passed in 2005.
    Further, RCW 4.24.300 holds those rendering aid ‘harmless’ from civil prosecution for any omissions in providing such aid. I’m not an attorney, so don’t take my word for it, the laws are on the books. Check em out.

  11. Well, that’s comforting to know, I’ve been behind the times, except that apparently some states don’t have the same laws, where for instance it only applies to those professionally trained. It seems in California (my state), there is no insistence on helping (only four other states have that), and the liability protection only applies to medical care in non-medical zones, not to rescues. Someone was still sued in 2008 for botching a rescue (paralysis) from a car they thought would catch fire. Washington sounds like a more humane place to live.

  12. Great tips on your previous posts. Welcome to Lummi Island.

  13. […] of the 20% that does 80% of the volunteer work on the island. The 80/20 Rule seems to be an … disaster preparedness -emergency – Google Blog Search This entry was posted in Outdoor Survival and tagged Disaster, Preparedness. Bookmark the […]

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>