Opinion

Be prepared before it’s too late | Editorial

It won’t happen to me.

That’s what many on the East Coast thought about experiencing a major natural disaster. Sheila Gaquin, an Orcas Islander who volunteered with Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, said she encountered residents who donated to the Red Cross throughout their lives, but never imagined help would be needed in their own neighborhood.

In the San Juans, we can be lulled into a sense of safety because we experience so few confrontations with Mother Nature. But we are at the mercy of the ferry, and if we are cut off from the mainland, we’re left to survive on our own.

Now that she is back home, Gaquin says the importance of disaster preparedness feels more critical than ever. The San Juan County Department of Emergency Management agrees. According to their public outreach materials, everyone needs to be prepared for one week on their own. Neighbors taking care of neighbors is also valuable. It’s something Gaquin saw firsthand in the Long Island communities she visited. Every week, the local Kiwanis group held a barbecue for those struggling to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

Churches, volunteer groups, employers, businesses and nonprofits all play a role in both preparing for and responding to a disaster.

According to the Department of Emergency Management, communities throughout the Pacific Northwest are subject to a number of potential natural disasters such as fires, flooding, severe storms, earthquakes, dam failures, volcanic eruptions and landslides. Emergency services and government agencies may not be able to respond to your needs immediately.

“We cannot stop these disasters from occurring, but we can limit their impact on us and those we love. Contrary to what you may think, the chances of being killed or injured in a disaster are very low. More likely you will be unable to live normally in your home,” according to www.sanjuandem.net.

The website has a step-by-step guide to disaster planning along with information for building a comprehensive family emergency preparedness plan.

We can’t control when a natural disaster will hit, but we can take steps to ensure we aren’t scrambling to survive in the aftermath of devastation. We always think it won’t happen to us – until it does.

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