Turn Japan’s tragedy into action on Vashon

The catastrophic earthquakes that have devastated New Zealand and Japan provide a reason for every Islander to grieve, reflect and take immediate action.

As the reports roll in and the full impact of Japan’s decimation becomes clearer, we lament the human toll, especially as we call to mind Vashon’s historic kinship with Japan and the many people of Japanese ancestry who chose our Island as their home. At the same time, we need to recognize the geophysical similarities among New Zealand, Honshu Island and our own Vashon Island and do all we can to prepare our families, our property, our businesses and ourselves so that we can survive and recover from the eventuality of a major earthquake.

Japan has been widely touted as a model of disaster preparedness. The mobilization of Japan’s rescue efforts immediately after the earthquake and tsunami was precise and impressive — when they could reach the stricken areas. Quick action and centralized rescue efforts were hampered in the more remote and inaccessible areas. This is the lesson Vashon residents should take away from Japan’s plight: It is highly probable that Vashon will need to be prepared to fend for itself.

As Joe Ulatoski, the dean of Vashon’s emergency operations and preparedness efforts, continually points out during VashonBePrepared meetings and Emergency Operations Center drills, “Our job is to ensure everyone on this Island can be self-sufficient for seven to 10 days.”

While great progress in Vashon’s disaster preparedness has been made, and we have built excellent partnerships with King County’s Office of Emergency Management, the vulnerability of Vashon to being cut off from assistance from the mainland demands that each Islander take disaster preparedness very seriously.

These four steps are the most basic steps to help every Islander prepare for the inevitable natural disaster we will face:

• Visit www.VashonBePrepared.org to take the family preparedness test, print a list of the items you need for your emergency kit and get your emergency kit and supplies in order. Check and replenish them yearly.

• Volunteer to help others in our community by becoming a part of one of the VashonBePrepared organizations, everything from the Emergency Operations Center Team to CERT to Medical Reserve Corps to ham radio and more.

• Create a family emergency plan. Walk everyone through emergency procedures, establish a family meeting place, and make plans for what to do if family members are separated when disaster strikes. Establish a central contact phone number to call out of this area if you are separated.

• Make community connections. Talk to your neighbors about their emergency plans, exchange contact information and share preparedness tips. Sign up for emergency e-mails at www.VashonBePrepared.org

Last week we saw the randomness and deadly power of Mother Nature. And while there is nothing we can do to prevent natural disasters, we can and we must do all we can to prepare to survive and recover from their devastation.

— Scarlett Foster-Moss volunteers as the public information officer for VashonBePrepared and the Vashon Emergency Operations Center.

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