On Sept. 20, Kirkland’s Community Emergency Response Team began a nine-week disaster training course that instructs about 35 citizens how to “help themselves, their families and their neighbors during a disaster when police, fire, and medical services are overwhelmed,” according to the CERT program website. These CERT trainees learn about personal preparedness, how to put out small fires and conduct light search and rescue.
On the first day of class, the group brainstormed various disasters that might strike Kirkland: a seiche, liquefaction, sinkholes, landslides, wild fires, wind storms and, naturally, earthquakes.
To stay informed about potential hazards and threats, residents can subscribe to King County alerts, a regional public information and notification service offered by King County Emergency Management. It’s free to sign up.
There’s a lot citizens can do to be better prepared for a disaster and it starts in the home.
Among the list of simple things people can do to be proactive is checking their fire and carbon monoxide alarms regularly to ensure they’re working. It’s also handy to know where electrical, water and gas shut offs are and how to turn them off. (Puget Sound Energy customers cannot turn their gas back on themselves. A professional must come out to their home to turn it back on. So before they turn it off, residents are encouraged to make sure it’s necessary — do they smell gas?)
It’s also important to check the expiration dates on fire extinguishers.
To avoid the chemicals clumping up, it’s recommended to shake the extinguisher every six months or so.
In the event of a fire, it’s important to have a plan. Make a map of your house and illustrate where the exits are. There should be at least two ways out of a house.
Practice the plan with your family and designate a spot outside the home where everyone will meet up in case of an emergency.
If you do find yourself in a burning building, stay low and feel doors with the back of your hand before opening. If the door is hot, keep it closed.
Officials are now encouraging residents to be two-weeks ready. Do you have enough food and water to last you and your family for two weeks?
Prepare “go bags” for each family member.
Go bags are backpacks already prepared with emergency supplies and a flash drive of important documents (birth certificates, tax returns, deeds, etc.). In case of evacuation, residents should be able to easily grab these bags and go. Children and pets also need “go bags.”
Here’s a list of a CERT instructor’s go bag, for ideas of what to include in your own: tinyurl.com/y8qam247.
It’s important to have a go bag in your home and in your car — after all, there’s no telling where you’ll be when a disaster strikes.
Practice makes perfect: On Oct. 19, millions of residents will practice drop, cover, hold in the Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills. You can join in, too.
Practicing enables you to be prepared to survive and quickly recover from a real earthquake. Another thing to consider is where you spend a lot of your time — likely work or school.
Get to know the emergency evacuation plan for work and locate fire extinguishers and first aid kits. Parents should contact their children’s schools to become familiar with their emergency plans.
Figure out a central meeting location where everyone can reconvene in the event no one is home during a disaster. Designate an out-of-state contact member your family will call to check-in. (In a disaster, local communications might be jammed due to the high volume of calls being made over the system.)
In a disaster, it will come down to neighbors helping neighbors. So get to know them.
CERT is offering a Map Your Neighborhood class, which will show residents how to gather their neighbors, map the neighborhood and identify the skills and equipment the various residents have. The class is from 7-9 p.m. on Nov. 7 at Fire Station 26. To register, visit https://www.kirklandcert.com/event-2625210.
There are several other classes CERT is teaching this fall. For a full list and to register, visit www.KirklandCERT.com.