As our hearts and wallets pour open to get help to Japan, recently struck by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, many can't help but wonder when it's going to be our turn. 700 calls came in to the Emergency Preparedness group at the City of Kirkland last week. And it's true, we are due. So, let's talk about what the city is doing and also what your household should be doing to be prepared (without me freaking you out).
I spoke with Stephanie Day, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator (Fire/Bldg Dept), who helped clear up that question that... NO there cannot be a tsunami in Lake Washington. Tsunami by definition requires a sea floor and the lake is not a sea. We could have what is called a seiche, which sounds fancy but only equates to some foot high waves for a short while. So, Kirkland is safe from the big wave.
More troubling would be the Seattle fault line running along I-90 which could deliver the most damage and destruction. A significant quake would likely sever gas lines, water, sewage, rail and impact the transporation of supplies and groceries, much of which comes from the Kent Valley. The good news is that Kirkland is on pretty solid ground so our potential for landslides is generally less than in other areas. We also have a lot of new construction which is built to more stringent codes.
The city has a Comprehensive Emergency Mgmt Plan that is available online. If you want to see topographical info and some details like if you are in a landslide area, check the document called "hazard vulnerability assessment." We have a team of people that think these details through every day. There are many different elements that go into emergency planning- police, fire, utilities, and also meeting with regional partners such as Evergreen Hospital and Lake Washington School District so we're all on the same page. One important point is that our Comprehensive Emergency Mgmt Plan assumes that citizens are helping and prepared also. Are you?
I helped take my street through the "Map Your Neighborhood" program recently. If you haven't done this in your neighborhood, I would highly recommend it. Email Robert Reeves to get started. You will learn how to compile a list of contacts, supplies/skills, and gas turnoff locations with your neighbors. Then you figure out your meeting spot and talk about the 9 steps to take immediately following a disaster. And of course the supplies to have on hand to be ready (yes, there are shoes, gloves and a hardhat under my bed right now). Having extra WATER is most important. Some of our neighbors keep an extra garbage can in their garage that they have stocked with emergency supplies. Pretty clever. Oh, and there is a company in Redmond called Prepare Smart that makes kits so you don't have to procrastinate any longer. That's where I got the 3 day kit I keep in the trunk of my car. King County also has a program called "3 Days 3 Ways" which urges the public to get prepared and tells you how. Plenty of resources! You should also sign up for notificiations on RPIN (Regional Public Information Network) so you can get an alert when there is an emergency and updates.
One last link- for those in Japan that need our help. I'm sure they would do the same for us- and this one is a deal too--- Living Social is matching $5 donations to the Red Cross through tomorrow. Get your household and your neighborhood ready. I figure if we're ready it won't come. ~j