League of Women Voters Reviews what if Islands were hit by Earthquake
By Audra Adelberger, League of Women Voters of the San Juans
The June 14 League of Women Voters membership program on emergency preparedness was presented by Brendan Cowan, San Juan County director of emergency management, and Bill Severson, county unit lead for the American Red Cross.
Brendan gave an overview of the many resources available through the Islands Ready website at www.islandsready.org, including the “Four Clear Steps to Preparedness,” starting with individuals and moving on to neighborhoods and businesses.
There is specific information for differing types of disaster situations: earthquakes, tsunamis, oil spills, winter storms and wildland fire. A wealth of information, with handy printable flyers.
Brendan’s warmth and friendliness made it easier to be reminded of some pretty daunting truths, including taking another look at what we’ve all heard before: we should, in the case of “The Big One,” be ready to take care of ourselves for two weeks while waiting for phones, internet and electricity to be restored, and food, water and other items, to be delivered.
Brendan happily reminded us that on the islands, there are lots to be thankful for; it’s not all anxiety, doom and gloom.
He showed fascinating simulations of how currents, waves and tsunamis would most likely affect the islands if a large earthquake occurred. MacKaye Harbor on Lopez Island and Eastsound on Orcas Island would be the most threatened.
Brendan said he’d be happy to attend community meetings on any of these subjects; he will meet with any group of two or more people and he hopes islanders will reach out for more ideas and information. Brendan’s presentation was followed by a lively question-and-answer session.
Bill Severson then turned our attention to the American Red Cross’ three-phase emergency program – Prepare, Respond, Recover – focusing on examples particularly relevant to our county.
They ranged from help installing smoke alarms to a plan, in coordination with Brendan and his team, to create emergency shelters for 100 people.
There is also a free app for smartphones called “Emergency-American Red Cross,” full of information, from how to set up a preparedness plan, to emergency First Aid steps, to a way to track emergencies happening where loved ones live. An “I’m Safe” button is included to send information about your own status. (This app replaces the previous “Safe and Well” program.)
Bill, joined by Laura Jo Severson, talked about volunteer opportunities for people with a wide variety of interests and skills, and about possibilities here in this county as well as other areas. Recently, volunteers from our chapter have worked in 10 different states affected by disastrous storms, winds, hurricanes and fires.