Opinion

VIEWPOINT: Are you prepared?

Are you prepared to deal with an emergency such as an extended power outage caused by a severe winter storm or earthquake?

Will you have enough non-perishable food and fresh water to see you and your family through for several days or even weeks? Do you have first-aid supplies and the knowledge to use them? Do you have a battery-operated radio? Do you have the supplies needed to safely stay warm and dry?

Those are a few of the questions that come to mind when considering that our simple life on South Whidbey will certainly get tougher when the lights go out, store shelves empty and infrastructure gets disrupted or damaged as the result of a natural or even a man-made disaster.

Whidbey Island has a fine force of highly trained first-responders including fire, paramedics and police and a quality hospital. Volunteer forces with very limited supplies including local American Red Cross Disaster Assistance Teams (DAT) and Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) are also actively planning and preparing. A large disaster response, whether it is natural or man-made, can be coordinated by Island County’s Department of Emergency Management in Coupeville, which is responsible for deployment of resources including CERT and Red Cross teams.

However, if a disaster such as a severe earthquake were to happen, those resources will quickly become overwhelmed. Reinforcements from the mainland could be delayed for a long time if ferry service were disrupted or if the Deception Pass Bridge became impassable.

In all reality, when our emergency resources become strained, many Whidbey Islanders may have to “go it alone” for some time before help may arrive in such a catastrophic event.

National Preparedness Month, created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is now in its fifth year. The main purpose of this annual event is to encourage everybody to think about and prepare for emergencies BEFORE they occur.

The focus of National Preparedness Month is to encourage us all to:

Get a kit. When preparing for a possible emergency situation, it’s best to think first about the basics of survival: fresh water, food, sanitation and warmth. These items are easily purchased at our local hardware and grocery stores. During this month, displays will be set up at both Ace Hardware in Freeland and Sebo’s Hardware in Bayview.

Make a plan. Make sure you have a family emergency plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance: how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations.

Be informed. Being informed about the different types of emergencies that could happen where you live and the appropriate ways to respond to them will impact the decisions you make and the actions you take. In addition, learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by your state and local government.

Get involved. After preparing yourself and your family for possible emergencies by getting a kit, making a plan and being informed, take the next step and get involved in preparing your community with organizations such as CERT or American Red Cross. Both organizations have monthly meetings that are listed in our local newspaper and are a source of education. Make preparedness part of your neighborhood association activities. Get to know your neighbors. Many elderly residents may be more challenged in such events.

More detailed information on how to prepare can be found at:

http://www.islandcounty.net/gsa/des/preparedness.htm

http://www.ready.gov

http://www.prepare.org

http://www.fema.gov/areyouready

American Red Cross, Island County Chapter, 360-675-2912

Ron Smullin, CERT Coordinator, 360-341-1704

While the possibility of such dire disasters may be remote, the threat is real. Preparing for them now may mean the difference between comfort and discomfort, or even life and death.

By members of the American Red Cross South Whidbey Disaster Assistance Team and the South Whidbey Community Emergency Response Teams.

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