Opinion

You never know when disaster will strike

Be prepared

We read and hear about tragedies caused by earthquakes, hurricanes, cyclones, tornados and wildfires almost daily. Tens of thousands have died, hundreds of thousands have been injured and millions are homeless worldwide.

We live on the “Ring of Fire,” one of the most earthquake-prone regions of the world. We know serious occurrences have happened in the Northwest and in the Puget Sound region in the past and, according to experts, they’ll happen again.

Recent earthquake studies of the Pacific Northwest and Puget Sound region have identified underlying geologic similarities to the earthquakes that caused the horrific tidal wave in Southeast Asia and last week’s horrendous earthquake in China.

A recent study, which assumed a lesser magnitude than the Chinese earthquake and which only covered the area straddling the Seattle Fault from Harbor Island to Issaquah, projected 1,600 dead, 24,000 injured, 9,500 buildings destroyed, 29,000 buildings severely damaged, etc. It also assumed all major roads, railroads, the port (including the ferry system) the airport, telecommunications and energy facilities as being severely damaged. The study did not cover potential damage from the Tacoma fault or address damage from aftershocks, tsunamis or seiches.

With the chaos on the mainland following such an event, it is acknowledged that Vashon would probably be on its own and isolated for up to 10 days. This means we will probably have to dig ourselves out, conduct our own search and rescue operations, provide most medical care for those who are injured and be prepared to exist primarily on the food and water stockpiled in our homes until outside help is forthcoming.

With the foregoing in mind, isn’t it time to take a serious look at what we need to do as individuals and as a community, and ask ourselves questions like:

• Does my family have enough food and water and other necessities to enable us to survive for up to 10 days?

• Will anyone check on me or my family to see if help is needed?

• If someone is injured, what do I do?

• If I or a member of my family need help, who is out there to help me, and what can I expect from them?

• What can I do to help others who desperately need help?

Steps that almost anyone can take to answer these questions include the following:

• Stockpile food, water and other necessities.

One of the most pressing needs in the aftermath of any disaster is the provision of rapid, pertinent and accurate information to the affected population. Meeting this need is a top priority of the disaster preparedness effort on Vashon.

Currently, Vashon Rotary Club and VashonBePrepared are working with Voice of Vashon to complete a radio network. Three radio transmission towers are required to complete coverage of Vashon and Maury Islands.

One tower is operational. Rotary has funded the second tower, and now an effort is underway to raise money for the third tower.

To raise those funds, a Community “Sock Hop” featuring dancing, door prizes, a raffle and other fun activities will be held on May 31 at K2 Commons. Come and bring your friends. You’ll have a great time, and the entire Island will benefit.

Over the past few years, Vashon has made tremendous progress, and we’re proud to be known as one of the best prepared communities in the county, if not the state. In truth, we are functional, but we are not yet really “ready.” We’ve just made a better start than most other communities.

Let’s learn from the experience of others and heed what Mother Nature is indirectly telling us. The key to survival is advance preparation. On-the-job training after a disaster happens is very difficult.

For more information, go to vashonbeprepared.org, call me at 463-1321 or e-mail me at jbigranger@centurytel.net.

— Joe Ulatoski is on the board of VashonBePrepared.

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