Camano Preparedness Group helps people in the community prepare for disaster. In normal times, the group invites experts to speak at monthly meetings. For May’s meeting, 35 people met on the Zoom platform.
“Everyone in attendance said basically the same thing. They were well prepared due to preparations for an earthquake,” said Sue Ryan, the group’s VP and program director. “What we have found out is, just what we have been teaching people, prepare for the worst ... Then you are prepared for anything.”
Camano Preparedness Group offers a “Map Your Neighborhood” program, which they will soon move online.
“This emergency was a wake-up call for a lot of people. We still had power, water, shelter, grocery stores and medical care. The initial uncertainty of what was happening was frightening to most people, hence the hoarding of toilet paper, hand sanitizers, Kleenex, pastas and other things people were afraid to be without. Those of us who have prepared were not worried. We already had more than a month of supplies,” Ryan said.
After being on Mount St. Helens during the second eruption and surviving, Camano Island resident Michael Lienau made a career of producing educational films about disasters. He stresses the importance of putting together a kit and a plan, because disasters can strike without warning.
He found that having an earthquake kit on hand can help with other disasters, as well. When the pandemic struck, he already had much of what he needed.
“In our earthquake kit, we have water, N95 masks, hand sanitizer and medical gloves,” he said.
In an earthquake, we might not have potable water; we might need a mask to filter air full of debris. We might have to fight through ash to save someone, he said.
Unlike an earthquake where damage is localized, a pandemic takes place everywhere at once.
During the swine flu of 2009, Lienau realized that people didn’t understand how serious a pandemic disease could be. He made a film, “Pandemic Survival Kit,” which showed what could happen and how people could prepare.
The film predicted what we are now experiencing with COVID-19: hospitals overwhelmed with patients and ill-equipped, sick medical workers, supply chain problems, school closures, event cancellations and a limit to what government can do to help.
His film underscores the need for people to prepare their families and businesses to be self-reliant.
Each family should have enough food and water for a week or more. People can stay well and limit the spread of disease by washing hands, isolating and limiting public trips.
“Now we carry little backpacks in our cars. We even have toilet paper in the car,” Lienau said. “I gave away earthquake kits for Christmas.”
When Lienau's pandemic preparedness film came out 11 years ago, experts predicted that internet bandwidth would be compromised when many people worked from home. Since then, improved infrastructure allows many people to take classes, attend meetings, shop and work from home.
However, some areas of Camano Island do have trouble with bandwidth, something that Island County Commissioner Janet St. Clair said she is working to improve.
Every business and organization should have a plan to get essential work done if employees are gone for stretches of time.
Leaders need to find ways to get work done with limited contact.
If workers get sick, they should be prepared to stay home from work to stop the spread of disease. They should know their employers’ policies on sick leave, time off, absences and telecommuting.
People can work with neighborhood groups to take care of each other, particularly the elderly and those with special needs. People should be prepared for school closures and decide who will take care of kids, Lienau said.
Organizations and businesses set up lifelines and supply chains. Stores need to restock. People need food and have trouble getting to store. Many local organizations have stepped up to the challenge to help.
“There’s an expectation that the government is going to come to our rescue, the healthcare system is going to save us, but there are limitations to what the government can provide and just be prepared to deal with that,” he said. “We have to rely on ourselves and help each other.
Get prepared now
For any disaster, Lienau tells people to be prepared to be self-reliant for a short time with necessities.
“Being prepared for an earthquake prepares you for all kinds of disasters,” Lienau said. “My own family put together a family preparedness kit. Now a pandemic is changing the way we live.”
Other disasters have included the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, the Nisqually earthquake in 2001, the Japanese Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011 and now with this pandemic, he said. Any minute, it could be the 9.0 earthquake that rips the full length of the 700-mile fault along the Cascadia Subduction Zone.
“Think about how that’s going to disrupt our lives," Lienau said. Prepare a kit and refresh it periodically, he said.
“Don’t wait, because once it happens, it’s too late,” he said.
Build a kit
An emergency food survival kit for a week or more should fit under beds or in closets.
For each person per day, plan at least one gallon of water per person per day and two cans of food. Include fruits, veggies, legumes, meats and snacks. For a pandemic, include things that are easy on the stomach, like soup.
“It’s not to feast, but to survive,” he said.
Add medical supplies, like prescription medications, painkillers, cold medicines, stomach and anti-diarrhea remedies. Include toilet paper and, if needed, diapers.
Add vitamins, electrolytes, thermometer, soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizer and N95 masks. Include latex gloves for first aid and work gloves for clearing debris and broken glass.
Each family should discuss their household emergency plans.
Lienau offers disaster and preparedness information at globalnetproductions.com.
Camano Preparedness Group welcomes those who want to learn how to be better prepared. Learn more at camanopreparednessgroup.org.