September is Emergency Preparedness Month in the San Juan Islands. The San Juan County/Town of Friday Harbor Department of Emergency Management has preparedness materials online at www.sanjuandem.net/prepare. DEM staff are available to talk to neighborhoods, businesses, churches, or any group of islanders looking for some direction and help with preparing.
The primary focus for emergency preparedness in the islands should be a two-week supply of food and water (including for pets), followed closely by a 30-day supply of essential medications, a way to cook and stay warm in an extended power outage, and talking through basic needs and response with families and neighbors.
Emergency Management Director Brendan Cowan said, “Being prepared isn't complicated, and doesn't need to be expensive or time consuming. We've tried to make it as simple as possible. The most important thing is to just get started. Doing nothing means that you're counting on someone else to take care of you.”
A disaster in the islands likely means loss of power and communications, disruption to the food and fuel supply, much more difficult access to medical care, and perhaps a loss of water systems. The islands are in an active earthquake hazard zone, and have a history of severe winter storms in years past.
While the likelihood of a serious event in any one year is low, over time the risk is high.
Lopez Island Fire and EMS Chief J Havner said, “In a disaster, local emergency responders will be overwhelmed, and mainland help may be a long time coming. It is essential that every islander ensure that they and their families can take care of themselves for at least two weeks, ideally longer.”
Sheriff Ron Krebs said, “My team and I will be working tirelessly after the quake to help the islands recover, but we need everyone to do their part now. Get prepared. Take this seriously. We all care about our community, and the best way to make sure you'll be part of the good work that happens in response is to make sure you're prepared now.”
So, while emergency preparedness is a full time assignment, use September as an annual check in. Take a look at your supplies, fill in any missing pieces, and reach out to the local Department of Emergency Management if you have questions or needs. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-370- 7612.