The only difference between adventure and disaster is preparedness.

Friday, May 27, 2011

CERT classes coming up!

Are you interested in FREE disaster preparedness and response training? Of course you are. Cowlitz County DEM will be holding our next CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training the first three Saturdays in June at the fire station on 415 Todd Road in Kalama. This is very thorough, very intense training and when you’ve completed it, you will be trained in disaster first aid, terrorism awareness, fire suppression and much more, all at NO COST! After completion of the training, you can choose to become an emergency worker and help our community following a disaster.

The classes will be held in Kalama at the fire station at 415 Todd Rd from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the first 3 Saturdays in June. If you are interested in attending you MUST register with our office. Please call 577-3130 or email to get signed up.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

DOTT Says...

This is DOTT. DOTT stands for Do One Thing Today. Every week or so DOTT will ask you to do one thing to get yourself prepared for emergencies, large and small. Unlike other robots, DOTT is not a power-hungry maniac bent on overthrowing civilization or attacking the elderly, nor is she snarky and sarcastic like Rosie from the Jetsons.

She just politely suggests that you do a couple things every now and then, so you are in a better position to help yourself and others following a disaster. However, if you don't heed DOTT's advice, she will remember and when the robot revolution begins, will not put in a kind word for you with her overlords.

Anyway, so what does DOTT want you to do today? Get yourself a battery-operated emergency radio. Any radio will do, so long as it has battery backup (and batteries) for when the power is out. The radio pictured is only a handcrank powered one (which is better as a last resort) it also has a flashlight and cell phone charger. The reason I advocate having a battery-operated radio, as opposed to a handcrank radio is this: 1 minute of cranking gets you 30 minutes of flashlight and 10 minutes of radio, 3 minutes of cranking gets you less than 8 minutes of cell phone. That's fine in a dire emergency, but I just sat here and cranked the thing for a minute and I'm exhausted. Just food for thought.

Radios and batteries are pretty reasonably priced. If a radio is the only way that you are able to obtain emergency information and instructions, they can be priceless!

What's that Smell?

Strong odor of turpentine in the SW Longview area. Officials are investigating the source. More information as it develops.

UPDATE: Pulp smell came from an internal power problem at an industrial site. The problem is fixed, but the smell will probably linger due to low cloud cover and generally lame weather patterns.

Local volunteer helps out in Alabama

Check out this great article from The Daily News about local Red Cross volunteers responding to the devastating tornadoes in Alabama. One of the volunteers highlighted, Linda Coordes, is a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) volunteer in addition to Red Cross. Way to go, Linda! If you are ever interested in making a HUGE difference following a major disaster, become a Red Cross volunteer. If you are interested in learning more about what it takes to be a Red Cross volunteer, click here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Post-Disaster Locator? There's an App for that.

Check out this news clip about a Smartphone app that can help you connect with loved ones immediately following a disaster, even when texts and calls won't go through.

from the article:
Deadly tornadoes and other disasters often leave many victims isolated, unable to reach families and friends. Scott Tatum was stuck on a Mississippi road when a killer twister barreled down on his truck last month.

"I tried to make a phone call, but could not get a signal through. I tried to send a text, but could not get a signal through," he said. "It was pretty frightening."

But using the Life360 application on his smart phone, Scott was able to check in, and communicate almost immediately -- with the touch of a button -- letting his loved ones know he was okay.

Thanks to Mark Wilson for the heads up about this useful technology!!

Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue Receives Steel from Ground Zero


A piece of steel from the World Trade Center has been added to the 9/11 memorial at the Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue station in Kelso, and the public is invited to a ceremony Friday to help dedicate it.

The ceremony will start at noon at the headquarters station, 711 Vine St., Kelso.

A dense piece of steel removed from Ground Zero of the World Trade Center and released by the Port Authority of New Jersey completes a memorial unveiled during Cowlitz 2's most recent 9/11 ceremony in September. The jetliner attacks on the World Trade Center's twin towers took the lives of 2,752 people, including 411 emergency responders.

More than 1,000 steel pieces from Ground Zero have been requested for release by fire departments across the country, according to the Port Authority. The steel piece sent to Cowlitz 2 is 24 inches long, 13 inches wide, 9 inches tall and weighs 88 pounds.

The piece arrived Feb. 17 but Cowlitz 2 decided to hold the ceremony at the beginning of Memorial Day weekend, said Cowlitz 2 spokesman Brian Ditterick.

Firefighter Brad Yoder managed the project with high school fire science students preparing and building the memorial.

"To finally see and touch such an amazing piece of history is very surreal," Yoder said in a Cowlitz 2 news release. "When someone looks upon this artifact it is my hope that they take time to reflect on those that lost their lives and how that day changed this country...

"The piece is small compared to the enormity from which it came from, but means a great deal. We're very honored to have it here in our community to share with our citizens and visitors."

The memorial also includes a flagpole, plaque, benches, a firefighter's suit and boots. It is always open for the community to visit.

Week 9 Shopping List

We are now at week 9 in our Preparedness Shopping Guide challenge. So, what do you need to toss in your cart this week? Well, you may not be able to find these items in a grocery store, so you'll have to shop around. If you don’t already have these items, take a trip to your local hardware store and check out your options. You need to make sure you have:

*A handsaw or chainsaw with fuel
*A tarp or large canvas
*A crowbar
*Hammer and nails
*Leather palm gloves

These items are handy to have following an earthquake. You may need to remove rubble or do a quick repair job to make an area safe. You just never know and these are all useful items to have in order to be prepared for any situation from a downed tree to a full-scale zombie attack (aim for the head). Now you know, and like G.I. Joe always said, “Knowing is half the battle.” I never knew what the other half of the battle was, but then again I rarely take action figures at their word.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

No Flood Watch for Columbia River at Longview

No, we are not ignoring the flood potential just upstream from us, to the contrary we are trying to decide how best to say "nothing happening". We are monitoring the situation and staying in touch with National Weather Service and especially the hydrology folks, but at this time they feel the Columbia River at Longview will continue to fluctuate with the tides but remain a foot or more below flood stage. These conditions are expected to remain throughout the Memorial Day Weekend.

We are happy to report.....nothing.

Monday, May 23, 2011

SR4 Rockfall Work Continues

Reposted from Washington State Dept. of Transportation:

Work on SR 4 rockfall fence continues into June

STELLA – Stopping a 10-ton boulder isn’t always as easy as it sounds. That’s what road crews discovered when they found loose soil where they expected solid rock to anchor a replacement rockfall fence that will protect motorists on State Route 4 near Stella.

They’re working through the obstacle, but it’s delaying the project. As the work continues into June, drivers will encounter intermittent single lane closures and up to 20-minute delays on SR 4. Crews will limit lane closures to hazardous periods to keep drivers and themselves safe and traffic moving.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) originally expected the work to be complete by late April, but crews ran into loose soil and fractured rock while drilling to install rock bolts and anchors to support the rockfall fence.

The fence must be anchored in solid rock to be strong enough to protect people on the highway from falling boulders that can weigh several tons or more.

Drivers can stay up to date by visiting WSDOT’s Travel Alerts Web page and by calling 5-1-1 or 1-800-695-ROAD.

Hydrologic Outlook for Columbia River at Longview

Hydrologic Outlook from the National Weather Service:

Due to snowmelt east of the Cascade, the Columbia River at Longview will rise close to bankfull levels during the high tide today, and above bankfull levels during high tides the remainder of the week. The river is currently forecast to remain below flood stage, which is 13.5 feet.

These are much higher than normal Spring time flows for the Lower Columbia River. These types of flows will likely inundate some access roads near the river and normally dry low-lying areas.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Columbia River Conditions

The National Weather Service (NWS) is advising that the Columbia River will continue to be high for the rest of the week and into the weekend.  There is a chance that the river may reach flood stage and above especially during high tides through Friday.  People are encouraged to keep a close eye on river levels for unseasonably high water that may flood low lying areas.  In spite of these warnings only minor impacts are expected at this time.


The Department of Emergency Management is closely monitoring the river levels and will issue updates as necessary.  Keep an eye on the river conditions via the NWS Northwest River Forecast Center website.




Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Washington State Search and Rescue Conference

Click here for all the info about the upcoming Washington State Search and Rescue Conference coming here to Cowlitz County this weekend!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Five Lower Columbia Sheriff's to Sign Historic Agreement

From Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office

Kelso, WA-In response to last year's shooting of WSP Trooper-turned-Pacific County Sheriff, Scott Johnson, and the tragic murder of Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter, Cowlitz County, Washington Sheriff Mark Nelson and Columbia County, Oregon Sheriff, Jeff Dickerson, discovered that no written mutual aid agreement, for non-emergent situations, existed between their counties.

Sheriff Nelson began contacting other lower Columbia sheriffs, on both sides of the river, but found that no agreement between these county law enforcement agencies existed. Although it had been discussed for many years, it had never happened. This time was to be different.
Sheriff Nelson contacted Sheriff Dickerson, Clatsop County Oregon Sheriff Tom Bergin, Wahkiakum County Washington Sheriff Jon Dearmore, and Pacific County Washington Sheriff Scott Johnson to schedule a meeting.

The group met for the first time in Clatskanie, and, immediately found that they were of one mind; to forge an agreement between their respective agencies to extend their law enforcement authority across the river in both emergency, and some non-emergency situations. In little over an hour, they had penned an agreement for their respective legal folks to review.
The agreement allows those county deputies from the agreeing agencies in both Oregon and Washington to enforce laws on either side of the river, until a local officer can get there; at which time the case would be turned over to local authorities. Additionally, each agency has agreed to bear its own, regularly budgeted costs and liabilities, until such time as those become outside what it typically budgeted for; then the requesting agency would begin absorbing those costs. It is believed that these occasions would be rare, however, because in most situations, local and/or state support would be able to relieve any out-of-state support that may have responded.

The document was also written to allow cities within the counties to join in with the agreement.

Now, the document is ready to be signed.

On Wednesday, May 18, 2011, the five county sheriffs will meet again. This time, to place their signatures on a document, and their trust in one another; knowing that when needed, their respective offices will be there for each other.

Remembering Mt. St. Helens

From the Cowlitz County Historical Museum
Thursday, June 2nd travel back in time to see rare images of Mount St. Helens before the 1980 eruption with photographer/mountaineer Darryl Lloyd and conservationist Susan Saul. Darryl climbed the mountain with his twin brother and father and will share a special illustrated presentation on the mountain's 1980 activity.

Susan was president of the Mount St. Helens Hiking Club in 1980 and will present stories and pictures of her days hiking around Spirit Lake and Mount Margaret. The evening is hosted by Christine Colasurdo, author of Return to Spirit Lake; copies will be available in the museum store. The program begins at 7:00 p.m. at the museum (405 Allen Street, Kelso).

Are you in Disaster Denial?

Just because you don’t want to think about it, doesn’t mean it won’t happen… According to Eric Holdeman, Disaster Zone blogger in addition to many other distinguished titles, there are four stages of Emergency Preparedness Denial. “One is, it won’t happen. Two is, if it does happen, it won’t happen to me. Three: if it does happen to me, it won’t be that bad. And four: if it happens to me and it’s bad, there’s nothing I can do to stop it anyway.” Sound familiar? Don’t despair, your head is not the only one buried in the proverbial sand.

In a September 2007 poll conducted by TIME magazine, it becomes readily apparent that the majority of the American population is grossly underprepared to deal with a disaster of any sort. Half of those surveyed indicated that they had personally experienced a natural disaster or public emergency. Only 16% however, felt that they were well prepared for the next one. Of the rest, over half justified their lack of preparedness by saying that they do not reside in a high risk area.

In fact, 91% of Americans live in places at a moderate-to-high risk of earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, high-wind damage or terrorism, according to an estimate by the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina. Society is skating a fine line between optimism and foolishness.

As responsible citizens we can’t sit back and expect government agencies to provide for our every need, when we are capable of taking a few small steps to care for ourselves. A quote from Dr. Seuss comes to mind, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who'll decide where to go.”

So, what does it all mean? The short answer is preparedness. The resounding tenet of emergency management is to be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for 72-hours. The Department of Emergency Management website,, is a great resource for tips and ideas about being better prepared. To quote Kathleen Tierney, head of the Natural Hazards Center, “We as human societies have yet to understand that nature doesn’t care. And for that reason, WE must care.”

Monday, May 16, 2011

Countywide Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan Open for Comment

Plan Outlines how Cowlitz County Prepares to Avoid Loss of Life, Property

A planning team comprised of representatives from throughout Cowlitz County and several incorporated jurisdictions has reviewed and updated an existing multi-hazard mitigation plan that addresses the natural hazards that pose the greatest risk to residents and critical infrastructure. A final draft of the 2011 Cowlitz County Hazard Mitigation Plan is now available for review and comment.

A coordinated planning effort for hazard mitigation was conducted for Cowlitz County jurisdictions in accordance with the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (DMA2K). The Act requires all local, county, tribal and state governments to have an approved Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hazard mitigation plan in order to be eligible for federal disaster mitigation grant funding. The plan focuses on the most threatening natural hazards throughout Cowlitz County and provides a strategy to reduce or eliminate the risk to people and property from those hazards.

Mitigation is not responding to emergencies like floods and wildfires, but rather is a jurisdiction’s strategy for preventing or significantly reducing the impact of such hazards prior to their occurrence. The mitigation planning process involves identifying and profiling natural hazards that will most likely occur in a community, as well as assessing the vulnerability of critical community facilities and structures. The plan will also help community leaders to evaluate risk hazards to our population and establish goals, actions and projects that help mitigate the associated risks.

Public input on the final draft of the plan is important, and residents are highly encouraged to review the plan and offer comments for the next few weeks. The formal comment period will close on June 10, 2011. To view the draft plan or provide comments, please visit the Cowlitz County Department of Emergency Management website at: The draft plan will be available for review at the Department of Emergency Management office in Kelso or at the public libraries in Castle Rock, Longview, Kelso and Woodland by May 20th.

High Flows on the Columbia River

From the Portland National Weather Service

Heavy rains and snow melt throughout large portions of Washington and Oregon during the past several days are leading to increasing water flow along the Columbia River downstream of Bonneville Dam this week.

Current river forecasts for the Columbia River near Longview indicate that river levels will exceed bankfull levels during the high tide cycle, at least through Thursday, but will stay below flood stage. Flood stage at the Longview gage is 13.5 feet, bankfull is 12.0 feet. The Columbia River may reach just over 13 feet during the high tide around 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday and be just under 13.0 feet during the high tide on Tuesday and Thursday.

These are higher than normal springtime river flows for the Lower Columbia region. These types of flows will likely inundate some normally dry low lying areas.

Box Oven Cooking Class

There is a great class coming up in a few weeks on how to make a working oven out of a cardboard box, foil, tape and briquettes! Cookies, casseroles, or brownies during a long-term power outage? Yes, please! For $25 you will get all the supplies and step-by-step instructions on how to make and use the oven. The class will be held on Thursday, June 2nd from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the PUD Auditorium, 961 12th Avenue in Longview. Not only will you leave with your own oven, you'll also get a quick overview of water storage and safe lighting alternatives. There are only 30 spots available and seats are going fast! To register, go to and sign up today.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Spillway to Inundate Parts of Louisiana

Twenty-five thousand residents in the heart of Cajun Country were forced to leave their homes earlier today, as federal officials received permission to open a spillway to prevent an even worse catastrophe in the area. Click here for the article from MSNBC.

Would you be ready to evacuate if there was a knock on your door? What would take? Where would you go? How quickly could you do it? Feel free to comment!

7 Stages of News in a Twitter/Facebook Era

Here is a link to an article I thought was interesting regarding the lightning pace of news in the age of social media. The age of the press conference and print media is dying, my friends. Don't be sad though; internet, social media and smart phones are just press conferences and print media in a different form. It's the circle of life, minus the lion cub.

Single Lane Closure on West Side Hwy

From Cowlitz County Public Works Department:

On Wednesday and Thursday, May 18-19th, West Side Hwy will have a single lane closure for levee drilling near the south end of Lexington, approximately between the Beacon Hill Water/Sewer District office and around the BPA power lines. This work is being performed as part of the FEMA levee certification process.

Plan Ahead for Closures on SR 4

Pre-planned project will remove unstable rock above the highway

CATHLAMET – Drivers should plan ahead to avoid long delays on State Route 4 as crews begin work to improve safety with a pre-planned rockfall prevention project four miles east of Cathlamet.

Contractor crews will fully close SR 4 multiple times each day starting Monday, May 16, while they complete weather dependent work to stabilize the hillside above the highway.

SR 4 will be closed for 45-minute durations between 8:15 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Crews will open the highway for 15 minutes at the top of every hour to allow drivers safe passage through the work zone. The closures are expected to continue through early June.

Crews will help improve safety on this stretch of SR 4 by removing loose rock, unstable soil, trees and other debris from the slope above the highway. After scaling work is complete, crews will utilize intermittent lane closures to finalize work activities in the project area.

The $380,000 project is funded through state highway improvement dollars and is expected to be complete in June.

In the last decade, WSDOT has delivered seven planned rockfall mitigation projects on SR 4 between Longview and Cathlamet. WSDOT has also delivered several unplanned projects over the years, including the current emergency landslide repair work near Stella (milepost 50).

“Rockfall projects are a reality of maintaining a scenic route like SR 4,” said WSDOT Project Engineer Denys Tak. “We can’t guarantee that every slope on this section of highway will be slide-free, but we are continuing to proactively address the slopes we have identified as priorities.”

With the propensity for rockslides in the area, this 21-mile stretch of SR 4 between Longview and Cathlamet consistently ranks high on WSDOT’s priority list for stabilization projects.

WSDOT prioritizes unstable slopes and rockfall projects on a statewide basis and has dedicated $300 million to evaluate, prioritize and mitigate slope issues through the Unstable Slope Management System (USMS).

Help Us Honor Police Week

In honor of National Police Week, the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office is hosting a Candlelight Vigil on Thursday, May 19, 2011 from 8:30 – 9:30 pm in the parking lot of the Kelso-Longview Adventist Church, located at 77 Soloman Drive, in Lexington.

At 9:00 pm all patrol car spotlights will be shown directly skyward in memory of our law enforcement officers who have lost their lives. Candles will be made available and a few brief comments will be shared.

This year, we will be particularly remembering Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter and Cowlitz County Deputy Dave Anderson.

How Much Would a Flood Cost You?

Here is a link to an interactive tool from FloodSmart to see inch-by-inch what at flood could potentially cost you. It's a great website with lots of information on flood risks, mitigation, and more. Check it out!

SR 504 Spirit Lake Hwy Reopening May 14

TOUTLE – Drivers heading to the annual reopening of the Johnston Ridge Observatory this weekend can look forward to smooth sailing on SR 504. Crews have raced against the clock to clear nearly 20 feet of late-spring snow from the highway in time for visitors to attend the annual event.

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) crews plan to reopen the scenic byway, also known as Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, just east of Coldwater Lake (milepost 45) at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 14.

The highway has been closed since mid-December 2010 due to heavy snowfall. WSDOT closes SR 504 from the Hummocks Trailhead to the Johnston Ridge Observatory each year due to hazardous snow conditions and avalanche risk. The roadway reopens in the spring when weather conditions improve and crews are able to effectively clear the snow from the roadway.

Although the weather is clear now, forecasts show the potential for more snow in the area beginning early next week. Snow accumulation in the south Washington Cascades is not unusual this time of year, and drivers on SR 504 should be prepared for winter driving conditions.

View photos of crews clearing SR 504 on the WSDOT Flickr site.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Community Emergency Response Team Training

About the CERT program:
During his 2002 State of the Union Address, President Bush asked Americans to volunteer their services in order to improve and safeguard their country. Harnessing the spirit of cooperation that developed after the tragic events of September 11th, he created the Citizen Corps Program to organize volunteer services in the areas of crime, natural disaster and terrorism. The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is a part of that program.

While CERT originated as a team approach, it has moved toward a more sustainable neighborhood and family approach. CERT is about readiness, people helping people, rescuer safety, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number. The classes are 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.

The CERT course is delivered in the community by a team of trained first responders. The training generally consists of the following courses:

I: General Disaster Preparedness
II: Disaster Fire Suppression
III: Disaster Medical Operations I
IV: Disaster Medical Operations II
V: Disaster Psychology
VI: Terrorism Awareness
VII: Course Review and Disaster Simulation

The next training coming up is in Kalama. The classes will be held the first 3 Saturdays in June at the Fire District 5-2 Fire Station at 415 Todd Road in Kalama. All classes will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (lunch is on your own). If you are interested in getting some great training for FREE please send an email to You must register to attend the class.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Water Jugs on Sale!

Fred Meyer has five-gallon water jugs (the good quality #7 ones) right now for just $12.99. They have the white reusable tops and are good for 20 years (you need to rotate your water every 5 years, but the jugs themselves will last 20). They sell online for over $20, so I was pretty happy with the $12.99. (They were $10.99, but that sale was over on the 7th, I still got the sale price because the sale tag was still on the shelf--whoo hoo!)

These are fantastic for long term water storage. Hurry before they’re gone! (They are back by the camping supplies and paint). Also, Pillow Pets are on sale, but they are not necessarily an essential part of an emergency kit.

Could You Survive 7 Weeks in the Wilderness?

Click this link to read more about Rita Chretien, the 56-year old woman who survived in her car for 7 weeks in the remove Nevada wilderness, living on melted snow, vitamins and trail mix. If you were lost in the middle of nowhere, how long could you survive on what was in your car? Do you have an emergency kit with food, water and a way to stay warm? Here's a good link on how to pack a good car emergency kit. The essentials are:

  • Food

  • Water

  • Warmth (blankets, rain gear, warm clothes)

  • Light

  • First Aid kit

  • Tools (shovel, ax, multi-purpose tool)

    • Think about what's in your car right this second. Could you survive? I have two decent kits in the back of my car, but I could probably eat for a least a day on the crumbs in the kids' carseats!

      You might be thinking, surely I don't need a bunch of emergency supplies in my car, I never go traipsing around the backroads. Well, first off, don't call me Shirley. That joke is better spoken, than written, isn't it? Anyway, the Chretiens didn't have plans to go offroading either, but they got lost. That can happen to anyone.

      What is more likely to happen is that you could be caught on the road due to a large accident, earthquake or wildfire and have no way to turn around for hours. This happened to someone I know a few summers ago on I-5. There was a large wildfire in the median and she was stuck with no way to go anywhere in the hot sun for about 3 hours. That's minor compared to what could happen following a large earthquake or massive evacuation scenario. This is also another good reason to always have your gas tank at least half full. If I have to put some major distance between myself and Cowlitz County quickly, I don't have time to mess around with the gas pump!

      Week 8 Shopping List

      It's Wednesday, time for week 8 of your shopping tips. If you’ve been diligently reading each week and following my sage advice, you probably have yourself a pretty sweet emergency kit. So, what do we need for Week 8? It’s time for small tools to help you manage a disaster situation. Here goes:


      *Safety Glasses

      *Utility Knife/Leatherman multi-tool

      *Battery operated/hand crank radio. (Don’t skimp on this. I’ve purchased a cheap one from a discount mail-order catalog that shall remain nameless and it’s a pile of junk. Don’t waste your money. You may think you’re a smart cookie for saving a few bucks now, but you’ll be more than peeved when you actually need it and it doesn’t work) Here is a link to one I would recommend.

      *Extra batteries

      *Flashlights and headlamps (Again, buy a decent flashlight. Don’t rely on the freebie that you got when you signed up for a checking account. I speak from experience.) Having a flashlight is great, but having a headlamp is even better. Having your hands free while you're trying to cook or do whatever is priceless! Priceless I say!

      *Heavy work gloves

      *Disposable dust mask (these are super cheap and will be handy if Mt. St. Helens spews some ash your way)

      *Fire extinguisher (It’s best to have one on every floor of your house and a small one in your kit---also…know how to use it. It’s not really useful to have one if all you do is throw it at the fire and run away screaming)

      So, this week is a little harder on the wallet. Seriously though, it will be a lot cheaper to have these all on hand now, rather than trying to beat up people at Wal-Mart when the shelves are empty after some major catastrophe. I feel like beating up people at Wal-Mart on just a normal Tuesday, so I can't imagine the stress of shopping there following a natural disaster. Perhaps I should keep my inner thoughts inner, huh....

      Tuesday, May 10, 2011


      We are excited to announce our new Twitter account! If you already follow @CowlitzDEM, you've probably noticed that we very rarely send Tweets. The reason is that we encourage people to sign up to receive emergency texts from that Twitter account (text "Follow @CowlitzDEM" to 40404) and so we only use that account to disseminate emergency information.

      We still wanted to have a better grasp of Twitter and be able to connect with our Twitter followers, so we created @CowlitzDEMchat, which is where you can better connect with us and where we will advertise events, preparedness info, fun facts, news items and diet tips. Ok, probably not diet tips. (Nobody wants diet tips from the girl who just ate a third of a Dominos Bacon Cheeseburger pizza)

      So, if you are a Twitter-type, follow @CowlitzDEMchat!! If you are not, that's ok, click this link to see what we are tweeting about. So, what's with the robot? That's DOTT. You'll learn more about her later. ~cliffhanger~

      Monday, May 9, 2011

      Hazardless Home Training

      Is your home healthy? There will be a FREE Healthy Homes training held at the Cowlitz County Health Dept (1952 9th Ave in Longview) on May 25th from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Training topics include inexpensive and environmentally friendly ways of improving your indoor air quality to help counteract allergies, asthma and just making your home a healthier place.

      Attendees will learn about household chemicals, moisture control techniques to combat mold, potential toxins and much more. Landlords, tenants, homeowners, asthma sufferers, medical staff, home healthcare staff, environmental health staff, students and anyone interested in knowing what dark evil lurks in their home are encouraged to attend. Click this link for more information on the Healthy Homes Programs.

      Friday, May 6, 2011

      Cool Thing of the Week!

      It's not really a thing, it's an idea and it's mostly for the ladies in the house. The cool thing to do this week is to make sure you have a pair of sturdy, sensible shoes in your car. During the week I wear shoes such as the ones pictured. Yes, I just took that picture this morning. I like wearing heels when I'm working because they make me feel like a Fancy Business Lady Who Knows Things (FBLWKT™) as opposed to what I generally look like which is a Tired Mommy Whose Shirt is Inside Out (TMWSIO™).

      It's all well and good to sport fabulous and not remotely sensible footwear, but you should always have a backup in case your car breaks down and you have to walk, you have to evacuate and might be away from comfortable shoes for a long-time or if you find that you have to outrun zombies when the zombie apocalypse dawns. So, find those old Reeboks that you keep in the back of your closet and throw them in your car's emergency kit.

      Sure, a real lady can run in heels, but a really smart lady doesn't have to.

      Thursday, May 5, 2011

      Mother's Day Gift Ideas

      Mother's Day is Sunday---don't let it sneak up on you! What better way to honor the woman that put up with your incessant demands than giving her the gift of preparedness? Consider purchasing a 72-hour emergency kit from our local emergency retailer The Survival Bunker in Kalama. Or purchase a backpack and create your own kit. Click here for a reminder on items to include.

      Does your mom have a fire extinguisher? Does she know how to use it? Buy her one and teach her how to use it. Does your mom have stored food and water? If not, maybe pick some up for her. How about a battery operated radio? Or a nifty NOAA weather radio?

      Flowers die and, honestly, you're really too old to be making her another necklace out of macaroni. An emergency preparedness kit or other supplies is a wonderful way to say, "Mom, I don't want you to die of starvation, thirst and/or cold following a massive disaster." Don't put that on the card though, I think the gesture will speak for itself.

      Now, stand up straight, wash your hands, are you eating enough fruit?, turn off the lights--do you think I own the electric company?, and, for goodness sake, comb your hair! Why? Because I said so.

      Wednesday, May 4, 2011

      Tanker Car, Rail Car Collide on Hwy 30

      Hwy 30 near Cornelius Pass Rd is closed due to fire from Train/Tanker Car collision. Check for more details.

      Preparedness Failings of the Wizard of Oz

      Plus your Week 7 Shopping List!
      Last year when I first debuted the Week 7 Shopping List it happened to be the 70th Anniversary of the release of The Wizard of Oz. I'll just keep with that scenario since I already wrote the post and don't feel like writing a new one. A major thematic element of this film is a tornado, so obviously it has many ties to the field of emergency management. Right? Yes. Let’s recap the emergency management failings:

      *Uncle Henry and Aunty Em’s house did not have proper foundation. If it was up-to-code, it might have weathered the tornado better. Since it was their house that killed the Wicked Witch of the West, they could been charged with involuntary manslaughter or sued for negligence maybe.

      *Had Dorothy received proper disaster training, she would have known to stay away from the window and thusly, would not have been knocked unconscious.

      *Uncle Henry and Aunty Em should have been consulting their NOAA weather radio and monitoring updates on weather conditions and warnings in their area. Had tornado sirens been in place, they would have had more warning.

      *If Dorothy had a portable 72-hour kit ready for evacuation situations, she would have been much better prepared for her journey down the yellow brick road. Also, since she obviously loved Toto, she should have had a pet emergency kit as well.

      Let’s all learn from Dorothy and be better prepared citizens. I’m sure that I have now ruined a childhood classic for you, but there’s no excuse not to be prepared for emergencies!

      So, with that segue, let’s get to your weekly 72-hour kit shopping mission! This is a light week, so your wallet will thank you. On your next jaunt to the market, toss in some pain-reliever (aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, whatever works for you), some anti-diarrhea medicine (seriously, a disaster situation is not a good time for this particular ailment) and an extra supply of any important prescription medications.

      This last part can be tricky, as most insurance providers and pharmacies are reluctant to give any extra than what you need. The best thing to do is talk to your pharmacist and tell them your situation and that you want to be prepared in the event you can’t get to the pharmacy to refill your prescription. Even if the best that they can do is give you 3 or 4 days worth, it’s better than nothing! That’s all you need to add this week. I bet that kit is looking pretty awesome by now. You’ll be the envy of all your neighbors and their little dog too!

      Tuesday, May 3, 2011

      Social Media vs. The Volcano

      Not really. But since I'm on a social media and technology tangent, I figured I'd link to my posts from a year ago documenting the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens and some thoughts of what the differences might have been had it happened today with the advent of 24-hour newsmedia, social media and other newer technologies.
      Pearls of Wisdom
      What if It Happened Today?
      What if It Happened Today Part II
      What if it Happened Today, Part III
      What if it Happened Today, Part IV

      Reporting Suspicious Activity

      Following the death of Osama bin Laden, Homeland Security officials are reminding citizens to be extra-vigilant in the wake of this new development. Please check out the CRESA (Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency) blog here for more information on what to look for and how to report potential terrorist activity.

      Happy Volcano Awareness Month!

      Ahhh....spring. When a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of....volcano awareness. Right? The catastrophic eruptions of Mt. St. Helens 31 years ago are a reminder that Cascade volcaoes hold potential to disrupt our communities. Eruptions and lahars at Mt. St. Helens took the lives of 57 people and caused billions of dollars in property damage. Here's a breakdown of our five active volcano neighbors.

      • Mt. Baker, located in Whatcom County erupted last in the mid-1880s. River valleys are prone to landslides and lahars. Small stream plumes near the summit are observed frequently.

      • Glacier Peak, is located in Snohomish County. This volcano last erupted in the 18th or 19th century. Large explosive eruptions in the past spewed ash to the east into Montana. Lahars threaten river valleys to the west.

      • Mt. Rainier, located in Pierce County, produced small eruptions in the 19th century. Numerous large landslides flowed down the volcano's flanks into river valleys over the past 6,000 years. More than 150,000 people live on lahar deposits in river valleys around the volcano.

      • Mt. St. Helens, is technically located in Skamania County. It is one of the most explosive and active volcanoes in the Cascades. The eruption on May 18th, 1980, was the most destructive volcanic eruption in U.S. history.

      • Mt. Adams, located in Yakima County, is referred to as the "quiet giant." Mt. Adams produces lava flows, and is also prone to large landslides and lahars in the river valleys to the south, west, and north.

      How can you prepare?

      *Get a NOAA Weather Radio
      *Develop an emergency plan with your family. For tips on how to create a plan, visit the DEM website.
      *Prepare for ashfall with goggles and dust masks for all family members.
      *Follow authorities' instructions.
      *Text Follow CowlitzDEM to the number 40404 to get emergency information by text on your cell-phone.
      *Make sure your cell-phone is registered to receive Emergency Community Notification System messages (landlines are automatically in the system). You can sign up by clicking the "Alert Cowlitz County" icon to your right along the side of the blog.

      Monday, May 2, 2011

      Social Media Matters, Not Just Because I Say So

      (or alternatively titled, Jennifer Rants to No One In Particular, Part 1)

      I had the opportunity last week to attend the Partners in Preparedness Conference in Tacoma. The conference is two days of non-stop emergency planning, preparedness, public education, technology sessions plus the opportunity to meet other emergency management-types from around the Northwest. This is the second time I’ve been able to attend the conference and I learned a great deal. What I found most interesting was how much more emphasis there was this year on social media and technology.

      Believe it or not, Cowlitz County is somewhat ahead of the curve in employing social media and new technologies in emergency management. Many counties, especially smaller ones are slow to warm up to Twitter and blogging as a legitimate form of disseminating public information. A lot of that has to do, not with the county emergency management’s reluctance to dip their toe into the waters of social media, but with the county powers-that-be fearing litigation, bad press, or other perceived ills of these new-fangled technologies.

      Our humble office didn’t encounter much friction when beginning our social media adventures, probably because we are a rag-tag motley crew of outsiders and we shoot first and ask questions later, all maverick-y like. Yeah, you know how Cowlitz DEM rolls.

      Anyway, we don’t have a huge reader base for this blog or a huge following on Twitter, but when it counts, I know the public will be there. Whenever I give a presentation on preparedness or emergency management, people roll their eyes at Twitter and scoff at reading a blog (yes, I see you in the back) but you know what? I don’t care. I don’t care because Facebook, Twitter, blogs, all of it, are valid. They are becoming more valid with every hour that passes. Did you see the live-tweets of the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound? Yes, it’s happening people.

      Here’s my take. Technology doesn’t move backward. Ever. There has never been an Industrial De-evolution. Sure, the same technologies don’t stay around forever (VCR’s, bag phones, cassettes, MySpace) but they also don’t go away, they get improved upon (Blu-Ray, Cell phones, MP3s, Facebook). Don’t discount Twitter or blogs because you don’t get them, you don’t want them, you hate technology or you think you’re “too old for such nonsense.”

      Guess what, I'm not crazy about technology either, I’m too cheap for a Smart Phone, have no use for Twitter outside of emergency management purposes and I still don’t fully comprehend Facebook. But, I know enough to know that these are important. Especially if in the course of my day, I need to get really important information out to a lot of people in a short amount of time. With Twitter and the blog, I can do that. Now, I know we don’t have a Facebook page, but I promise we’re working on it. We messed up the first one and are working on making a better second attempt. But, see we’re learning. We’re all learning together. It’s nothing to be afraid of.

      At the conference, I had an interesting and somewhat infuriating conversation with an emergency manager from a small county about social media. He stated that he was 65years old and too old to learn about Twitter and blogs and who-z-whatzits and all that nonsense. He was happy to send out press releases to the local newspaper and TV and call it a day. That is what he has always done and that’s what he would always do. I tried to give my two-cents , but it fell on deaf, obstinate ears. Being obstinate just for the sake of being obstinate is an attitude I cannot abide by.

      I liken it to the Aztecs sacrificing someone before daybreak each morning to ensure that the sun would rise that day. How many people had to die needlessly before they realized the sun rose anyway, no matter what they did? Not that anyone is dying by not employing social media in their arsenal of information dissemination, but the moral is sometimes just because it’s your tradition doesn’t mean it’s the best thing. Think outside of what you normally do and one day it might make a difference. Or spend an hour with a teenager and see how they obtain and process information. I can bet you it’s not from a press release.

      Oh, and if the Aztecs would have had a Twitter account on that first day they realized the not-killing people vs. sunrise thing, I bet it would have gone a little something like this. "Totes slept thru alarm, 4got human sacrifice this a.m. @tezcatlipoca is gunna b so mad LOL." Then later, "Hmm, sun up what duz it all mean? lulz 4 real." Yes, for what it's worth, I think Twitter is killing the English language.

      -End Rant-

      Ham Exam

      Now, that's an exam I could pass with flying colors! Oh, it's not about Honeybaked Ham? Well, that's a different matter then.

      There will be an FCC Amateur Radio Exam session in Longview coming up on May 21st from 9:00 a.m to 1:00 p.m. at the LCARA Clubhouse at 966 Lone Oak Road. The exam fee is $15, cash only. All three license exams will be given--Technician, General and Extra. For more information about what you need to study, what to bring and how to register, contact Judi at 274-3480 or by email at

      National Pet Week

      According to the reader board in front of my vet's office, today is the beginning of National Pet Week. That makes a great segue into today's topic: pet preparedness!

      Many pet owners do not realize that in the event of a disaster and evacuation, Red Cross shelters are not able to accept pets. It is also not safe to leave your pets behind, as they depend on you for survival. Leaving companion pets behind could result in them being lost or harmed.

      The best way to ensure your pet is safe in the event of an evacuation is to have a disaster plan! Taking time now to develop a plan and prepare a disaster kit for each pet will provide you with comfort in knowing that your pets will be safer because of your preparedness.

      Ask friends, relatives and other pet owners outside of your area if they would be willing to provide shelter for your pets in the event of an evacuation. Nearly all of the hotels in the area are willing to let patrons have small pets in their room during a disaster (Yes, I did call all of them!). The Humane Society can also foster pets during evacuations, provided you have a current shot record (you can call the vet and they'll print one out for you), a labeled pet crate and a list of any medications or special needs your pet may have (like Fluffy is allergic to wheat or Coco only speaks German).

      Prepare a list of places, including phone numbers, that your pet(s) could go. Keep this information in your disaster kit. The kitty pictured was just told that his owner hasn't done anything to get him prepared for a disaster. Don't let this be YOUR pet!