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Emergency Management

Emergency Preparedness Fact Sheets in other languages: Washington Department of Health

Whether due to a local emergency or regional disaster, we are likely to find ourselves, at some time, having to survive on our own, and possibly under dangerous conditions. Following are some tips to prepare for and recover from a disaster.

BEFORE DISASTERS
  • Make a plan. Consider how you and your family members will get to a safe place, communicate with each other if you are not together, and what you will do in different situations (e.g. if there’s a fire vs. if an earthquake hits).
  • Establish an out-of-area emergency contact. When the worst of the incident is over, let your contact know, how you are doing. Loved ones should contact this person for the information, leaving local lines free for emergencies.
  • Maintain your ability to send and receive information wherever you are, with a battery operated or wind-up radio & a cell phone.
    • Remember that in some instances, when phone lines are overloaded, a text message may go through before a phone call does.
    • Keep GPS activated on your smartphone to enable location services and receive local emergency alerts. Also, in instances of severe injury, your smartphone could help responders locate you.
  • Sign up for monthly preparedness text messages: Text PREPARE to 43362 (4FEMA).
  • Equip your home with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers and fire escape ladders.
  • Prepare for power outages by knowing where your utility shutoffs are, learning how to use them, and keeping windup or battery operated flashlights (with extra batteries) in your emergency supply kits.
    • If possible, acquire a portable generator or have one professionally installed outside your home.
    • Get First Aid and CPR training. A basic CPR class is available through the American Red Cross and American Heart Association.
DURING DISASTERS
  • Remain calm. Keeping your calm is essential to be able to make safe choices for yourself and those around you.
  • Listen to radio news broadcasts for the latest conditions.

 

AFTER DISASTERS

 

  • Assess your own condition and your surroundings before moving.
  • Proceed with extreme caution to any other location.
  • If necessary, search for open shelters by texting SHELTER and a Zip Code to 43362 (4FEMA). E.g. Shelter 98075
  • Listen to radio news broadcasts regarding local conditions and the availability of shelters and other assistance.
  • If possible, let your out-of-area contact (briefly) know how you are doing.
  • Call 9-1-1 strictly for true emergencies.
  • Stay off roads unless absolutely necessary to get somewhere.


For more comprehensive information, go to Ready.gov for easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions on how to become disaster-ready!

Hazard-Specific Preparedness

    The events most likely to occur in the City are: 
             

    EARTHQUAKES
    Earthquakes pose the most likely threat of major disaster to residents in the Puget Sound region.

    Some preparations that pertain specifically to earthquakes are listed below.

    Anchor Your Home

    Washington State experiences approximately 1,000 earthquakes each year; most too weak, deep or distant for citizens to notice. However, those like the Nisqually Quake of 2001 rock buildings and cause damage. In a significant quake, homes not attached to their foundations may shift dangerously, jeopardizing residents and their property and making the homes uninhabitable. 

    Most homes built after 1975 are attached.  Houses built before then should be checked. Those not attached, should be “retrofitted,” which requires a local government permit. 

    Anchor Your Furnishings
    During an earthquake, homes may shake enough to throw even heavy objects and furniture across a room.  To protect lives and property, larger furnishings that rest on the floor or wall, should be properly attached to them. Smaller objects, including those that rest on shelves, should be affixed with temporary adhesives.  Cabinet doors should be secured when not in use. Remove heavy objects over or near beds and strap down water heaters.

    Locate Utility Shut-Offs 

    To prevent fires, flooding and gas poisoning, know where and how to turn off the electricity, gas, and water to your home.

    How to survive earthquakes
    Most people are injured in earthquakes when trying to get from one place to another. If you have already identified safe locations in the places where you regularly spend time - and you practice using them - you will know to go there during the earthquake. Here are some general tips:

    • If you are indoors, stay inside. Do not run outside. Do not get in a doorway.
    • DROP, COVER and HOLD ON under a heavy table or counter. Stay low, stay put and protect your head and neck. 
    • If you are outside when the shaking happens move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires. This might not be possible in a city, so you may need to duck inside a building to avoid falling debris (See Ready.gov for more tips).

        


    FLOODS AND MUD SLIDES
    In this region, we expect a lot of rain October through June.  Fortunately, we usually have advance warning of significant storm cells and there are things you can do to protect yourself and your property.         

    How to mitigate damage from flooding

    • Evaluate the design of your property for its potential to withstand long periods of heavy rain.  Strengthen vulnerable areas, such as ground that slopes toward the house.
    • Routinely check drain pipes and clear them when clogged.
    • Maintain generous amounts of vegetation to absorb significant rain water.
    • Inspect your home for areas that might not withstand high water and heavy downpours.
    • Keep valuable documents in water proof containers, off the floor.
    • Store sandbags and eventually an inflatable raft for emergency use.

    How to avert danger during flooding

    • Pay attention to weather reports on a daily basis.
    • Plan for the worst possible conditions predicted.
    • Avoid travel during torrential rains.
    • When travel is necessary, use roadway reports to plan the safest route. In general, use the highest-lying roadways.
    • Evacuate your home when authorities advise you to or when conditions worsen and you feel unsafe.
    • Watch for downed power lines and avoid areas near them. Water carries electrical current and can electrocute you from a distance. 

       
    WINTER STORMS
    In addition to heavy rains, our winters often include brief periods of snow and ice.     

    Preparing for storms

    • Replace regular tires with snow tires (not metal studded) at the start of the winter season (usually by the end of November.)
    • Carry an emergency roadway kit in the trunk at all times.
    • Keep a wool blanket, a few health bars and a gallon of water in the passenger area, at all times.

         Avoiding danger during storms

    • Pay attention to weather reports on a daily basis.
    • Plan for the worst possible conditions predicted.
    • Wear clothing appropriate for outside temperatures.
    • Avoid travel when the ground is icy, particularly at night.
    • When travel is necessary, use the lowest-lying route possible.
    • Keep intersections free!
      • Pull over when heavy snowfall, hail or ice, impair visibility.
      

    PUBLIC HEALTH DISASTERS
    A communicable disease outbreak can have a greater impact on a community than, for instance, a major earthquake. When even being near someone can lead to serious illness or death, citizens will have to isolate themselves for their own and others’ safety. Government offices, grocery stores, pharmacies, and other workplaces may close; public transportation may shut down; the numbers of available health care workers and first responders may dwindle; for the duration of the disease.   

    Preventing the spread of disease

    Using simple sanitary practices is our best way to prevent the outbreak of a communicable disease.

    • Stay home when sick.
    • Cover sneezes and coughs, preferably with disposable tissues or into your elbow - not your hands. 
    • Dispose of used tissues in enclosed trash containers.
    • Use gloves and hygienic masks whenever possible and in public places.
    • Wash hands frequently with soap & water and wipe with antibacterial gel.
    • Keep your hands away from your face.

    Surviving disease outbreaks

    • Listen to public information bulletins.
    • Follow all guidelines recommended by health officials (Real-time updates are available on @CDC)
    • Stay home and avoid public areas as much as possible.
    • Wear a hygienic mask over nose and mouth when outdoors.
    • Maintain your health: sleep, drink lots of fluids, eat fruits and vegetables.

    Learn more about particular diseases, prevention and response through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


    TERRORISM AND BIO/CHEMICAL ATTACKS AND INCIDENTS

    The best prevention advice at this time is to remain aware of one’s surroundings and report any situations that seem highly suspicious. Examples of situations that may be worth reporting:

    • Unattended containers, large or small, in unusual places.
    • Unusual substances leaking from containers or in the open.
    • Packages and other mail from unknown or unfamiliar sources.
    • One or more persons acting in a distraught or threatening manner.
    • Someone dressed extremely inappropriately for the current weather.

    The location and time of any explosive, biological or chemical attack will likely remain unknown to us until such an event occurs. At that time, the best advice for anyone affected or potentially contaminated, includes:

    • Stay as calm as possible. Call 9-1-1 if you are able to.
    • If structures are damaged, be careful in moving to a safer location.
    • If potentially dangerous substances are involved, avoid transferring them to others places and people. 

       Examples:

    • Leave substances alone and call authorities.
    • If contaminated, stay put and call authorities in.
    • If outside the contamination area, try to keep others out.

    Stay tuned to your radio and social media for information on the situation.        

 

Emergency Supply Kits

Your disaster supplies kit should contain supplies for each member of your family, including pets, for a minimum of 3 days. However, the City encourages you to plan for longer than 3 days. Your kit should include* the following: 
  • Water - 1 gallon per person per day 
  • First aid kit - freshly stocked
  • First aid book
  • Food (packaged, canned)
  • Can opener (non-electric)
  • Blankets, sleeping bags
  • Portable radio, flashlight, spare batteries, portable phone charger (pre-charged or solar)
  • Essential medication and glasses
  • Fire extinguisher – A-B-C type
  • Food and water for PETS
  • Money

Sanitation Supplies

  • Large plastic trash bags for trash and/or water protection
  • Large trash cans
  • Bar soap and liquid detergent
  • (Dry) Shampoo
  • Toothpaste and toothbrushes
  • Feminine and infant supplies
  • Toilet paper
  • Household bleach with no additives
  • Newspaper – to wrap garbage and waste

Safety and Comfort

  • Sturdy shoes
  • Heavy gloves for clearing debris
  • Change of clothing
  • Knife or razor blades
  • Garden hose – for siphoning and fire suppression
  • Tent

Cooking

  • Barbecue, camp stove, chafing dish
  • Fuel for cooking (charcoal, camp stove fuel, etc)
  • Plastic knives, forks, spoons
  • Paper plates and cups
  • Paper towels
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil

Tools & Supplies

  • Ax, shovel, broom
  • Crescent wrench for turning off gas
  • Screwdriver, pliers, hammer
  • Coil of ½” rope
  • Duct tape and sheeting
  • Toys/Comfort items for children

*Checklist excerpted from the Washington State Emergency Management Division and Department of Health Disaster Preparation Handbook. This is a non-exhaustive list that should be tailored to your/your family's specific needs.

Sheltering

In times of major disaster events such as earthquakes, families are often displaced from their homes because the structure is unsafe. Shelters are set up to take in displaced persons during a disaster event. In other disaster events, it may be necessary for residents to remain in their homes or at their business.


Emergency sheltering guidelines are established by the American Red Cross.

In the event the City or Red Cross establishes an emergency shelter for disaster victims, information on the location, hours of operations and rules will be made available on the American Red Cross website and distributed via media (TV, social media, radio and newspaper).

Some Shelter Basics
  • Identification required
  • Check in/out required
  • Meals may be provided
  • Pets other than service animals may not be allowed in the shelter but pet shelters will be available nearby
Shelter In Place

Depending on the situation, there are times where it might simply be best to remain where you are - home, work, school - and avoid potential outside dangers. In such cases, use common sense to determine whether or not staying put is the safest option for you and your family. This is called “shelter in place” or "staying put." Below are the suggested guideline from Ready.gov for staying put:

  • Bring your family and pets inside.
  • Lock doors, close windows, air vents and fireplace dampers.
  • Turn off fans, air conditioning and forced air heating systems.
  • Take your emergency supply kit unless you have reason to believe it has been contaminated.
  • Go into an interior room with few windows, if possible.
  • Seal all windows, doors and air vents with 2-4 mm thick plastic sheeting and duct tape. Consider measuring and cutting the sheeting in advance to save time.
  • Cut the plastic sheeting several inches wider than the openings and label each sheet.
  • Duct tape plastic at corners first and then tape down all edges.
  • Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to seal gaps so that you create a barrier between yourself and any contamination.
  • Local authorities may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet often for official news and instructions as they become available.

Pet

Emergencies come in many forms, and they may require anything from a brief absence from your home to permanent evacuation. Each type of disaster requires different measures to keep your pets safe, so the best thing you can do for yourself and your pets is to be prepared. Here are simple steps you can follow now to make sure you’re ready before the next disaster strikes:

Step 1: Get a Rescue Alert Sticker

This easy-to-use sticker will let people know that pets are inside your home. Make sure it is visible to rescue workers (we recommend placing it on or near your front door), and that it includes the types and number of pets in your home as well as the name and number of your veterinarian. If you must evacuate with your pets, and if time allows, write “EVACUATED” across the stickers. Most pet stores carry emergency pet notification stickers.

Step 2: Arrange a Safe Haven

Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND. Remember, if it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets. They may become trapped or escape and be exposed to numerous life-threatening hazards. Note that not all shelters accept pets, so it is imperative that you have determined where you will bring your pets ahead of time:

  • Contact your veterinarian for a list of preferred boarding kennels and facilities.
  • Ask your local animal shelter if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets.
  • Identify hotels or motels outside of your immediate area that accept pets.
  • Ask friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they would be willing to take in your pet.

Step 3: Chose "Designated Caregivers”

This step will take considerable time and thought. When choosing a temporary caregiver, consider someone who lives close to your residence. He or she should be someone who is generally home during the day while you are at work or has easy access to your home. A set of keys should be given to this trusted individual. This may work well with neighbors who have pets of their own—you may even swap responsibilities, depending upon who has accessibility.

When selecting a permanent caregiver, you’ll need to consider other criteria. This is a person to whom you are entrusting the care of your pet in the event that something should happen to you. When selecting this “foster parent,” consider people who have met your pet and have successful cared for animals in the past. Be sure to discuss your expectations at length with a permanent caregiver, so he or she understands the responsibility of caring for your pet.

Step 4: Prepare Emergency Supplies and Traveling Kits

If you must evacuate your home in a crisis, plan for the worst-case scenario. Even if you think you may be gone for only a day, assume that you may not be allowed to return for several weeks. When recommendations for evacuation have been announced, follow the instructions of local and state officials. To minimize evacuation time, take these simple steps:

  • Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification information. Your pet’s ID tag should contain his name, telephone number and any urgent medical needs. Be sure to also write your pet’s name, your name and contact information on your pet’s carrier.
  • The ASPCA recommends microchipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification. A microchip is implanted under the skin in the animal’s shoulder area, and can be read by a scanner at most animal shelters.
  • Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster. Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home in a crisis.
  • Store an emergency kit and leashes as close to an exit as possible. Make sure that everyone in the family knows where it is, and that it clearly labeled and easy to carry. Items to consider keeping in or near your “Evac-Pack” include:
     
    • Pet first-aid kit and guide book (ask your vet what to include)
    • 3-7 days’ worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food (be sure to rotate every two months)
    • Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans are perfect)
    • Litter or paper toweling
    • Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
    • Disposable garbage bags for clean-up
    • Pet feeding dishes and water bowls
    • Extra collar or harness as well as an extra leash
    • Photocopies and/or USB of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires (Remember, food and medications need to be rotated out of your emergency kit—otherwise they may go bad or become useless)
    • At least seven days’ worth of bottled water for each person and pet (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months)
    • A traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet
    • Flashlight
    • Blanket
    • Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make “Lost” posters)
    • Especially for cats: Pillowcase, toys, scoop-able litter
    • Especially for dogs: Extra leash, toys and chew toys, a week’s worth of cage liner

You should also have an emergency kit for the human members of the family. Items to include: Batteries, duct tape, flashlight, radio, multi-tool, tarp, rope, permanent marker, spray paint, baby wipes, protective clothing and footwear, extra cash, rescue whistle, important phone numbers, extra medication and copies of medical and insurance information.

Step 5: Keep the ASPCA On-Hand at All Times

The free ASPCA mobile app shows pet parents exactly what to do in case of a natural disaster. It also allows pet owners to store vital medical records and provides information on making life-saving decisions during natural disasters. With a few swipes, you can:

  • Access critical advice on what to do with your pet before, during, and after a major storm—even if there’s no data connectivity.
  • Store and manage your pet’s critical health records.
  • Receive a personalized missing pet recovery kit, including step-by-step instructions on how to search for a lost animal in a variety of circumstances.
  • Build a lost pet digital flyer that can be shared instantly on your social media channels.
  • Get the latest and most relevant news about pets and animal welfare.

Special Considerations for Horses

  • Keep a clean and tidy stable and pasture. Remove hazardous and flammable materials, debris and machinery from around the barn’s walkways, entrances and exits. Regularly maintain and inspect barn floors and septic tanks. Inspect your grounds regularly and remove dangerous debris in the pasture.
  • Prevent fires by instituting a no-smoking policy around your barn. Avoid using or leaving on appliances in the barn, even seemingly-harmless appliances like box fans, heaters and power tools can overheat. Exposed wiring can also lead to electrical fires in the barn, as can a simple nudge from an animal who accidentally knocks over a machine.
  • Get your horse used to wearing a halter, and get him used to trailering. Periodically, you should practice quickly getting your horse on a trailer for the same reason that schools have fire drills—asking a group of unpracticed children to exit a burning building in a calm fashion is a little unrealistic, as is requesting a new and strange behavior of your horse.
  • If you own a trailer, please inspect it regularly. Also, make sure your towing vehicle is appropriate for the size and weight of the trailer and horse. Always make sure the trailer is hitched properly—the hitch locked on the ball, safety chains or cables attached, and emergency brake battery charged and linked to towing vehicle. Proper tire pressure (as shown on the tire wall) is also very important.
  • Get your horse well-socialized and used to being handled by all kinds of strangers. If possible, invite emergency responders and/or members of your local fire service to interact with your horse. It will be mutually beneficial for them to become acquainted. Firemen’s turnout gear may smell like smoke and look unusual, which many horses find frightening—so ask them to wear their usual response gear to get your horse used to the look and smell.
  • Set up a phone tree/buddy system with other nearby horse owners and local farms. This could prove invaluable should you—or they—need to evacuate animals or share resources like trailers, pastures or extra hands!
  • Keep equine veterinary records in a safe place where they can quickly be reached. Be sure to post emergency phone numbers by the phone. Include your 24-hour veterinarian, emergency services and friends. You should also keep a copy for emergency services personnel in the barn that includes phone numbers for you, your emergency contact, your 24-hour veterinarian and several friends.

Special Considerations for Birds

  • Birds should be transported in a secure travel cage or carrier.
  • In cold weather, make certain you have a blanket over your pet’s cage. This may also help reduce the stress of traveling.
  • In warm weather, carry a spray bottle to periodically moisten your bird’s feathers.
  • Have recent photos available, and keep your bird’s leg bands on for identification.
  • If the carrier does not have a perch, line it for paper towels that you can change frequently.
  • Keep the carrier in as quiet an area as possible.
  • It is particularly imperative that birds eat on a daily basis, so purchase a timed feeder. If you need to leave your bird unexpectedly, the feeder will ensure his daily feeding schedule.
  • Items to keep on hand: Catch net, heavy towel, blanket or sheet to cover cage, cage liner.

Special Considerations for Reptiles

  • A snake may be transported in a pillowcase, but you should have permanent and secure housing for him when you reach a safe place.
  • Take a sturdy bowl that is large for your pet to soak in. It’s also a good idea to bring along a heating pad or other warming devise, such as a hot water bottle.
  • Lizards can be transported like birds (see above).

Special Considerations for Small Animals

  • Small animals, such as hamsters, gerbils, mice and guinea pigs, should be transported in secure carriers with bedding materials, food and food bowls.
  • Items to keep on hand: Salt lick, extra water bottle, small hidebox or tube, a week’s worth of bedding.

Map Your Neighborhood

Neighborhoods that are prepared for emergencies and disaster situations save lives, reduce the severity of injuries and trauma and reduce property damage. In addition, contributing as an individual and working together as a team helps develop stronger communities and improve the quality of life in the community.

The Map Your Neighborhood program guides you and your neighbors through simple steps to help enhance your preparedness for an emergency. These steps will help you to quickly and safely take actions that can minimize damage and protect lives.

Map Your Neighborhood is designed to improve disaster readiness at the neighborhood level and teaches neighbors to rely on each other during the hours or days before fire, medical, police or utility responders arrive.

Introduction to Map Your Neighborhood:

MYN Resources:

If you have questions, please contact the Emergency Management Division’s Public Education Department at (253) 512-7419 or email PublicEducation@emd.wa.gov

Prepare in a Year

Take the Prepare in a Year Challenge!
Disasters can happen anytime and anywhere, so are you prepared?
The consequences of a disaster are largely preventable. One hour of disaster preparedness activity each month will help you be ready for disasters - wherever they occur and whatever they are.

Choose one hour each month to complete the designated task, write it on your planning calendar and make it a family activity!


Prepare In A YearComplete Booklets (PDF)

Multiple languages here

 Prepare in a Year Suggested Activities

Month 1 - Action Plan
Month 2 - Out of Area Contacts
Month 3 - Water
Month 4 - 72-Hour Comfort Kit
Month 5 - Important Documents
Month 6 - Extended Events
Month 7 - Under-the-bed-items
Month 8 - Utility Safety
Month 9 - Drop, Cover and Hold
Month 10 - Fire Safety
Month 11 - Shelter in Place
Month 12 - Home Hazard Hunt