Margie Carter
Margie Carter

About a decade ago, neighborhood volunteers set up the Madison Park Emergency Communication Hub with the awareness that it might be needed someday to respond to the massive disruptions of a disastrous earthquake.

The original group has since moved on, and a few years ago a fledging new group of neighbors have tried to re-energize and update those efforts. Little did we anticipate the arrival of a disastrous global pandemic, massively disruptive, you bet, and two-plus years later, leaving us all reeling and emotionally, if not physically or financially, depleted.

Many of us feel things are forever changed; others continue with the language of “getting back to normal.” None of us are eager to entertain the likely scenario that disruptions or disasters of one sort or another are the new normal. We are tired, perhaps irritable, restless or struggling with depression. When will we get a break? What lies ahead? What can we count on?

From how I understand the downside of our global economics, our supply chain of goods, viruses, the demise of our democracy, social injustice, the facts of global warming, weather disruptions and ever-increasing climate refugees, ongoing uncertainty is all that is certain. Getting through each week, each day will require attention to issues of sustainability, mental health and the skills of turning to — and not — on each other.

I believe we can find resilience and threads of hope from being connected to others, including those beyond the human family, and from making choices that engage us in some form of service and contribution to collective well-being. Each of us can interpret what that might look like in our lives. We can also take some practical steps that might help us better manage ourselves and support each other when the next emergency besets us.

We’ve learned through the years of COVID that enormous creativity and generosity is within and around us. Most people are eager to extend themselves, be kind and helpful. Can we apply this to getting better prepared, as well as more agile in responding with help needed?

 

Practical steps to consider

We have no shortage of resources on basic emergency preparation. A wealth of suggestions can be found on Seattle’s Office of Emergency Management website, https://www.seattle.gov/emergency-management. The challenge is making time to access and use it. Perhaps the best motivation and encouragement can be found in finding a buddy to work with, to support and hold each other accountable to some actions. You might slip this into regular time with a friend or family member, before or after a walk or coffee date. From the OEM website, here are some basic steps to get your started.

1.) Sign up for Alert Seattle, https://alert.seattle.gov/, to get emergency alerts and notifications, perhaps while waiting for that coffee.

2.) Make a quick list of your typical daily activities, the people or animals you care for or who rely on you, and how a disaster would change the way you get things done. Use this list to begin planning, perhaps with templates OEM provides.

3.) Have a family or household discussion to determine actions if a disruption happens when you aren’t together. How will you get to a safe place and where is that? How will you contact one another? How will you get back together? Consider what you will do in different situations. Plan for children, pets, medical needs and any neighbors you might want to check on.

4.) Write down contact information for family and friends you may need to reach, with or without your cell phone service. Include an out-of-area contact, especially away from the West Coast region, in case of a massive earthquake, tsunami or flood — someone who can serve as a relay point for family communication and make that arrangement with needed details. You may want to use OEM’s Be Prepared template, https://www.seattle.gov/emergency-management/prepare, to start recording important information for your family/household plan.

Make time to celebrate when you’ve got these first four things in place. Might be time to do some next steps prior to a movie night, happy hour or cookout with some neighbors. You could bulk purchase some supplies or ready-made emergency kits and have a gathering to assemble and personalize. Not sure what to include? Again, OEM has a great list. With OEM resources, you could help each other assess possible hazards in each room of your house and learn how to best store water and food for an emergency.

If your buddy system is working well, it might be time to engage others on your block by setting up what OEM describes as a Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare program, https://www.seattle.gov/emergency-management/prepare/prepare-your-neighborhood/seattle-neighborhoods-actively-prepare.

And, we’d welcome a few folks from each neighborhood cluster to work with our MP Emergency Communication Hub as we refine the communication supplies and volunteer roles that will be pressed into action in the event of a significant disaster that cuts us off from the rest of the city and first emergency responders. Contact one of us to learn what you can do.

• Sarah Armstrong, saraharmstrong215@gmail.com

  Margie Carter, margiecarter@comcast.net

• Mary Beth McAteer, msimiele1@gmail.com

Get that buddy and team up for support to engage and prepare!