It’s not a matter of if a disaster will befall the Seattle area; it’s a matter of when.
So, I signed up for Kirkland’s Community Emergency Response Team disaster training course to buff up on personal preparedness and to learn response techniques — and of course, to report on what I’ve learned. (I can’t tell you how excited I am for week three: fire suppression. I’ll have an opportunity to put out a real fire!)
The nine-week course kicked off last week on Sept. 20.
I am among about 35 others registered for the course this year — together we make up the 24th class to go through the training in Kirkland.
The class meets for about three hours, starting at 6 p.m. in Kirkland City Hall every Wednesday.
To prepare, each one of us had to take a six-hour training CERT course through FEMA. The FEMA course basically went though everything we’d learn in the classroom. We did this so we could focus more on the hands-on stuff and less on the “death by PowerPoint,” as CERT instructor Christina Brugman put it.
Now, I have read other reporters’ coverage on CERT and disaster preparedness, and I’ve tried to do my part to prepare at home, but after speaking with Brugman for an article previewing the CERT class, I realized there was more I could do, more I should do.
They say, in the event of a disaster, we should all be prepared to survive on our own for at least two weeks.
Over the last year, I’ve created an emergency kit at home, but what happens when a disaster strikes when I’m at work? Or on the Interstate 405? I’m kind of screwed.
“Having an emergency kit in your car is just as important as having one at home,” Brugman said last week.
I don’t have any emergency supplies in my car, but that is changing.
The CERT course is opening my eyes: A disaster could strike whenever; it’s not going to wait for me to conveniently be at home with all my supplies.
This brings me to the concept of “go bags.”
Something that struck me when listening to Hurricane Harvey coverage was that people were not prepared to leave their homes in the wake of historic flooding. Imagine trying to scrap together your important documents, supplies and belongings as your home is filling with water.
CERT is teaching us to have backpacks already prepared with emergency supplies and a flash drive of important documents (birth certificate, tax returns, deeds) ready to go. And let’s not forget about our children and pets — they need a “go bag,” too.
On our first day, we also talked about what kind of disasters might hit Kirkland: a seiche, liquefaction, sinkholes, landslides, wind storms and, naturally, earthquakes.
Pro tip: If there’s an earthquake, we’re all supposed to drop, cover and hold. Every year, the state participates in the Great Shake Out Earthquake drill, where at 10:19 a.m. on Oct. 19 millions of people worldwide will practice drop, cover and hold. I participated last year when I covered a school in Sammamish doing the drill. But I’m thinking about organizing at Sound Publishing to do the drill this year. As they say, practice makes perfect.
The best part about week one was practicing on the radios. My experience with radios is limited to my childhood, when my brothers and I would play detective in the desert (I’m originally from southern California). But last week we learned the language and proper protocol to communicate over the hand-held devices. We each took a turn inventing a disaster to communicate and by the end of it, there were some pretty creative circumstances occurring in Kirkland.
This week’s course, which is actually on my birthday, we’ll learn about the incident command system, a standardized, hierarchical approach to coordinating emergency response efforts.
Happy birthday to me!