The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy causes many of us to reflect on both the innocent lives lost a decade ago, and our own level of readiness when disaster of any kind strikes.
The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy causes many of us to reflect on both the innocent lives lost a decade ago, and our own level of readiness when disaster of any kind strikes. Since 2001, King County has worked diligently to build upon lessons learned with the goal of creating safer and more resilient communities.
“Over the past ten years, in concert with our regional partners, we have worked to build a whole-community approach to disaster planning, response and recovery,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “This includes collaborative regional disaster plans and joint communication strategies that we constantly test and improve.”
The King County Office of Emergency Management has embraced the National Response Framework which provides a standard, common language approach to emergency response that covers all disciplines.
Since 2001, regional disaster plans and agreements have been developed between King County and local cities, private businesses, Native tribes, and non-profit organizations that streamline decision-making, facilitate rapid response and reduce the time it takes to recover from disasters. These same partners regularly participate with the Office of Emergency Management and the Executive Office in disaster drills to test and verify the effectiveness of these strategies. The disaster exercises focus on both manmade and natural disasters, such as earthquakes and winter storms.
“We can’t prevent most disasters from happening, but we can learn from the past and work hard to minimize the harm they can cause,” said Executive Constantine. “My leadership team is actively engaged in regular emergency training to sharpen our skills and quickly address any gaps we identify in our capacity to respond.”
County partners have removed technical barriers to emergency radio communications, strengthening the ability of disaster officials and first responders across the Puget Sound region to talk to each other during a crisis. In addition, the county has established concrete plans, enhanced public notification systems, and supported community based efforts to prepare for emergencies.
Hillman Mitchell, Director of the King County Office of Emergency Management, said, “We’ve experienced regional disasters, such as the Nisqually earthquake, wind storms and the threat of Green River Valley flooding. We have used these experiences to arm ourselves, our communities and individuals with the tools they need to get ready and stay ready.”
Through multi-lingual public education efforts, including the popular “3 Days, 3 Ways” preparedness campaign, King County has advanced individual, business and inter-organizational emergency preparedness into everyday lives. According to Herbert Emergency Preparedness Research, two-thirds of King County residents are aware of the importance of planning for emergencies.
Response and Recovery
The Metropolitan King County Council recently passed an ordinance that strengthens the Office of Emergency Management’s role as the regional coordinator of emergency planning, response and recovery. The office has supported the creation of scores of Citizen Corps Councils, Community Emergency Response Teams, and partnering agencies throughout King County. These self-organized volunteer groups train regularly on first response skills such as first aid, trauma care, emergency shelter operations, and HAM radio operations. They are at the heart of building resilient communities, and their numbers continue to grow.
“I want to acknowledge the contributions emergency response teams have made within our communities and call upon all King County residents to personally ready themselves and their families for the unexpected,” said Executive Constantine. “Strong communities begin with each of us making a personal commitment to prepare, and then reaching out to our neighbors to build the networks that will be crucial when disaster strikes.”
How to prepare
There are many steps individuals and businesses can take to reduce the effects of a disaster, including making a family emergency plan, assembling an emergency kit, registering for public alert systems, and getting involved locally through volunteer groups such as the American Red Cross, Community Emergency Response Teams, and community-based organizations. For more information, visit www.kingcounty.gov/prepare.