As explained in the September column in the Kingston Community News, we are utilizing this column as a way of providing the community with a deeper discussion of topics that were selected by participants at the March 2019 Kingston Community Conversation. We’ll let you know what was discussed, what’s already happening and how you can help the community implement solutions. To learn more about the Community Conversations visit kingstoncares.org/events/.
This month, we’re talking about Emergency Preparedness. Next month, as a direct result of the 2019 Conversation, we’re hosting a community preparedness event!
The “Kingston Prepares” event is planned for Nov. 6 from 7 – 8:30 p.m. at the Village Green Community Center. There will be preparedness-related door prizes, inspiring speakers and resources for improving your family and neighborhood’s preparedness. Kingston Citizens Advisory Council, Kingston Cares, Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce, North Kitsap Fire & Rescue, Kingston-NK Rotary and Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management are co-sponsors.
Participants during the 2019 Conversation on emergency preparedness were mostly focused on being ready for disasters. Disasters can be defined as sudden events that seriously disrupt a community’s function and causes losses beyond the capabilities of regular responders. Disasters can be small (landslide, blocked roadway, isolated power outage) or large (earthquake, winter storm, wildfire). Participants voiced concerns about the potential isolation of our community in the wake of a large event. They expressed additional concerns about methods for providing help to vulnerable populations. Communications prior to and after a disaster were also a concern. There was also considerable interest in learning more about governments’ disaster plans.
Finally, the group set goals that included community preparedness workshops, promotion of neighborhood preparedness through the Map Your Neighborhood program and CERT (Community Emergency Response Training).
Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management (KCDEM) has access to systems that can issue some geographically-defined alerts through cellular and landline phones. David Rasmussen, KCDEM Public Information Officer, encourages the public to ensure notification by using multiple methods rather than relying on just one.
Locally, there’s KITZ Radio at 1400 AM. Residents can also sign-up for emergency notifications at KCDEM’s website kitsapdem.org. Kitsap ALERT, which utilizes the AlertSense notification system, allows users to set their preferences to receive messages on multiple devices by physical address and, even, when out of the area.
The county’s network of amateur radio (HAM) operators will be essential post-disaster, and KCDEM is always looking for additional participants. A low-tech plan is in development that will utilize the HAM network to communicate information for posting on community bulletin boards in the event of a high-tech system failure.
Rasmussen says that the county is currently in the process of revising its mitigation and response plans. His organization is also leading a coalition of social services groups whose focus is meeting the needs of vulnerable populations in the wake of a disaster. Rasmussen emphasizes the importance of personal and neighborhood preparedness.
“When an earthquake or other large-scale event overwhelms traditional resources, neighbors will have to rely on one another,” he said.
The “Map Your Neighborhood” program, available through KCDEM provides a framework for preparedness. Getting to know neighbors also forges ties that can strengthen community, prevent crime and expand available resources for small events as well as large disasters. KCDEM also offers more in-depth disaster response training through its CERT program. Another class begins Oct. 23 in Bremerton; more information can be found at kitsapdem.org/class/cert-basic-training-course-bremerton.aspx
Chris Gilbreath is the chairman of the Kitsap Citizens Advisory Council’s Community Services Committee. The KCAC is a co-sponsor of the Conversations and Kingston Prepares event.