DISASTER 101: How to prepare for disasters year-round

September was designated as “Ready in Renton” month.

With a handful of natural disasters that have taken place over the last month, it may be on many resident’s minds — how do I prepare for a natural disaster that hits the Renton area?

The city’s Emergency Management Department has some tips to help residents prepare for a disaster to strike.

As “Ready in Renton” month comes to an end, that doesn’t mean residents can’t prepare year round for a natural disaster.

September was designated as “Ready in Renton” month where the city of Renton urged residents to prepare their family and property for a disaster that may come our way.

Renton is located in the Cascade Subduction Zone, increasing the risk for an earthquake, a media release from the city stated.

“First responders will be overwhelmed in a disaster, and may not be able to get to you,” said Deborah Needham, emergency management director for the city of Renton, in the release. “Being prepared for emergencies and natural disasters takes just a small amount of pre-planning. Not only do you increase your own survival and comfort, but you take the load off first responders so they can focus on the critical emergency needs.”

Residents should start by gathering items to store in an emergency kit.

The basics that residents should have on hand, said Karissa Smith, emergency nanagement coordinator, are bottled water and non-perishable food.

She added kits should also include a NOAA weather radio, flashlights with extra batteries, a first aid kit, local maps and any special items that pets, children, people with access and functional needs and seniors may need to survive.

Smith encouraged residents to think about their lifestyle and what they use every day and include any other necessary items into their kits.

“We encourage people to try to be prepared to take care of themselves for up to two weeks,” Smith said.

Not everyone can prepare for that amount of time, but something is better than nothing, she added.

For more information on preparing an emergency kit, visit https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit.

Whether the city and the surrounding areas are hit with an earthquake or a severe winter storm, residents should think about and prepare for any emergency.

Smith said the priority of residents during an emergency should be to take care of themselves and their loved ones.

It is also important, she said, to check on your neighbors and to ask for help if you need it.

Each household should make an emergency plan that fits their family and their needs.

A good place to start, Smith said, is planning how to get out if a fire occurs at your house.

Then think about planning with your family members on what to do if one person is at home, one is at school, someone is at work and someone is out of town. In cases like that, Smith encouraged people to agree on a meeting place.

Meeting places may work best if they are out of the Renton area, in case the emergency doesn’t allow you to reach a local meeting location.

Another tip is filling out emergency contacts on forms for work or school. Smith suggested using someone out of the area. During an emergency, local phones and internet may go down and Smith said it may be easier to contact someone outside the area.

She added people should do their best to avoid hazards, like floodwaters and damaged buildings.

In the case of an emergency in the Renton area, Smith said instructions will be posted on the city’s website telling people where shelters are located among other important information.

She encourages people to be aware of any instructions that are given during an emergency.

Residents can also sign up for ALERT Renton, a service that will provide alerts during local emergencies. This alert system is free and secure to sign up. Residents can choose to receive texts, phone call or emails during an emergency.

To sign up for the Renton alert system, visit http://rentonwa.gov/alert/.

This alert system has also been implemented county wide — to sign up for King County’s visit, http://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/emergency-management/alert-king-county.aspx.

Reach Editor Sarah Brenden at sbrenden@rentonreporter.com or 425-336-4959.

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