Unlike her building manager, Dave Duran, who grew up in California with active experience and knowledge about earthquakes, Ginny Miller, Lakeshore West Condo resident, hails from the Midwest and only moved to the Northwest Ring of Fire Zone eight years ago. If you think of the Ring of Fire as only in the South Pacific region, National Geographic describes it this way: “The Ring of Fire is a string of volcanoes and sites of seismic activity, or earthquakes, around the edges of the Pacific Ocean. Ninety percent of Earth’s earthquakes occur along its path, including the planet’s most violent and dramatic seismic events.
“What started to capture my attention was the HUB gathering in Madison Park a few years ago,” Miller said. “Not long after that our condo management company, CWD, offered residents a presentation entitled ‘An Overview for Disaster Planning for Community Associations’. After these events, my attention heightened as to the severity of destruction from earthquakes and the real possibility of one here in Seattle. Both of these events were big motivators for me to take this more seriously.”
Miller started to engage Duran, an experienced contractor, and together they started attending emergency preparation meetings and seeking out resources. Discovering Steve Chentow, another condo resident living at Lakeside West, was a big boost for them. Chentow spent a year working with a committee in his building to get themselves prepared for an emergency that would cause significant damage and disrupt services. He drove the project by taking minutes in meetings, sending out announcements, creating to-do lists, planning agendas and getting work assignments distributed at the end of each meeting. All of their plans and information were compiled in the Lakeside West Disaster Preparedness and Response Handbook, and Chentow was generous in sharing it. He also gave Miller and Duran a tour of the extensive earthquake supplies collected at Lakeside West and made himself available for ongoing questions.
The handbook Chentow’s group developed was remarkably comprehensive, to the point of being a bit overwhelming for a committee of two. Miller and Duran spent months combing through it and culling what seemed most critical to launching their building’s emergency preparation work. They went to their condo board and got a commitment of $500 to support a proposal to develop, print and distribute a more basic handbook. Miller and Duran adapted and condensed the Lakeside West handbook for their own building.
“For instance, they have a single gas boiler and we have individual electric water heaters so utility management and emergency water supply needed to be handled differently,” Duran said.
Following of the model of Lakeside West, Miller and Duran plan to describe an overview of different jobs needed, such as an operation coordinator, floor captains, fire marshal and medical team.
“Our basic goal was just to get individual residents to put this thought in their mind,” Duran said. “We have a disaster manual. Here’s how you should start to prepare yourselves and what you can expect from the Earthquake Committee. We realized we had to take it slow, to get people to build relationships and trust.”
Miller and other newly recruited members of their committee started organizing some basic materials to include in a Ziplock bag with their simplified manual. They picked up literature and signs from the city’s Office of Emergency Management and started attending other Madison Park Emergency Preparation meetings with speakers and Stop the Bleed training.
They’ve prioritized first steps they hope all their resident neighbors will take:
Read through the manual and familiarize yourself with the handouts in your folder.
Complete the basic personal information card and store it in your entry closet using the command hook and the bag provided. That way floor captains will know exactly where to get this information should a resident be injured or need family called.
Create a grab-and-go bag with emergency supplies, using the list in their pocket folder or purchasing a “bug out bag” online.
Register with the city’s emergency alert notification communication systems.
Participate in emergency drills two times a year, perhaps coordinated with other nearby condos or the city's annual Great Shakeout Drill.
As part of their long-term plans, Lakeshore West would like to purchase some overall supplies for the building, such as commercial generators, solar chargers, water filters and medical equipment. For now, floor captains have personally distributed a Ziplock bag with the manual and city literature. They slipped a letter under each resident’s door asking them to voluntarily complete the medical and personal information form that is part of the city’s Build a Kit literature. They included a command hook with suggestions that all residents hang in their front hall closet the Ziplock bag with the manual, literature and a completed information form in their front hall closet. That would make it easy for them or the floor captain to locate in an emergency situation. The hope is that floor captains will start holding monthly meetings to help residents get more connected and confident they are prepared and know what to do. Other resource materials are in the planning stage such as a neighborhood skills and equipment inventory chart.
It only took two determined people to get the ball rolling, and while they still have many things they want to accomplish, Miller and Duran are pleased with their progress in launching the emergency preparation work.
They have these suggestions for those who are ready to give it a try:
Get at least one other teammate committed to taking leadership with you.
Seek support from your board, property management company, your own building manager and others in condos on the block.
Find floor captains; learn the priorities and skills of different people and create related jobs for them. Stay alert for possible skills among your neighbors: legal, medical, construction, project management, procurement, etc.
Attend wider neighborhood emergency preparation events to learn more, build connections, share resources and keep the wider preparation work moving forward.