OK, it may not be a hurricane, but life-threatening disasters can happen in South Snohomish County.
Floods, fires, earthquakes, windstorms, tsunamis and terrorists attacks are entirely possible, and residents should take necessary steps to be prepared, said Lyn Gross, emergency services director at the Emergency Services Coordinating Agency.
“It is disasters like this (Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita) that get people thinking about this,” said Gross. “It is one of those things that gets lost in the business of every day until it hits you in the face with disasters like this. People do not think about it enough.”
People need to think about it — and they need be prepared. The hard reality is emergency workers will not be able to reach every resident right away, Gross said.
In a disaster, emergency personnel will be busy helping people in urgent danger, such as the medically frail, or responding to dangerous situations, like putting out fires or restoring electricity. The Emergency Services Coordinating Agency, located in Brier, is charged with coordinating those kind of disaster relief efforts in South Snohomish County.
Residents who are able-bodied will have to take care of themselves, their families and their neighbors during the first few days of the disaster, Gross said. Survival could include evacuating the area and taking enough food, water and medicine for yourself for at least three days.
“We urge people to really be prepared to be able to take care of their own needs for a least three days,” Gross said. “Take some responsibility for the quality of your survival.”
Children, the elderly and people with medical needs will need more help to get out of harms way and survive, Gross said. She encouraged family members and neighbors to discuss how the old, young and frail will be moved and taken care of during an emergency.
Residents are also encouraged to take Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) classes, which are offered by the Emergency Services Coordinating Agency. Residents will learn how to prepare their family and neighbors for a disaster, evacuate others safely, give first aid and help relief workers effectively.
Events like Hurricane Katrina underscore the need for trained residents in every neighborhood, Gross said.
“CERT people are really important,” Gross said. “They have learned how to take care of themselves and they have learned how to take care of their neighbors.”