When the going gets tough, know where you’re going

News from VashonBePrepared.

April is Global Volunteer Month, and we live in a community where volunteers make things happen.

So, in this issue, we celebrate the hundreds of local volunteers and their organizations. They help us thrive. Thank you to all Vashon volunteers.

We are especially grateful to the dedicated volunteers who live by our name every day — VashonBePrepared.

They learn, train, organize, plan, and practice for emergencies that we all hope will never happen. We jokingly call ourselves the “disaster clubs” — Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and the MRC Community Care Team (CCT), Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS, Ham Radio operators), and our Emergency Operations Center team (EOC).

If you’d like to get more info about the disaster clubs, check out this page on our website: VashonBePrepared.org/Volunteer. We are always looking for new members.

Prepare in a Year: Month Two Wrap-Up

Much of the “Prepare in a Year” information we have shared recently comes from the handbook for the program published by the Washington State Emergency Management Division. This week, we’re providing the pages covering month two in a downloadable document here.

Month two has been all about household action plans. Here, we focus on evacuation.

Being Prepared for Evacuation

Folks often ask us: “What is my evacuation route in case of a wildfire or some other disaster? Where do I go to be safe?” We have to ask them back: “Where is the fire, what direction is it moving, and how quickly?”

In other words, you can prepare for evacuation, but there are too many variables to be able to tell you before an emergency where you should go and the safest route to get there. A preconceived plan might send you into danger instead of away from it.

In some emergencies, you may have several days of warning, as in a severe weather event. In other situations such as an earthquake, you may need to leave immediately. But one thing is pretty certain: In a major disaster, you won’t be directed to a miles-long line of cars to wait for a ferry. It would be impossible to quickly evacuate thousands of people who live on Vashon. There just isn’t enough ferry capacity to do that.

Bottom line: You need to think at the neighborhood level and be prepared for whatever comes your way. Here are some basics:

  • Before an evacuation is ever needed, make a plan, and practice it.
  • Know at least two different routes for getting out of your neighborhood, including one that involves traveling on foot in case roads are blocked.
  • Keep your car fueled up to at least half a tank at all times, so you don’t need to stop for gas.
  • Stay informed of the situation by tuning in to Voice of Vashon at 1650 AM and signing up for emergency alerts at VoiceOfVashon.org/alertsignup.
  • Identify a few alternate places where your household members can stay. Maybe you can stay with relatives or friends. Perhaps you have a tent and other family camping gear.
  • Don’t forget to plan for pets and livestock. It may not be safe for you to stay behind to care for them.
  • Have go-bags ready for everyone in your family, including pets. Include water, food, prescriptions including glasses, cash, important documents, and other emergency supplies.
  • If a family member is experiencing challenges such as mobility or health issues, or if you have young children or elders to care for, or livestock or pets to relocate, it’s wise to leave well before the final evacuation order.
  • You might be at school or work when disaster strikes. It’s smart to keep a go-bag there (or in your car if you drive). Ask about the emergency plans for your workplace, school, daycare, and other places where you and your family regularly spend time.

Think Three Weeks, Not Just Three Days

In some situations, your safest place may be your home.

If you need to shelter in place, you’ll want to be ready for a long haul. So, here’s a basic piece of advice: 25 years ago, when VashonBePrepared was born, the standard advice was to prepare for “three days, three ways.” The intention was to at least get folks to make a start. However, that didn’t really prepare people for a serious incident. Even a winter storm could last longer than that.

VashonBePrepared now recommends that you keep three weeks of emergency supplies on hand. That’s a week more than recommended elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Why? Because we’re a ferry-only island with a relatively small population and, in case of a region-wide emergency, likely a lower priority for receiving aid than the mainland with its large population.

Run a Home Insurance Check-Up

It’s a bad day when you face a fire or some other emergency that might even force you to abandon your home. If that day ever comes, you’ll feel more secure if you have an insurance safety net in your household action plan.

If you own your home, do you have liability insurance in case someone gets hurt on your property?

If you rent your home, do you have renter’s insurance to help you replace the contents and provide you with temporary housing if your home and/or belongings are damaged?

Here’s the outline of a home insurance action plan:

  • Does your homeowners’ policy include replacement value coverage to help you rebuild your home?
  • If your home is at risk, you may want flood insurance (currently only available from the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
  • Earthquake damage is not covered by standard homeowner’s policies. Consider adding separate coverage for earthquakes, which are a risk we all share in the Pacific Northwest.
  • If you have some items of above-average value, they may justify getting a special policy to cover them adequately.
  • Make a list of all the items of value in your home. A phone app such as Home Contents lets you take pictures, and capture notes on purchase dates and costs. It stores info in the cloud so it will be available even if your phone gets lost or damaged.
  • Or, consider a smartphone video inventory of your home contents. You can narrate it during a house walk-through to capture a quick virtual list of your home’s contents. Store a copy somewhere away from your home, so it’s still available if something happens to your home. You can copy it to Dropbox or OneDrive, or a flash drive or DVD stored in a bank safe deposit box or at a relative’s home. That will increase the chances it will be available after a house fire, earthquake, or other loss.