News

Dealing with disaster before it happens

By JACINDA HOWARD

The Mirror

Although the likelihood of a large earthquake or pipeline explosion may not be in the forefront of many Federal Way residents' minds, the city is still preparing for these events.

Businesses in the Federal Way area will have a chance to get involved in preparing the community for a natural or man-made disaster.

At 1:30 p.m. June 14 at City Hall, 33325 8th Ave. S., the Greater Federal Way Emergency Management Program will hold an informational public meeting to introduce the idea of a Community Organizations Active in Disasters (COAD) group.

Public agencies and individual citizens are already on board to assist Federal Way during a disaster, but COAD will offer more emergency support to the city.

The importance of preparing for a Mount Rainier lahar (a volcanic mudflow), earthquakes in the Cascade Range and potential complications with the Olympic Pipeline, which runs through Federal Way, is essential, Emergency Management Coordinator Ray Gross said.

If Federal Way becomes an island due to a disaster or emergency, the city will already have in place the resources and plans to address the emergency safely, Gross said.

COAD organizations may choose to distribute information, provide and manage resources and volunteers, or operate shelters, Gross said.

By involving local businesses and groups through the establishment of COAD, the city can use its resources to their fullest extent, Gross said.

"If this thing takes off, it will better prepare the community (for a disaster)," Gross said.

Some COAD organizations would provide printed materials, which will assist residents in caring for themselves and others in a disaster. The materials may include emergency contact information designed to direct residents to resources such as food, ice, water, tarps or shelter, Gross said.

Materials may also include tips on how to make the best use of resources residents already have in their homes.

However, providing printed materials will not be enough. To keep residents safe in an emergency, the city must establish places where they can get the supplies they need, Gross said.

Shelter from the storm

Organizations in Federal Way such as Weyerhaeuser and World Vision may prove useful in an emergency.

Weyerhaeuser has been invited to the meeting and is willing to go, spokesman Frank Mendizabal said. The company works closely with local authorities and is concerned with ensuring the safety of the community as well as its employees, many of whom reside in Federal Way, Mendizabal said.

Weyerhaeuser already has in place a fully-trained hazardous materials response team, which works in conjunction with South King Fire and Rescue, Mendizabal said. If Weyerhaeuser becomes involved in COAD, this team may be a useful resource in a disaster.

World Vision has its corporate office in Federal Way and has demonstrated an interest in becoming a COAD member. World Vision provides mostly international emergency assistance, but is concerned with Federal Way residents as well.

"The domestic piece of our response is something we are building up," said Paul Duke, director of business continuity.

World Vision collects gifts in kind through agreements with businesses. The organization has a Seattle facility that stores the gifts, such as school supplies, and could provide them to Federal Way residents, media spokesman Dean Owen said.

Because World Vision is largely affiliated with local churches, it may play yet another role in preparing for an emergency.

COAD organizations may choose to become involved by operating an emergency shelter. A need for shelters was seen this past winter when a windstorm left some residents with no power and no place to go to stay warm.

"If the COAD existed prior to the windstorm (this past winter) the sheltering would have already been addressed," Gross said.

If a church wanted to establish a shelter in Federal Way, World Vision is willing to coordinate with that church in deciding where best to locate a shelter, Duke said.

COAD is still a new idea, and Gross is unsure as to how the community and local groups will react to it.

He has high hopes, and once a few businesses have shown an interest in getting involved with COAD, the Emergency Management Program can likely see more interest from other organizations, Gross said.

"It's human nature that people tend to want to help if they can," he said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

Get involved

To become involved with Community Organizations Active in Disasters (COAD), attend the July 14 meeting or call Ray Gross at (253) 835-2712.

Some history on the Greater Federal Way Emergency Management Program

The Greater Federal Way Emergency Management Program was established in 1994 and provides Federal Way residents with information, advice, resources, planning and training in how to prepare for an emergency, such as an earthquake or a pandemic outbreak.

Currently, the program is comprised of public agencies Lakehaven Utility District, South King Fire and Rescue, the City of Federal Way and the Federal Way School District, as well as individual citizens involved in the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT program).

The public agencies meet regularly. COAD is the third sector of the program. Once fully established, COAD organizations will meet at 1:30 p.m. the second Thursday of the appointed month in the Patrick Maher Room of City Hall.

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