Emergency preparation: What’s your next step?

The question isn’t whether we might have a major earthquake, but when. If we gamble on it not happening during our lifetime, that begs the question, what if it does? Where are you in your thinking and planning for this wish-I-didn’t-have-to-think-about-it possibility? Are you ready to take whatever the next step is for you? If not, when will it land on your to-do list?

Are you aware that the Seattle area faces a significant threat of major earthquakes as we live with two major faults—the Cascadia Subduction Fault off the Pacific coast and the Seattle Fault that crosses just south of downtown? Anticipated earthquakes will likely cause prolonged, widespread destruction that will preoccupy regular emergency services or take them out completely, along with bringing down communication systems we typically rely on like internet and cell phone services. These more severe earthquakes are poised to cause major damage to our urban infrastructure—  the electrical grid, roads, bridges, gas, water and sewer lines we rely on for everyday living. If our social networks are across town or beyond our state borders, we may find ourselves fairly anxious.

But there’s good news here. Our city and county governments, along with a large cadre of citizens, have been steadily learning how to prepare and develop educational resources, protocols and systems for neighbors to know how to step up and help each other. As citizen neighbors we’re learning how to prepare our homes to handle the threats we might encounter in a quake and to proactively prevent possible hazards. We’ve found checklists with recommended tools and survival supplies and been steadily stocking and storing them where we live and in our vehicles. If you haven’t begun this process, a first step might be to view the short video Build a Kit on a Shoestring Budget (youtube.com)

Beyond supplies to gather and some skills to learn, another important preparation step you can take is to make sure your social network includes in-person relationship building with your immediate neighbors, and ideally, folks on a wider sweep of blocks around you. If this doesn’t come easy for you, check out the resources for how to get organized with your neighbors through what our city emergency management team calls SNAP—Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare. They offer an online participants manual with steps to take in 3 stages:

1) Gather contact information and arrange a meeting to introduce the idea of working together to get your homes prepared and identifying the types of assistance you might render each other after a quake (e.g., search and rescue, shelter, first aid, sharing food and water).

2) Get organized by setting priorities and delegating roles, responsibilities, and tasks to be achieved on a reasonable timetable.

3) Gain confidence and build neighborhood cohesion by helping each other learn things like how to use a fire extinguisher, shut-off utilities and/or construct an emergency toilet.

Here in Madison Park, you might want to step into some of the organized in-person social networking underway with the all-volunteer community organization Friends of Madison Park (FOMP). The Madison Park Emergency Communications Hub now functions as a subgroup of FOMP’s Public Safety Committee, and you can find links to our events and resources on their website.

After a quake, the city plan is for neighbors and volunteers to gather at our Emergency Hub by the tennis courts in the park and begin to operate an immediate response network until traditional communication systems and other basic services are restored.                          

The Hub will set up a system to display information so that neighbors can connect needs with resources (i.e., medical, lost and found, emergency power sources, transportation). In addition, the Hub will have posters with information about how to access clean water, manage utility shutoffs, dispose of human waste and find impromptu shelter.

No one knows when one of our two major fault lines might cause a destructive earthquake, but we do know a number of ways to prepare and practice how to respond. Practice drills are an important component of Emergency Hub work because they will build the capacity our individual brains need to keep our amygdala and frontal lobe brain regions working well together, as well as our collective capacity to quickly problem solve and set up mutual aid systems for our community.

You can learn the basics of how a Hub functions by attending one of our introductory Hub 101 drills or watching Hub 101 - Virtual edition (Mar 2022) (youtube.com).  With that initial foundation, you might want to join our next Madison Park practice, Hub 202, on Feb 12, 6:30pm at Parkshore Senior Living. Keep an eye out, too, for some informal pop-up gatherings at sone of our community business partners, Madison Park Pharmacy and Wellness Center, where we’ll meet in person to answer your individual questions and share strategies and tips on a variety of emergency home preparation topics.

It’s a new year in a troubled world. Don’t go to sleep tonight without deciding what your next step might be to get yourself better informed and prepared in Emergency Preparation work. You’ll be surprised at how much less anxious you’ll be when you are engaged with others around you who are eager to be helpful.

Contact us at madparkhub@gmail.com for more information on what you might do.





Margie Carter is a Madison Park Emergency Hub Volunteer.