The only difference between adventure and disaster is preparedness.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Want to Make a Difference?

The Cowlitz County Dive Rescue Team is your only local dive rescue and recovery team. They are a dedicated group of volunteers that work in partnership with the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office, the Department of Emergency Management, and other law enforcement and public safety agencies to respond to water-related incidents in Cowlitz County and surrounding areas. They respond to in-water distress calls and help provide a first line of defense against accidental drowning. They provide this service for free. It's not their job, but they do it because they care.

The Cowlitz County Dive Rescue Team is also called upon when items become lost in the water or evidence must be recovered from our waterways to help solve crimes. They have training in crime scene preservation and recovery.

All of the services of the team are rendered on a 100% volunteer basis. They are all trained to professional, public-safety diving levels and work diligently to train as often as possible. This can be difficult when volunteer members must provide their own vehicles, dive gear and pay for their own training.

In 2009 alone, they responded to over 20 emergency calls and logged nearly 400 hours of mission time, with 400 hours of training time. Dives account for 35% of all requests for emergency management volunteers. In short, they are the smallest team that takes on the most dangerous and costly missions.
The funding for the team comes mostly from small government grants and donations from local businesses and individuals. The Cowlitz County Dive Rescue Team would greatly appreciate your support by making a donation or becoming a sponsor of the team. As they are a non-profit entity, all donations are tax-deductible and a receipt will be issued to you upon request. If you have any questions or are interested in joining the dive team, please contact Lori at Cowlitz County DEM (577-3130) or Brett Duling, dive team president (636-4384). Checks can be sent to Cowlitz County Dive Rescue Association c/0 Cowlitz County DEM, 312 SW First Ave, Kelso, WA (make checks payable to Cowlitz County Dive Rescue) or you can donate online at with most major credit cards or a PayPal account.

More Fire Fatalities in 2009

The statistics from the Washington State Fire Marshal are in and they are a little disheartening. There were 59 fatalities from fires in 2009, up from 45 in 2008. December was the deadliest month with 19 fatalities. The saddest part is that nearly all of these tragedies were preventable. While 35% of the causes were either undetermined or under investigation, 13% were from smoking, another 13% were from electrical and wiring problems and 3.4% were from cooking. To see a breakdown of the rest, click here. For all kinds of fire safety tips, click here. Make sure that you have a fire extinguisher on every floor of your home. I can't imagine how powerless you would feel if you had even a small fire and no way to put it out. It may not be the most popular gift, but I always give a fire extinguisher as a housewarming gift. Perhaps it's as cool as a houseplant or a bottle of wine, but neither one of those gifts can save your life!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Preparing Children for Emergencies

Emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere and preparing your children is an important part of emergency planning. Your children depend on you for care and you play a special role in helping them prepare for emergencies. Since most emergencies occur without notice, it is important to plan ahead. This way, both adults and children can respond as quickly and safely as possible. Your efforts now can help your child stay safe later! It is important to talk to you children about emergencies by sharing age-appropriate information. Younger children may need simple explanations. You may need to repeat information until they understand. Older children may be curious and ask questions. Be honesty, but avoid focusing on scary details. Discuss how emergencies may affect your family. For example, explain how a flood may cause a loss of electricity, school closures and dangerous driving conditions. Also, be reassuring and positive. Make sure you explain how you have prepared for emergencies and how they can too. It is important that they understand that firefighters and other emergency personnel are trained to help them in an emergency. Talking about emergencies with your children can help them feel safer and less afraid.

Are your kids ready for an emergency?

Be sure to consider the needs of your children as you are planning for emergencies. If your children are in school or daycare, talk to the staff about their emergency plans. (If they look at you like a deer in the headlights, have them call our office to get help creating a plan!) Ask the staff how they will communicate with parents during an emergency and what plans they have in place if it becomes necessary to evacuate the children. Also, make sure they have at least 3 days worth of emergency supplies for staff and children. It is also a good idea to keep immunizations up-to-date. Immunizations can provide protection from certain diseases. During an emergency, some diseases may spread more easily due to crowded conditions in a shelter or contaminated food or water. Keep copies of your child's immunization records with your emergency supplies. When you are building your emergency supply kit, make sure to include items such as: books, puzzles, games, a soft blanket, a special toy and pictures of family. You might also consider creating a child ID card. If you and your child are separated during an emergency, this information can be used to help find him or her. Include: date of birth, height and weight, hair and eye color and any distinguishing features such as a birthmark. Keep the ID card and a picture of your child in your emergency supply kit. Be sure to update the card every year. It's really not helpful if Jimmy's ID card shows him as a tow-headed toddler when he is now a sullen pre-teen.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Red Cross Update on Haiti Relief Efforts

In just the first week of the Haiti response effort, the American Red Cross already has spent or committed $34 million (approximately 25 percent of what has been pledged or received) as of Thursday, January 21.

• The infrastructure of Haiti is severely damaged--airports are clogged, roads are treacherous, and there is no large seaport available. This is causing bottlenecks and making it very difficult to get aid into the hands of survivors. Despite those problems, aid is starting to slowly make its way to those who need help.
• In just the first week of the short term relief operation we’ve committed and spent funds in three basic areas: food and water, relief supplies and logistical and support services.
• 50 percent of what has been committed or spent is being used to bring food and water to earthquake survivors. The American Red Cross is providing more than 3 million pre-packaged meals, more than 1 million water purification packets and thousands of jerry cans so people can collect and transport clean drinking water.
• 30 percent of what has been committed or spent so far is purchasing and distributing relief supplies. This includes items such as blanket, tarps, soap, hygiene supplies, kitchen sets and first aid supplies.
• 20 percent of what has been committed or spent is providing the logistical support and other items needed to keep the relief effort running. This includes the purchase of vehicles to deliver relief supplies, warehouse space, gasoline, transportation costs and the deployment of our relief specialists. This category also includes the costs associated with the training and deployment of nearly 70 Creole speaking volunteers to the USNS Comfort.
• So far, more than 100 tons of Red Cross aid has arrived in Haiti. Planes and trucks carrying Red Cross humanitarian assistance are arriving in the region every day.
• Yesterday (Wednesday), the American Red Cross and our partners on the ground were able to provide 2,700 people with basic supplies like tarps, hygiene kits, water purification tablets and blankets.
• As the pipeline to get to the people in Haiti widens, the American Red Cross will provide large tents for an initial 14,500 people and is working around the clock to find and send more.
• The American Red Cross is also sending approximately 3 million pre-packaged meals to Haiti, and will partner with the World Food Program to distribute them to survivors over the weekend.
• Today (Thursday), nearly 70 American Red Cross Creole-speaking volunteers have left Miami to join the USNS Comfort offshore in Haiti tomorrow. Once aboard, they will serve as interpreters for patients receiving medical care from the U.S. military.
• The American Red Cross is also coordinating shipments of blood and blood products to Haiti at the request of the Pan American Health Organization.

The American Red Cross is in Haiti as a part of the broader and coordinated Red Cross and Red Crescent network.

• Red Cross responders from seven countries are treating injuries and performing surgery at hospitals and medical centers throughout the capital city.
• Red Cross teams from Latin America and Asia, trained in urban search and rescue, are supporting local authorities.
• Others are focused on purifying the water supply available in the country and expect to deliver clean drinking water to 200,000 people (17 settlements) each day by truck.
• Local Haitian Red Cross volunteers are providing emotional support for traumatized survivors and providing first aid support.
• The ICRC family links Web site (, designed to help reconnect separated families, has received 23,900 registrations since the earthquake. Yesterday (Wednesday), the Red Cross helped more than 340 people in Haiti make international phone calls to their families to say they are safe and well as well as register an additional 178 on the site.

This is an enormous relief operation now, but we also know it will be a massive long-term recovery effort and the Red Cross will be there throughout.

• It is important to note that because Port-au-Prince is so central to the economy and governance of Haiti that this disaster not only affected people living in the earthquake zone (an estimated 3 million), but the entire population of Haiti (an estimated 9 million).
• This is already the largest single-country personnel deployment in global Red Cross history. The number of emergency response teams in or en route to Haiti equals those that responded to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami – an emergency that spanned 14 countries.
• Since the earthquake struck on January 12, the American Red Cross has raised approximately $137 million (as of 5 p.m., Wednesday). More than 60 percent of donations have come in through online donations, and $25 million has been pledged through mobile giving.
• People can donate in support of the relief effort in Haiti at or by calling 1-800-REDCROSS. Mobile donors can text “Haiti” to 90999 to make a $10 contribution.
• A $10 donation made through mobile giving can provide a family with two water cans to store clean drinking water, a blanket appropriate to the climate or other supplies to give people the ability to cook for their families.

Red Cross of Southwest Washington will be staffed and taking donations from 9am to 5pm at 1265 14th Ave, Longview until Friday, January 29, 2010. This has been extended a week to meet the needs of the community. We are also handing out donation canisters if anyone would like to place one or more in their workplace. If you would like to have a Red Cross/Haiti Fundraising event please let us know so that we can help you organize and have a representative present. Please contact Julia Bishop at (360) 270-9227 or Melissa Mullins at (360) 324-2318 for more information.

Indoor Air Pollution Uncovered

Could the indoor air-quality of your home use a breath of fresh air? There will be a FREE two-day training presented by Cowlitz County Healthy Homes on how to improve indoor air quality and how to perform in-home assessments. According to the latest statistics from the Health Department, Cowlitz County has the highest rate of asthma in the state of Washington and is among the highest in the nation. This article from The Daily News (May 2009) goes into more detail about the variables that can cause asthma and why Cowlitz County residents are more at risk. Many of the asthma cases in this county, particularly in children, could be prevented by learning more about indoor air quality. The Indoor Air Pollution Uncovered free training will be held at the Cowlitz County Health Department at 1952 9th Avenue in Longview on Thursday, March 4th from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Friday, March 5th from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Training topics include:
  • Asthma
  • Secondhand Smoke
  • Dust Mites & Track-In
  • Lead
  • Asbestos
  • Pets/Dander
  • Moisture & Mold Ventilation
  • Household Chemicals
  • Pest Control
  • Lawn and Garden Care

Who should attend:

  • Community Members
  • Landlords
  • Tenants
  • Homeowners (especially those who own older homes)
  • Medical Staff
  • Environmental Health Professionals
  • Potential Program Volunteers
  • Students

Registration is required to participate and lunch is provided both days by Subway. For more information or to register contact Cowlitz County Healthy Homes at (360) 414-5581 or email

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Volunteer Opportunities Abound

Do you like making a difference in your community? Do you like helping others? Are you awesome? If so, check out the Volunteer Center for Cowlitz and Wahkiakum County at Lower Columbia CAP. Anyone age 14 or older is welcome to apply for enrollment at the Volunteer Center of Cowlitz and Wahkiakum (VCCW). Once enrolled, volunteers are notified of volunteer opportunities in a variety of different ways. The VCCW partners with a number of local organizations, businesses, schools, law enforcement agencies, as well as with special events and activities. For more information click here or call (360) 425-3430 x 288. As Tom Brokaw said, "It's easy to make a buck, it's a lot tougher to make a difference." Are you tough enough?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

More Info on the Devastation in Haiti

The situation in Haiti remains desperate, but support from the American public is making it into the hands of survivors and more help is on the way.
• Red Cross teams from other nations are delivering clean drinking water to survivors gathering in six different communities.
• In addition to the first aid posts, outreach teams are also aiding the injured in nearby camps. Red Cross responders from six countries are treating injuries and triaging people for surgery at hospitals and medical centers in Port-au-Prince, Carrefour and Jacmel.
• Planes and trucks carrying Red Cross humanitarian assistance are arriving in the region every day, delivering much needed materials such as medical supplies, tarps, blankets, hygiene items, buckets, shelter supplies and kitchen sets. So far, more than 500 tons of Red Cross aid has been mobilized.
• The American Red Cross is providing approximately 3 million pre-packaged meals in partnership with the World Food Program in Haiti.
• In the days ahead, the American Red Cross will provide supplies for temporary shelters in Haiti. Kits, containing wood, tarps, rope and tools, as well as tents and blankets, will be made available for an initial 20,000 families.
• Approximately 100 American Red Cross Creole-speaking volunteers will be aboard the USNS Comfort to translate for patients.
• In Florida, American Red Cross chapters are providing a variety of support services as citizens return to the United States from Haiti. These services may vary slightly depending on the individuals’ needs when they arrive, but may include shelter, food, emotional support, basic first aid, comfort kits and referrals to other community services.
Haiti is going to require a massive long term relief and development, and the Red Cross will be there to help.

• It is clear that that what took minutes to destroy will take many years and the collective support from governments and relief agencies across the world to help mend.
• The American Red Cross is working in close coordination with other responding organizations and will undoubtedly collaborate on joint, long-term recovery projects.
• Terrible times like these bring out the best in people, and we are grateful for the support being given to the American Red Cross. This generosity will help thousands of survivors cope with and recover from their losses.
• REACTIVE ONLY: Since the earthquake struck last Tuesday, the American Red Cross has raised nearly $112 million. (as of 5 p.m., Monday). Nearly two-thirds of the donations have been contributed through online channels, with more than $22 million pledged through mobile giving.
• CNN hosted a very successful telethon on Larry King Live. While totals are still coming in, the telethon is estimated to have raised more than $7 million for the American Red Cross and UNICEF. We are grateful to all the celebrities who donated their time and everyone who called in or texted to make a donation. Thank you!
• People can donate in support of the relief effort in Haiti at or by calling 1-800-REDCROSS. Mobile donors can text “Haiti” to 90999 to make a $10 contribution.

Red Cross of Southwest Washington will be staffed and taking donations from 9am to 5pm at 1265 14th Ave, Longview until Friday, January 22, 2010

Help for Haiti

If you are interested in donating money to help the Red Cross disaster relief effort in Haiti, please visit the SW Washington Red Cross page or text "Haiti" to 90999 and a $10 donation will be added to your phone bill. If you have any questions or would like more information, please call 1-800-Red-Cross. Also, the local Red Cross office (on the corner of 14th and Hudson in Longview) will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to accept monetary donations.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Girl Scouts Prepare for War, Pestilence

I ran across this article a few days ago and thought I'd mention it. I was once a proud Brownie (Troop 32 represent!) Preparedness is a large part of Boy Scouts curriculum, but seems to be a little underutilized for their female counterparts. I think it's a great idea to teach valuable preparedness skills to Girl Scout troops, as they can then spread the preparedness message to their families. After all, what's more persuasive than a Girl Scout?
WASHINGTON — The United States wants to enlist its 3.4 million Girl Scouts in the effort to combat hurricanes, pandemics, terror attacks and other disasters.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched a campaign Tuesday to entice the blue, brown and green-clad multitudes to be even more prepared, with the promise of a new patch if they pitch in.

The young scouts will be able to emblazon their sashes or vests with the patch if they undergo the training which readies them for an emergency.

“This new preparedness patch will increase citizen preparedness and enhance our country’s readiness for disasters,” said DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in a statement.

“As a former Girl Scout, I know the ‘Be Prepared’ motto well, and I look forward to working with the Girl Scouts to spread the preparedness message to all of our nation’s citizens.”
The move is part of a month-long government effort to make Americans better able to cope with natural and man-made disasters.

Napolitano has urged individuals, families and businesses to stock fresh water and food, and prepare an emergency plan — to be enacted in the event of a disaster.

The unveiling of the patch marks a partnership between the scouts and Citizen Corps, a community-based initiative under the DHS’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, which coordinates national response to disasters.

Girl Scouts of the USA chief executive Kathy Cloninger said the tie up with Citizen Corps “provides an opportunity for our girls to lead the way in ensuring that their families and their communities are prepared for emergencies.”

The patch will be available alongside existing Girls Are Great, Girl Scouts Against Smoking, Media Know-How and Read to Lead patches, and, of course, the Cookie Sale Activity Pin.

Girl Scouts sell an astonishing 200 million boxes of cookies each year on average, according to the organization, which was founded in 1912 and chartered by the US Congress in 1950.

It is not the first time the girl guides have been called into action in defense of the homeland.

During World War II, Girl Scouts “operated bicycle courier services, invested more than 48,000 hours in Farm Aid projects, collected fat and scrap metal, and grew Victory Gardens,” according to Girl Scouts of the USA.

As the end of the second millennium neared and computers around the world were expected to be stricken with a debilitating bug, Girl Scouts were enlisted in some parts of the country to hand out advice about the threat poised by Y2K.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks scouts hosted remembrance ceremonies and wrote thank-you letters to rescuer workers.

Damp Weekend in Store for Cowlitz County

If you enjoy singing in the rain (and wind), this weekend should be an exciting time for you. The National Weather Service has issued a special weather statement for tonight through Monday. They predict a wet and windy holiday weekend. A large-scale, upper-level low pressure system will develop and reside offshore through the upcoming week. A strong jet stream will direct a series of storm systems around this low pressure. Many of the systems will rotate bands of precipitation and periods of strong winds onshore into the Pacific Northwest through the week. The strongest system looks to impact the area on Sunday afternoon and evening, bringing strong wind gusts and heavy rain. For more information, visit the Portland National Weather Service website.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How Can You Help Haiti?

By now, you have likely heard of the devastating earthquake and series of aftershocks that have hit Haiti over the past 24 hours. Whenever disasters of this magnitude strike, there is an instant desire to help. Americans are known for being generous with support and donations; however, it is also important to remember that donations efforts can create problems for the affected disaster area.

While it may seem natural to want to collect food and clothing for disaster victims or send teams of people into the disaster area, the gathering of large quantities of items or people can present their own logistical nightmare for the communities devastated by the disaster.

I will never forget the story I heard of the semi-truck full of bacon that arrived at one disaster scene that could not be cooked, refrigerated or shared with the community that it was sent to, nor will I forget the bags of used underwear that arrived on my emergency management office doorstep in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

If you want to help others, in any disaster situation:

•Stay informed of the situation. The Department of Homeland Security has a nice blog underway to share information on the situation in Haiti.
•Donate money to a relief organization. There are 3 specific efforts undeway in this regard:
◦American Red Cross
Mercy Corps
◦Texting "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10 via charging your cell phone bill
Families of Americans living in Haiti are encouraged to contact the State Department at 1-888-407-4747.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Would You Be Ready?

If you and your family had to evacuate your home RIGHT NOW, would you be ready? The photo shown is the mass exodus from Houston, Texas in the wake of Hurricane Rita. The cars in the median are ones that ran out of gas. The people stranded could only hope that a kind-hearted person would pick them up so they didn't have to brave the hurricane while walking along the freeway. Granted, we don't generally suffer from horrendous storms such as hurricanes, but have you noticed that large volcano near Castle Rock? Evacuation is a definite possibility for all Cowlitz County residents. While I am proud to say that I have a pretty thorough evacuation kit for my car, I am a little embarrassed to say that it is currently sitting in my garage helping no one. I am also guilty of letting my car run on fumes before I can be bothered to fill up. Since I've shared these emergency preparedness shortcomings, I am now forced to get better so as to be a good example to my dear readers. At any rate, if the thought of having only minutes to leave your cozy home sends you into a panic, hyperventilate no more! Join us on February 2nd from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Cowlitz County PUD Auditorium for Prepare to Be Your Own Hero, a class all about evacuation including tips for special needs populations and pet owners. Marcie Maynes, owner of Simple-Safety, will teach participants about creating 3-day evacuation kits, maintaining sanitation, mobile bathrooms, emergency communications, reunification plans, general preparedness and more. This class is FREE and open to the public. Space is limited, so if you are interested please call our office at 577-3130 or email

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Don't Toss Those Batteries!

In our line of work we routinely suggest that people keep extra batteries on hand in case of power outage, etc. What we neglect to tell people is the proper way to dispose of those old, crusty batteries that no longer work. Did you know that throwing away those dead AA's can seriously harm the environment? Click here for a very informative website about proper battery disposal. Click here for the local Waste Control website with information on exactly where to take your batteries. Click here because I said so.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Community Emergency Response Team Training

Do you like learning new skills? Are you interested in becoming more prepared for emergencies? Do you like cookies? If you answered yes to any one of these, you might be interested in attending the upcoming Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. CERT is about readiness, people helping people, rescuer safety, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number. CERT is a positive and realistic approach to emergency and disaster situations where citizens will initially be on their own and their actions can make a difference. Through training, citizens can manage utilities and put out small fires; provide basic first aid, search for and rescue victims and organize themselves and spontaneous volunteers to be effective in the face of disaster. It is a 22 hour course, taught over the course of a month. Participants learn the basics of disaster preparedness, disaster psychology, light search and rescue, terrorism awareness, fire suppression, disaster medical operations and much more. Graduates can choose to become a volunteer for the Department of Emergency Management and help out in times of disaster. Classes are every Saturday in February and are provided at no cost. If you would like more information, a class schedule or an application, please email our office at or give us a call at 577-3130. Applications must be returned to our office no later than January 20th.