Being Prepared on Vashon: Looking Forward and Back

March 11 was the fourth anniversary of the declaration of the COVID pandemic by the World Health Organization

Four Long Years: We Remember in Our Hearts

March 11 was the fourth anniversary of the declaration of the COVID pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). We dedicate this article to the hundreds of Vashon volunteers who got us through it. We remember in our hearts the eight Vashon residents who died from COVID.

Welcome to Month Two: Prepare in A Year Action Plans

In March, VashonBePrepared is urging islanders to focus on household action planning. There are four main steps to this planning project. The following are tips for each one of these steps and a road map:

  • First, be aware of the types of emergencies that might happen on Vashon, how frequently they may occur, and how severely they may affect your household and neighborhood.
  • Second, make an action plan for your household that takes those emergencies into account. Get everyone together and agree on what to do for each type of emergency.
  • Third, maintain your plans and practice them every six months. Keep emergency supplies up to date, for example.
  • Fourth, plan for the possibility of evacuation. That could be a challenge on our ferry-only island, so it’s a particularly important action plan category here on Vashon.

We’re going to cover the first two categories now with more to follow the rest of the month.

Keep in mind that almost everything you do for action planning depends on communications. Here are the three communications biggies:

  • Designate an out-of-area point of contact that your household members can use to keep track of where everyone is and how they are doing.
  • Make contact cards with important phone numbers, including for your out-of-area contact.
  • Sign up for emergency alerts from Voice of Vashon, VashonBePrepared, and other sources such as King County.

If you didn’t get through the whole communications project last month, you can check off tasks at any time to catch up. Here’s a previous VashonBePrepared newsletter edition with details and links.

Be Aware of Vashon-Specific Risks

Ask yourself: “What could happen here? What are the most likely hazards on Vashon?”

Here’s a pro tip: Emergency preparedness experts take an all-hazards approach. High-impact hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and pandemics stand out in our minds because of their dramatic effects, but they may occur only infrequently.

However, if you’ve made plans and store supplies for a snowstorm, you’re well on your way to also being prepared to cope after an earthquake. Every disaster has some safety and comfort needs in common — the basics. You’ll want to be prepared to shelter in place or evacuate, have a stock of emergency food and water, and so on.

Here are some hazards that apply to us on Vashon. In making your household plans, list the risks that most concern you, starting with the ones below. That’s going to help you take the next step of making action plans.

  • Every winter we get severe weather — snow, ice, wind, sub-freezing temperatures. You’ll want to stay warm, have the power to keep lights on, and be able to charge devices, cook, and clean.
  • Many summers bring days or even weeks of smoke from wildfires in our region. Smoke is a respiratory health risk, especially for anyone in your household with respiratory challenges.
  • Here on the coastal western side of the Cascades, we don’t have the same risk level as the east side for catastrophic Maui-class wildfires. However, a wildfire on Vashon could destroy multiple homes before adequate wildfire response resources could get here by ferry. More local information is available here.
  • Being ready for each of these risks will get you at least partly ready for the really severe disaster possibilities. Mount Saint Helens exploded in 1980, killing 57 people in our region. This February also marked the 23rd anniversary of the Nisqually Earthquake and how that affected our island community.
  • In the last four years, we’ve learned we are at risk for epidemics. Think about how to keep applying what you learned, now that the COVID emergency has ebbed.
  • Actions you would take for any one of these hazards will help you be ready for several others. For example, you probably have some N95 or KN95 masks on hand because of COVID. Those masks will also be helpful if we have another smoke season this summer and in the fall for respiratory virus season. For smoke as for COVID, better fit means better protection.

Make Your Action Plans

Get everyone in your household together and discuss the list of hazards. Agree on what to do for each type of emergency. Find more information online:

  • Check out
  • Download the “Prepare in a Year” guide at You can also pick up a printed copy in the lobby of the Vashon Island Fire & Rescue (VIFR) main fire station on Bank Road.
  • You could use this video to kick off your family meeting.

The key to your success will be following through with the action steps to be prepared. That’s why a household meeting helps, so you can take a team approach. If you live solo, consider gathering with neighbors or friends to make action plans.

On Vashon, we have a Neighborhood Emergency Response Organization (NERO) program that can help you make plans, whether your household is one person or many. Email or find our more here.

We’ll have more to share in the coming weeks about preparedness action plans: water, food, being ready for an evacuation, keeping your preparedness cache up to date, and more.