The more prepared a community is for a disaster, the easier it is for emergency services to assist it, according to Orcas Island Fire and Rescue Fire Chief Scott Williams.
More than a dozen people braved the elements to gather in the station 21 meeting room for a presentation by Williams on Feb. 13. The second meeting of the preparedness group Be Ready Orcas met to hear from the chief what the fire department’s role is in emergency situations.
“I think [Be Ready Orcas] is especially important because we live on the island and have limited resources,” said event organizer and OIFR volunteer Cory Harrington. Natalie Menacho and Harrington co-founded Be Ready Orcas together after a disaster preparation meeting held by the San Juan County Department of Emergency Management in March 2018.
There are seven fire stations on Orcas Island, and during a critical event like a large earthquake, station 21 in Eastsound would be where emergency operations would continue out o. However, should station 21 be unsafe for whatever reason, the headquarters will switch to station 24 in Deer Harbor, Williams explained. Deer Harbor and Eastsound stations are the only ones with housing quarters built into them.
OIFR is capable of responding to fire, marine, wildfire and medical emergencies, with an emergency medical technician and a paramedic on the clock at all hours, and more than 60 trained volunteer firefighters and EMTs.
“We really rely on the volunteer backbone of the department,” Williams said. “Anywhere you gon on the island, you’re probably going to bump into a volunteer. … the volunteers do an absolutely amazing job.”