Photo by Jessica Keller: Madison Park resident Mary Pat Inman hangs emergency preparedness posters from the city on the fence outside of the Madison Park tennis courts during an emergency communications planning drill in August.
Photo by Jessica Keller: Madison Park resident Mary Pat Inman hangs emergency preparedness posters from the city on the fence outside of the Madison Park tennis courts during an emergency communications planning drill in August.
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It wasn’t an earthquake that prompted a small group of residents to gather at Madison Park near the tennis courts, Aug. 16, and open the unprepossessing brown metal container, but the drill was an important one in that they finally figured out what was in the box.

When Madison Park resident Sarah Armstrong, one of the organizers for the emergency planning event, unlocked the container, known as the hub box, the group found a variety of office supplies, a fold-up table, laminated posters from the city advising residents what to do in case of an emergency and more.

By the end of the exercise, they had an even better idea of what communication materials they had at their disposal and what they wanted to have ready in the event of an emergency, mainly an earthquake that is anticipated to hit western Washington eventually.

“The bones are here. They just haven’t been put together yet,” organizer Margie Carter said of the box’s contents.

She said the purpose of the hub box is to act as a communication station where could go to share and receive information following a natural disaster.

Carter said, in the event of an earthquake, residents would ideally secure their own household and make sure everybody is safe and accounted for and there is not immediate dangers. They would then check with their neighbors and do the same. Then, one or more representatives from their block or emergency response group would go to Madison Park to the hub, where a station would be set up to share information between neighbors, such as immediate emergencies, resources available to share and other important tips people should know at the time.

Carter stressed that the hub box does not contain personal supplies for people, such as water, food or other necessities.  Residents need to secure those supplies on their own.

The contents of the hub box were gathered by a previous group of residents concerned about “the big one” some years ago, Carter said, but most had moved away or were no longer involved, leaving it up to a new batch of people to carry on the efforts.

Carter and Armstrong have been actively trying to revive emergency management planning in Madison Park after the latest efforts had lost steam during the pandemic.

“So, our thought was, if we capture enough attention, people might catch the fire,” Carter said.

The Aug. 16 exercise was the first of several practices planned in Madison Park in the coming months. Carter said she thought the event was successful, albeit a bit chaotic, which accurately reflects what things would be like in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

“I think it was a really positive experience if only for the underlying goal of sparking interest in enough people to get something going to carry forward,” Carter said.

Leschi resident Tracy Bier attended the Madison Park event to get some idea of what her neighborhood should prepare for following an earthquake. She said, currently, there is no emergency management planning effort taking place in Leschi like there is in Madison Park, and that concerns her.

“It’s going to be frightening when it happens, but even more frightening if we don’t get anything done,” Bier said.

At the end of the exercise, the group members agreed the most  important commodity in their emergency response plan wasn’t going to be found in the hub box. Instead, given the uncertain nature of when a natural disaster will strike, the most important resource will be volunteers to assure efforts continue long into the future.

“There needs to be some collective memory lodged somewhere,” Carter said afterward.

She said, while previous organizers created a sort of “playbook” they included in the hub box as a reference for volunteers, things would likely be too chaotic immediately following a disaster or earthquake to make it practical.

“So that’s partly what we have to do: get a wide enough group to know parts of the playbook,” Carter said.

People who are interested in learning more emergency preparedness can go to the Office of Emergency Management website, seattle.gov/emergency-management or seattleemergencyhubs.org. The city is also hosting two simulated earthquake events people are invited to attend this month. The first is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Maple Leaf Playground off of Roosevelt Way. The second is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 25 at Jefferson Park, 3801 Beacon Ave. S., west of the tennis courts. Email info@seattleemergencyhubs.org.