Sleepover puts survival gear to the test

On Oct. 20, the city will prepare itself for ground tremors, wave crashes, mountain eruptions and chemical explosions.

A small group, led by city employee Greg Vause, will spend the night testing emergency preparedness equipment at Camp Kilworth in Federal Way. The city has gathered the equipment over the past three years, but this is the first time it will be used beyond training purposes.

About four years ago, Vause, who then worked for the city’s police department, began applying for grants so that Federal Way could prepare itself for a natural disaster such as an earthquake, tsunami or chemical spill.

Since 2003, he has succeeded in securing three federal grants — amounting to about $204,000 — which have been used to purchase emergency preparedness equipment and tools. These things can be utilized locally and regionally, and supplement what’s already owned by the city, South King Fire and Rescue and Lakehaven Utility District.

“Anytime we can share equipment and help each other out, it’s always a benefit to the public,” South King Fire and Rescue spokeswoman Kirsti Weaver said.

Sitting in an enclosed and secured section of a parking lot adjacent to City Hall, 33325 8th Ave. S., is a bevy of multi-functional equipment and tools.

A quad all-terrain vehicle, with the ability to pull a mid-sized trailer and haul its driver plus an additional 500 pounds, rests in one corner of the lot. An old bomb squad truck sits directly in front of it. Inside, spotlights, extension cords, stretchers and chemical suits, among other things, wait to be used. The inventory also includes generators, self-contained breathing apparatuses, tools, chemical detecting equipment, blankets, rain wear and shelter.

The gear is used occasionally, and volunteers will train on the equipment at times. The trailers, with built-in lighting, have been called upon to illuminate the scenes of traffic accidents.

South King Fire and Rescue has used the equipment for training as well, Weaver said. The equipment could also prove useful in a multiple casualty incident, Weaver said.

Test time

The Citizen Action Team, a group of citizens specially trained to assist in a disaster situation, will test the equipment at Camp Kilworth on Oct. 20.

The goals for the group are to set up a base camp, refresh everyone’s first-aid skills, learn more about the equipment and take inventory of what additional resources may be needed if a disaster were to strike, Vause said.

“Who knows what kinds of problems we’ll run into,” Vause said.

Some people think Vause is paranoid or a “weirdo” for worrying about the possibilities of a natural disaster, he said. But he has more than 30 years worth of experience working in fields such as the police and fire departments.

Much of Vause’s emergency preparedness efforts are done as a volunteer, city spokeswoman Linda Farmer said. He would rather be prepared for an emergency than be left without resources to sustain himself and residents. South King Fire and Rescue is aware of the resources and is prepared to use them in a large-scale disaster, Weaver said.

“There’s not a bomb in the world as big as Mother Nature,” Vause said.

If a disaster strikes, Federal Way won’t be seeing assistance from Olympia or Seattle, he said. The city is too far away from those locations and a disaster, such as a momentous earthquake, may prohibit the transportation of goods and resources to Federal Way, he said.

“Federal Way is on its own,” Vause said.

At least the city will have some equipment and knowledgeable volunteers available to assist if a disaster were to occur, he said.

“We are all hoping none of this (equipment) ever gets used except for training,” Vause said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: or (253) 925-5565.

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Federal Way residents have become complacent to preparing for a natural disaster, Vause said. Many people think the city will be able to care for everyone in an emergency, but that is not the case, he said. Residents need to do their part in preparing for a disaster.

During the Festival Days parade more than 400 informational cards about disaster preparedness training were distributed. The city did not receive any calls of interest for the training and subsequently was forced to cancel the course, Vause said.

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