The Pacific Northwest is a paradise in many ways. It’s free from extremes of temperature, rarely subjected to tornadoes or hurricanes, and has a distinct absence of venomous snakes. This being said, the Northwest is especially vulnerable to one particular form of natural catastrophe: earthquakes.
A large-scale seismic event would collapse bridges, rupture gas lines, and destroy power and phone lines. It’s entirely possible that a truly massive geological event won’t even occur in the reader’s lifetime; this being said, it’s equally possible that a 9.0 magnitude quake might strike the Key Peninsula tomorrow. This is why local government and emergency services personnel recommend taking a few simple steps to be prepared.
One of the first steps in preparing for any disaster is to assemble a survival supply kit. This is a simple collection of essential items that could be easily stored and used to survive a lack of food, water, or utilities in the event of a crisis that might last for days.
Pierce County Department of Emergency Management (DEM) Planning Coordinator Nicole Johnson recommends the following for a simple emergency kit: “Something for shelter (a tent or tarp), a first-aid kit, small nonperishable food items, a battery powered radio, basic hygiene essentials, flashlight, drinking water, a bucket, an emergency blanket, any current medications and duct tape.”
Another piece of common advice, especially for families, is to create an emergency plan. Think about each step of your day and how it would change in a catastrophic event. Consider things like where to shelter inside your house, where to meet in case of separation, or how to contact each other in case of power failure and downed phone lines.
If you live alone or in an isolated area, Johnson recommends you “have at least three people who can check on you” in case of a disaster.
In addition to an emergency kit and an emergency plan, reflect on your daily needs, says Johnson. If you are dependent on glasses or hearing aids, or rely on larger devices like an oxygen tank or other medical device, consider how to include them in your emergency preparation. Important legal documents should also be a part of your preparation, as well as some cash: “ATMs will be down, and money in small bills will be very important,” said Johnson.
“In a major catastrophe, anything that’s not a fire or major accident would be a pending call and we’d respond as needed, if possible,” said Anne Nesbit, volunteer battalion chief and administrative assistant at the Key Peninsula Fire Department.
“Our guys probably would be forced to stay at the stations, either because they couldn’t get out to respond to calls, or in anticipation of mass casualties. There’d be a general alarm for all volunteers to come in and we’d get the word out to the public that you need to get here if you can,” she said.
Staffed stations include Home and Wauna, and emergency shelters would be activated to receive the injured or people in need, said Nesbit.
The Key Peninsula Civic Center would be one such emergency shelter, according to KPCC board member Peggy Gablehouse, in coordination with the Red Cross.
“They bring the equipment, cots, food, anything they need. We supply the space and support them in any way they need us,” she said. Local emergency volunteers would also be on-hand to support the community for logistical tasks from transportation to clearing roads of fallen trees.