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Flirting with disaster: FEMA praises Federal Way

Staff from the city, police, fire, school district and utility district, spent 5 days training at the National Fire Academy on what to do if a major disaster hit the city. The conference was put on by FEMA and included a scenario where Federal Way was hit by a 7.2 earthquake. - Courtesy photo
Staff from the city, police, fire, school district and utility district, spent 5 days training at the National Fire Academy on what to do if a major disaster hit the city. The conference was put on by FEMA and included a scenario where Federal Way was hit by a 7.2 earthquake.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The scenario was a likely one: A 7.2 earthquake hit the Puget Sound area, and Federal Way suffered the most damage.

But rest assured, if the incident does occur, Federal Way staff will be well prepared.

A contingent of 72 staff members from the city, police, school board, utility district and fire department spent Aug. 31 to Sept. 4 at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md., to attend the Integrated Emergency Management Course, a course specially designed with Federal Way in mind.

The program was put on and paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The course featured talks by experts from around the country, including the Oakland police San Francisco fire department members about dealing with earthquakes and major emergencies.

The main culmination of the work: An all-day earthquake drill.

“They threw zingers out there to keep you on your toes,” South King Fire and Rescue spokeswoman Kirsti Weaver said. Weaver was among 17 firefighters who attended the training. “You’re really feeling the stress. It’s as real as it can be without actually experiencing it.”

The city, fire, police and the rest of the emergency response team applied for the training over a year ago, and has been busy over the past year preparing for it.

“I was really pleased and very impressed with FEMA,” city spokeswoman Linda Farmer said. “They prepared, they knew Federal Way, they knew our streets, the topography. They threw some curveballs that were very realistic because they had been here.”

One of the biggest things they got back from the experience, Farmer said, was realizing they needed to spread public safety information. Most likely, in a disaster situation, first responders will not get to citizens for about 72 hours, so residents need to prepare themselves to be able to stay warm, dry and fed.

“It’s not a message anyone in our group has been consistently getting out there,” Farmer said.

Part of the problem: If a disaster hits at night, many first responders and city staff may be outside city limits.

“We’ve got to put some backup plans in place,” Farmer said.

The city is looking at getting more trained building inspectors, so folks can get back into their homes, by either training firefighters or public works staff — and by building relationships with resources that are already in the city.

The emergency team did get some good reviews from FEMA.

“We got a lot of good positive remarks on how well everyone had prepared,” Weaver said. “Federal Way will stick out in their minds that we have forward thinking. They said more than once how pleased they were.”

Get involved

• The city is offering Community Emergency Response Team and Neighborhood Emergency Teams training next month for those interested. The NET training starts Oct. 26, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at City Hall.

• The CERT class, which is a seven-week course, starts at 9 a.m. Oct. 1.

• In case of an emergency, residents are advised to tune to AM 900, the city’s radio station, for pertinent information.

• For more infomation on preparing for a disaster, visit www.cityoffederalway.com/prepare.

Red Cross tips

Earthquakes: What to do after the shaking stops:

• Check yourself for injuries. Protect yourself from further danger by putting on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes and work gloves.

• Check others for injuries. Give first aid for serious injuries.

• Look for and extinguish small fires. Eliminate fire hazards. Turn off the gas if you smell gas or think it’s leaking. (Remember, only a professional should turn it back on.)

• Listen to the radio for instructions.

• Expect aftershocks. Each time you feel one: Drop, cover and hold on.

• Inspect your home for damage. Get everyone out if your home is unsafe.

• Use the telephone only to report life-threatening emergencies.

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