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Bulletin board at Renton schools to provide disaster information

The City of Renton Emergency Communications vehicle will be deployed in times of emergency to disseminate vital resource information at neighborhood information centers such as Cascade Elementary School. The vehicles will be staffed by volunteers, such as Ray Kusumi, left, and David Cromer, who will post the emergency information on the bulletin boards. - Tracey Compton/Renton Reporter
The City of Renton Emergency Communications vehicle will be deployed in times of emergency to disseminate vital resource information at neighborhood information centers such as Cascade Elementary School. The vehicles will be staffed by volunteers, such as Ray Kusumi, left, and David Cromer, who will post the emergency information on the bulletin boards.
— image credit: Tracey Compton/Renton Reporter

Renton will resort to tried and true, old-school methods of communication to disseminate vital community resource information in times of a disaster.

City of Renton officials, school district staff and Emergency Management officials unveiled a new program as part of September's National Preparedness Month to inform the public of disaster resources by using bulletin boards at local schools.

At the unveiling Monday at Cascade Elementary School, Mayor Denis Law remarked it was odd to unveil a bulletin board. But, he said, "The reality is if we had a major event, every one of our communications systems could be down."

Law pointed to the 2006 windstorm that knocked out power around the area and made communication difficult as an example of just the type of situation this program seeks to overcome.

Called "Ready in Renton," the program introduces neighborhood centers that have been established at area schools with the help of the Renton School District.

When disaster conditions arise and normal communications are disrupted, information concerning shelter locations, food and water distribution points or evacuation routes will be posted at the centers by trained volunteers.

During normal conditions, the bulletin boards will still contain important information pertinent to the corresponding school and community to get parents in the habit of referring to the boards, said school Superintendent Mary Alice Heuschel.

There are 17 established neighborhood centers at public schools in the city limits. Residents are encouraged to look for information at the main entrance of the schools. More than 40 volunteers have been trained to get the information to the centers in times of crisis.

The program also uses multiple languages to get the message out.

"So in an emergency we aren't trying to translate to many many different languages, which increases the chance of errors," said Deborah Needham, Emergency Management director. "So we pre-printed the poster to say, 'Your nearest shelter is, or your nearest food distribution point is,' in that language."

All the volunteers have to do is write in the correct address for those resources.

"If we can't get messages out through CodeRED or we can't get messages out on television and radio because people can't access their television, radio or internet, then we can turn to this method as a back up for all those other systems," Needham said.

CodeRED is an emergency notification system that calls telephones during some emergencies.

Also new this year, the city's Emergency Management Division will be using its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The city is encouraging residents to follow RentonEM on Facebook and use the tag #readyinrenton on Twitter during September to share tips and stories about what they are doing to be better prepared for emergencies.

Residents are encouraged to do a number of things to prepare their homes, businesses and communities for disasters with tips, suggestions and resources available through the city's website. A map of school locations with neighborhood information centers can be found at rentonwa.gov or by calling 425-430-7000 or emailing em@rentonwa.gov.

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