Emergency Responders: Preparing Your Own House

If you work for an emergency response agency such as the police or fire department, or volunteer for a disaster response and recovery agency such as the American Red Cross, you are likely motivated by a desire to help people. You will be among those the community looks to when disaster strikes. But will you be ready when the time comes?

The first step in being ready to help the community is to ensure your own family is prepared in the event of a disaster. A disaster is by definition an overwhelming event, but those who will be best able to help others will be those whose own families are safe and as well provided for as possible.

To address emergency responders and their families specifically, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) developed the Ready Responder Toolkit. According to FEMA, this toolkit “is designed to provide emergency response agencies with a series of planning tools to help prepare their personnel and their families for emergencies.” The toolkit can be used individually, as well, by proactive members of the emergency response community.

The steps toward family preparedness are basically the same as for other members of the community, with the exception of preparing your loved ones to manage without you during the response period. The FEMA toolkit explains that taking these steps is especially important for those with emergency response duties.

“Without taking the appropriate steps to prepare themselves and their families in advance of a disaster, responders will be hindered in their ability to perform their jobs when a disaster strikes, and will instead be focused on personal and family safety. Appropriate advance planning lessens the burden on responders during a response, enabling them to devote more of their mental resources to the task of securing the community.”


Whether you are employed as a first responder or volunteer for a response and recovery organization, your own safety, and that of your family is number one. You cannot function well as a responder without knowing your loved ones are safe. In order to help others when disaster strikes, you need to have your own house in order before it strikes.

By Raina Clark
WUECC Volunteer Public Information Officer
Posted in Public Information | Comments Off on Emergency Responders: Preparing Your Own House

Tips For Driving During and After an Earthquake

Driving on roadways during and after an earthquake can be hazardous.  Doug Dahl of the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force has recently put together some guidance for this subject, which can be found here.

Posted in Public Information | Comments Off on Tips For Driving During and After an Earthquake

Disaster Planning For Older Adults

By Susan SloanWCHD Post 4 Pic

If you or someone you love is an older adults with special health care needs, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers many wonderful resources to help you develop a personal preparedness plan. Go to this link for more information: http://www.cdc.gov/aging/emergency/preparedness.htm. Disaster planning is particularly important for older adults and their families. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) states, “Being prepared can reduce fear, anxiety, and losses that many times accompany disasters.” Older adults are usually more vulnerable because they are more likely to have impaired physical mobility, diminished sensory awareness, chronic health conditions, or social and economic limitations that interfere with their ability to prepare for disasters and to respond and adapt during such events. Creating a plan is an important act of caring and compassion.

Posted in Public Information | Comments Off on Disaster Planning For Older Adults

Medical Needs and Disaster Planning Tips

By Susan Sloan

WCHD Post 3 Pic

In developing a Family Emergency Plan, be sure to consider your family MEDICAL NEEDS and develop a plan before an emergency or disaster occurs. Check out the Washington Department of Health’s Medical Needs: Disaster Tips fact sheet that can get you started in developing a disaster medical plan. Topics include medications, medical supplies, electrically powered medical equipment, oxygen and breathing equipment, IV’s and feeding tube equipment, etc.

Posted in Public Information | Comments Off on Medical Needs and Disaster Planning Tips

Emergency Preparedness Guide in 8 Languages

by Susan Sloan

WCHD Post 2 Pic

The Washington Department of Health has created a “Prepare” home emergency guide that covers key health topics, such as emergency supplies, making sure your water is safe to drink, and how to prevent the spread of germs. It is available in 8 languages: Chinese, English, Korean, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese. To download, go to http://here.doh.wa.gov/materials/home-emergency-guide.

Posted in Public Information | Comments Off on Emergency Preparedness Guide in 8 Languages

Medical Devices During Disasters

By Susan Sloan

WCHD Post 1 Pic

Do you or a family member or someone you care for use a medical device? The FDA has a number of tips related to medical device maintenance during disasters. Consider what you could do to prepare BEFORE a disaster strikes. Go to the FDA website to explore the following topics:

  • General safety
  • What to do in the event of a power outage
  • Warning about potential carbon monoxide problems when using generators
  • Water contamination
  • Re-use of medical devices
  • Special information about using blood glucose meters

While these topics were created to address hurricane disasters, they apply equally well to other types of disasters.

Posted in Public Information | Comments Off on Medical Devices During Disasters

Preparing your Home for Earthquakes

By Matthew Klein


Earthquakes and aftershocks cause widespread damage to property, life, and the environment.  Even if your home remains standing during an earthquake, many common household items can become hazards if they are not properly secured.  The following are several small things that you can examine to help make your home a safer place both during and following an earthquake of any magnitude.

One common household fixture that is often overlooked for earthquake preparedness are wall hung pictures and mirrors.  During the intense shaking of an earthquake, a picture or mirror that is not properly secured can fall to the ground, causing broken glass to spread across walkways; causing injury to your feet as you survey damage after the earthquake.  One way to secure pictures and mirrors that are hung on the wall is to ensure that the fastener used to secure the object is in a wall stud, and not solely attached to the drywall or other wall covering.

Another common household item that can become a hazard during an earthquake are bookshelves and other tall furniture.  Due to the shaking and roiling nature of the energy produced by an earthquake, these tall items are much more prone to toppling if they are left unsecured.  Using brackets to secure bookshelves to wall studs is an efficient way to keep them from falling and causing injury during an earthquake.

A home’s water heater can be a good source of clean water after an earthquake if other water sources have become contaminated or un-usable.  A typical household water heater can hold between 30 and 50 gallons of water.  However an unsecured water heater is also susceptible to the same shaking that bookshelves and other tall objects are,  which could cause the tank to fail and leak the water.  Most hardware stores sell kits that can be used to secure a water heater to the wall.  More detailed instructions on this method of securing water heaters, as well as securing the previously mentioned household objects and more can be found in this article provided by the Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division.

Posted in Public Information | Comments Off on Preparing your Home for Earthquakes

Now’s the Time to Prepare Yourself and Your Family

By LT Bob VanderYacht, Bellingham Police Department

It is highly likely that you will need to survive on your own for a period of time after a disaster strikes. This means having your own food, water and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for a minimum of three days. Local officials and responders will be hard at work after a disaster, but they cannot get to everyone immediately. It may take hours or even days for you and your family to be reached. Basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment and telephones may be cut off for days, a week or even longer. You may have to evacuate at a moment’s notice and take essentials with you. You probably will not have the opportunity to shop or search for the supplies you need. When a disaster happens, will you know how to reconnect with your family? Planning ahead can reduce your anxiety following a disaster. One of the most important concepts in developing a family emergency preparedness plan is communication.

There are many publications and on-line resources that address the issue of personal preparedness. From a local perspective we, of course, encourage you to visit www.whatcomready.org and click on the “Preparedness” tab. You will find videos and articles that will assist you in systematically readying yourself and your family for disaster incidents. Take a hard look at the Prepare in a Year plan in this section.

When you feel that you are well prepared to be self-sufficient, the next step is reaching out to your neighbors. Visit http://mil.wa.gov/emergency-management-division/preparedness/map-your-neighborhood is an excellent way to coordinate efforts with nearby residents to support each other in a time of crisis.

Every member of a family needs to be involved so that when disaster strikes, everyone will know what to do. How well you manage the aftermath of disaster depends a great deal on your level of preparedness when disaster strikes.

Posted in Public Information | Comments Off on Now’s the Time to Prepare Yourself and Your Family

Map Your Neighborhood and Nextdoor.com: Two Ways to Keep Informed

By Aarin Wright, Bellingham Mayor’s Office

Staying informed is incredibly important following an emergency situation or disaster. The public needs to know where to get help and how to lend assistance, and this crucial information is vital to yourself or your loved ones. The City of Bellingham is currently utilizing many different tools and media in order to keep residents informed and prepared for disasters, and officials have established multiple forms of communication in case an emergency situation arises. Nextdoor.com, Map Your Neighborhood, and other forms of social media are just a few of the many ways the City is working to keep its citizens informed.



In addition to face-to-face interactions, public meetings, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter, the City of Bellingham Neighborhood Police Officers (NPOs) have been using a new online tool to communicate with Bellingham residents. Nextdoor.com is a free social media network that allows verified individuals to connect with their neighborhoods in order to better communicate about community issues.

This service not only provides helpful information about current events in each neighborhood, but it allows neighbors to build better relationships with Bellingham police officers and with each other.

Currently the NPOs upload two to three posts a week, providing information and education that will help keep neighborhoods safe. This includes crime updates, available safety trainings, home and personal protection tips and more.

To learn more information about the goings-on in your neighborhood, sign up at www.nextdoor.com.

Map Your Neighborhood

Another neighborhood-based program that the City encourages its residents to check out is the nation-wide disaster preparedness program Map Your Neighborhood.

Neighborhoods that are prepared for emergencies and disaster situations save lives, reduce the severity of injuries and trauma, and reduce property damage. Map Your Neighborhood provides a simple plan to help residents and their neighbors during the important first hours after a disaster until emergency services can reach them.

Once signed up for Map Your Neighborhood, community groups receive packets full of preparation information. Included are nine important steps to take immediately following a disaster as well as instructions on how to select a neighborhood gathering site and care center, identify skills and equipment held by each neighbor, and draw a map of the neighborhood with important locations marked such as natural gas meters or propane tanks.

For more information about Map Your Neighborhood and how to get involved, please contact Whatcom Unified at 360-676-6681 or info@whatcomready.org.

Social Media

In addition to these programs, the City of Bellingham is constantly updating social media pages with relevant and important information.  This extends far beyond the City’s website to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram (@cityofbellingham) and Engage Bellingham, the City’s own social media page. All these forms of media allows government agencies to communicate with residents in a variety of ways.  The goal is to meet people where they are and to distribute information quickly and accurately.

Make sure to follow the City of Bellingham, Whatcom Unified, or your own city’s social media pages, and check out Nextdoor.com and Map Your Neighborhood.

Posted in Public Information | Comments Off on Map Your Neighborhood and Nextdoor.com: Two Ways to Keep Informed

When Small Cities Plan for Big Disasters

When Small Cities Plan for Big Disasters

Riley Sweeney
Communications and Special Projects Officer
City of Ferndale

Emergency planning is essential for all cities, but especially relevant for a growing community like Ferndale. Whether it is a large-scale event like an earthquake or volcano eruption, or just a run-of-the-mill flood, Ferndale faces a unique set of challenges when responding to the emergency. To meet these challenges, the City brings some fantastic resources to bear.

Rivers: The big one is that there are only two bridges across the Nooksack River and the physical limitations of these two bridges provide some serious logistical challenges when coordinating an emergency response in Ferndale. To mitigate this, the City has a secondary supply depot for flood response equipment on the east side of the river and is working with our sister cities to develop and improve alternate routes in emergencies.

Rails: Another challenge is the nearby refineries and railroad which transport potentially hazardous materials. A disaster could derail trains or release dangerous chemicals into the environment during a time when containment is difficult. In preparation for such an event, each refinery does their own emergency planning drills to prepare.

The Ferndale Emergency Operations Center: When Ferndale built their brand new police station in 2012, we made sure to include an Emergency Operations Center, fully equipped with all the supplies to handle communications, logistic and response no matter the crisis.

Quality Staff and Volunteers: The Ferndale School District, Police Department, Whatcom Fire District Seven and City Staff all regularly coordinate for emergency drills and planning like the upcoming Operation Golden Skyhawk, a drill simulating a natural gas leak at Skyline Elementary School.

In addition, the Ferndale Auxiliary Communications Service, a group of volunteers committed to maintaining lines of communication during an emergency works to keep our equipment up to date and ready to go. If you are interested in becoming involved with the Ferndale ACS, please email FerndaleACS@cityofferndale.org for more information.

A city cannot prevent a natural disaster but they can prepare and plan. By mitigating our challenges and keeping our resources fresh and well-organized, the City of Ferndale can make the best of the most difficult circumstances.

Stay tuned to the City of Ferndale facebook page and website for our emergency planning website which will go live this spring!

Posted in Public Information | Comments Off on When Small Cities Plan for Big Disasters