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Getting Ready in Renton

Op-Ed Renton Reporter
Deborah Needham
Emergency Management Director
Fire & Emergency Services
August 28, 2015  

I’ve often said that when it comes to disasters, “Renton is in a sweet spot.” Whenever we’ve had big storms, we have done well. Our Public Works Department does a great job keeping our main roads clear during the winter, the Cedar River hasn’t had major flooding in years, and the last moderate earthquake in recent memory was the Nisqually quake in 2001. I feel pretty lucky to live here in Renton.

So if, like me, you read “The Really Big One” article in the New Yorker back in July, you may have been jolted by that graphic description of our mega-earthquake risk. I was glad they followed up with “How to Stay Safe When the Big One Comes.” I’d rather know what I can do about a risk than simply read the scary details of how bad it’s going to be.

What came through loud and clear in those two articles was that the consequences of a major earthquake are too significant to leave preparedness to chance. For years now the City of Renton has been working on that and preparing for “The Big One.” A big regional earthquake exercise in June next year, “Cascadia Rising”, will put all that planning to the test.

Government preparation alone is not enough, though. Every September, in conjunction with National Preparedness Month, the city’s Ready in Renton campaign emphasizes a basic emergency preparedness message: make a plan, build a kit, help each other. When everyone does what they can to prepare, it reduces the risk of injury and loss for individuals while also lessening the load on emergency responders when disaster strikes.

Maybe you’re one of those people who has taken all the right steps. You have tested a communication plan with your household members, you know where to get emergency information, you have collected some emergency supplies in case you need to hunker down or evacuate, and you are prepared to help your neighbors, too. Great! So spread the word! Tell them about the Community Emergency Response Team training ( starting on September 22 so they can learn how to help their neighbors in an emergency. Do a show and tell with your emergency supplies. Get them talking about how they plan to deal with an emergency.

If you haven’t begun to prepare yet, I get it. I really do. It is natural to procrastinate and it’s hard to prioritize something that may or may not happen tomorrow, especially when you don’t see bad things happening on a regular basis. But it is just a matter of time before our community deals with some kind of major emergency of our own. What you do today to prepare will increase your safety and well-being, and that of your loved ones – pets included.

You don’t have to go big all at once. Start this weekend by doing just three small things: 1) Go to or leave a message at 425-430-7054 to get more information about earthquakes and general emergency preparedness; 2) Set aside several gallons of water in clean, unbreakable containers along with some nonperishable snacks for the start of your emergency stash; 3) Talk to your loved ones about how you will communicate and share emergency information if phones aren’t working.

Then give yourself a pat on the back. It’s a start. Often the hardest part is just getting started. And when enough of us do it, when everyone does even a little bit, it goes a long way in helping us all get through The Big One together.