The only difference between adventure and disaster is preparedness.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Celebrate Independence Day Safely!

This oppressive Amazonian mist we've been enduring makes it hard to believe that the 4th of July is almost upon us. It looks like the weather will shape up for the long weekend though! With that in mind, let's take a minute to review the rules for not setting yourself, your loved ones, your home or anything else on fire, shall we?

Be PREPARED before you light fireworks
---Use legal fireworks, available at licensed outlets, not "fireworks" that your teenage neighbor makes and promises will be "like crazy sick, dude”
---Store fireworks out of children’s reach
---Keep pets indoors if at all possible
---Always keep a water bucket and/or fire extinguisher handy

• Be SAFE when lighting fireworks
---Only adults should light fireworks
---Only use fireworks outdoors
---Do not throw fireworks or hold them in your hand
---Never re-light a dud
---Be considerate of your neighbors and pets, especially as the following day is a work day. (I mean a work day for people, not so much for pets. Those lazy free-loaders can sleep all day if they want) But if your pets are skittish, maybe lay off the loud fireworks. According to state law, fireworks may be discharged until midnight on the 4th, however, much like vinyl hotpants---just because you can doesn't mean you should.

• Be RESPONSIBLE after you finish lighting fireworks
---Soak used fireworks in water
---Clean up used fireworks
---Keep matches and lighters away from children.

Also, watch out for ashes and debris falling down from fireworks because they can fall in your eye and scratch your cornea. If that happens you'll have to consult with a 24-hour medical advice line who will advise you to wear an eye patch. Which you will do for two days and look like the world's most pathetic and irritated pirate. Ask me how I know this....I dare you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Castle Rock Phone Service Restored

At 6:30 PM telephone company work crews finished repairs to the damaged fiber optic line just outside Castle Rock. The line had been damaged by a construction crew working alongside the road. Long distance and 9-1-1 calls to and from the area have returned to normal.

The disruption caused phone customers in the Castle Rock and Ryderwood communities to lose long distance and 9-1-1 service. Emergency 9-1-1 service was restored by routing 9-1-1 calls to the Castle Rock fire station and placing a dispatcher at the station to answer any calls that came in. Additional law enforcement and emergency crews were kept in the area to provide service if it was needed. Fortunately there were few emergency calls during the outage.

911 Phone Interruption

Updated Information/Talking Points:

Talking Points:
1. Fiber optic lines were cut in Southwest, WA, during construction operations today, June 28th at 11:30am.
2. 9-1-1 phone lines have been interrupted for all 274 prefixes.
3. Those individuals needing emergency services should call 9-1-1 and their phone calls will be rerouted to an emergency 9-1-1 operator OR they may call directly at 274-3151.
4. Individuals who get a continuous, fast-paced busy signal should continue calling 9-1-1 or call 274-3151
5. Should you have an emergency and encounter cell phone interruptions call call 274.3151.
6. Authorities are working diligently to repair services as soon as possible.
7. Partner agencies and County departments, please refrain from forwarding non-emergency phone calls to dispatch center until repairs have been made.

Jerusha Kasch, PIO
Joint Information Center Manager

Phone Outage in Castle Rock, Lewis County

Long distance phone lines in Castle Rock and Ryderwood are not operating. Calls within these communities still work and 9-1-1 are being re-routed to the fire station until the problem is fixed.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ring Ring....DOTT Calling

Here's DOTT with her corded phone. Your Do One Thing Today is to respect the power of the corded phone. I know, I know, phones with cords are not flashy, or cool, or convenient. However, during a power failure, your cordless phones will not work, but an old-fashioned corded phone will (unless the lines are down, then you're out of luck).

You might be thinking that you can just use your cell phone if the power the goes out, and of course, you can do that...until it dies and needs to be charged....and then what? You might also be thinking that you can charge your cell phone using your car charger. Which is fine too, unless it only charges when the car is on, like mine. Then you have to waste gas idling in your driveway while your phone charges. You might also be thinking about Peanut Butter M&M's. Or maybe that's just me?

So, why not just think retro and pick yourself up a corded phone. If you have a hard time finding one in stores, you might want to peruse a thrift store or garage sale. If all else fails, try!

If you don't want to use the corded phone on a regular basis, you can store it with your other emergency supplies. When the power goes out, you'll be glad you did!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Safest City, USA? Sure, it's located right near Shangri-La and Atlantis

Check out this thought-provoking article from

Disasters lead to search for 'Safest City, USA'

By Miguel Llanos

During a spring of disasters — tornadoes, flooding, wildfires and drought across the U.S. (not to mention Japan's quake/tsunami) — you might have asked yourself: Is there any place that's safe?

"Maybe Montana or Idaho for a low tornado threat, no chance of a hurricane, low but not zero quake threat," proffers storm expert Greg Forbes of The Weather Channel.

Some have tried to map out the risk. The New York Times last April showed much of the South covered with red dots indicating "higher risk," while the West Coast was dotted a comfortable green. (A smaller, secondary map did note the West's earthquake risk.)

Others have come up with lists. After Hurricane Katrina, Forbes magazine produced one showing that Honolulu, Hawaii, was the safest U.S. city based on past records.

But many folks taking a long view on natural disasters, i.e. insurance experts and government scientists, have a different perspective: Every place has a risk.

"Safe is a relative term," says Julie Rochman, president of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. "What do you want to be safe from?"

Montana, Idaho? They're seeing flooding now and have plenty of experience with wildfires.
The West Coast? Besides the obvious earthquakes, there's danger of tsunamis, landslides and wildfires.

Honolulu? The Weather Channel recently named it the city "most overdue" for a major hurricane. On top of that, Rochman asks, do you want your disasters to be seasonal, e.g. hurricanes and tornadoes, or surprises, e.g. earthquakes and tsunamis.

When it comes to Mother Nature, "we are a very diverse country," she adds. "We are the tornado capital of the planet, and Clearwater, Florida, is the lightning capital. We have two coasts and a northern and southern latitude."

Much of the natural disaster data for the nation is compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey, yet even that agency doesn't want to put too much faith in the number and location of disasters.
"Unless you are in a fallout shelter in the middle of some weird desolate place, I'm not sure you can use a data set to say this is where you should live," says USGS spokesman Mark Newell.

"Every place has its own inherent risks," he adds. "If you put a place on a map I can tell you two to three consequences of living there."

So what to do? Adapt and mitigate.

Newell has lived in California (quakes), Texas (drought) and Washington D.C. (blizzard) and now resides in Missouri (tornadoes). "You understand the environment that you're in and adapt to it," he says. "I don't see Missouri as tornado alley," he adds. "You just have to understand that each area is going to bring a series of climate and natural disaster hazards." The insurance industry focus is on preparing.

"It's really more important to mitigate" than to uproot yourself, says Terese Rosenthal, the U.S. spokeswoman for MunichRE, one of the largest companies that reinsure the insurers. "That's why we push building codes," adds Rochman. "No one size fits all," she acknowledges, and "one of the challenges we have is that you can only talk to people about so many things that are scary or they get frozen in place."

Rochman feels that as long as insurance rates are not subsidized to protect people in risky areas, they can send a weighted risk message to residents. "If they are properly set," she says, "they are a good indication that you are doing, or not doing, something risky."

Just don't expect insurance rates — or historical data, for that matter — to define a "Safest City, USA." "I applaud the idea," says Newell, the USGS spokesman. But choose any place and "people living there will say, 'Yeah, but you forgot ...'"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

DOTT says....

DOTT the robot is a smart machine. Today she encourages you to find an old, but sturdy pair of shoes that you no longer wear and put them under your bed. Why? Don't question DOTT!

One of the most common injuries following an earthquake are cuts from broken glass, especially cuts on the feet. Luckily, this is pretty easy to mitigate. Of course, I cannot guarantee that an earthquake will occur while you're sleeping in bed, but on the off chance that it did happen at that time, wouldn't it be nice to slip on shoes and not worry about filleting your feet while you're running around checking on family and pets? It would.

If you have no windows, glass cabinets or TV's in your bedroom, you may not have to worry about this at all. But if you have any or all, you might want to throw those ugly, ratty tennis shoes under your bed where they can no longer assault the eyes of passersby.

So, your Do One Thing Today, doesn't require money or much effort at all. Hooray for easy fixes!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Reverse Call Helps Nab Murder Suspect

Around 11:00 p.m. last night, Woodland law enforcement authorities requested an Emergency Community Notification System (ECNS) call to warn Woodland residents that a homicide suspect may be in the area. The call went out to residents in and around the area where the suspect was last seen.

An alert citizen called 911 at about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday to report a possible sighting of the homicide suspect in the area of Woodland's Horseshoe Lake Park, according to a Woodland Police Department press release. The citizen had received the earlier call and knew the description of the suspect police were seeking.

For more on the story, check out the Daily News article here. Don't forget, if you only have a cell phone or a VOIP phone, you MUST register these numbers with the ECNS system. Luckily for you, you can do that right here on the blog! Look over to the right hand side and look for the Alert Cowlitz County icon. Click that and follow the directions. If you have questions about the ECNS system, please contact our office at 577-3130.

Just to clarify, the system is a reverse calling system that originates from the Cowlitz County Department of Emergency Management office at the request of fire, law enforcement or other officials. It is not a Reverse-911 system (that's a brand name and not the system that we use), it is also not affiliated with Cowlitz County 911 Communications. Please do not call 911 to ask about the system or complain about it, call or email our office.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Email Drama Almost Over

It appears all it took was complaining about lack of email. We are now partially back in business. Emails appear to be coming through but our contacts are not. Thank you for your patience.

Email is MIA

Yes, DEM's email is missing in action. Just in case any of you are trying to contact DEM via email -- we have not had email services since Thursday! We have no way to know what we are missing so if you have not received an answer to your email, we are not ignoring you, we simply don't know you have asked. Please call if you need immediate assistance, hopefully we are back in the email business soon! 360-577-3130

Friday, June 17, 2011

Won't you be our friend?

Won't you be our friend? We have finally been successful in creating a fan page and need to have some friends. Please go to our Fan Page and "like" us. Thank you!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Is Your Emergency Kit Complete? Week 12 is Here!

Well, it looks like the last segment of Emergency Preparedness Shopping Tips is upon us. I’m sure that these past 12-ish weeks have been nothing short of awe-inspiring, mind-expanding and full of untold glory. I know they have been for me. Perhaps, that’s a slight stretch, but if nothing else, I hope I have at least brought about some awareness of the importance of keeping a well-stocked disaster supply kit on hand.

Even if you are just a little better prepared than you were before, I feel like I’ve done my job. So, what do you need this week to round out your emergency kit? How about some games or books to pass the time and keep the kiddies entertained? What better time to finish that classic tome you started in college and swore you’d finish? You can trust that the only time I’d ever delve into some Thoreau or Faulkner again would be in a desperate emergency. Just think, if you had to shelter in place in your house for a week, you could finish all those classics and begin conversations with “Well, Tolstoy always said…” or “Don’t you find Hemingway’s stories rife with psychological manipulation and hedonism in post World War I America?” Then you can laugh pompously and adjust your monocle.

But I digress; also make sure you have local road maps in case you have to come up with a secondary exit strategy from your current location. Also, toss in some cash. You remember cash, it's the green paper stuff that used to live in your wallet before debit cards were around. I am terrible about carrying cash, but in the last 6 months I made a conscious effort to stash $100 away in case there is an extended power outage and my ATM card doesn't work.

Lastly….the crème de la crème of emergency supplies….the item so versatile that it can be used for makeshift first aid supplies, repairs, restraints, the list goes on and on….you know what I’m talking about…DUCT TAPE! It is useful in so many capacities that there are entire websites devoted to counting its virtues. And never forget, in the words of some guy named Carl, “Duct tape is like the force. It has a dark side and light side and it holds the universe together.” True that, Carl, true that.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This Day in History...


June 14, 1954

Over 12 million Americans "die" in a mock nuclear attack, as the United States goes through its first nationwide civil defense drill. Though American officials were satisfied with the results of the drill, the event stood as a stark reminder that the United States—and the world—was now living under a nuclear shadow.

The June 1954 civil defense drill was organized and evaluated by the Civil Defense Administration, and included operations in 54 cities in the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Alaska, and Hawaii. Canada also participated in the exercise. The basic premise of the drill was that the United States was under massive nuclear assault from both aircraft and submarines, and that most major urban areas had been targeted. At 10 a.m., alarms were sounded in selected cities, at which time all citizens were supposed to get off the streets, seek shelter, and prepare for the onslaught.

Each citizen was supposed to know where the closest fallout shelter was located; these included the basements of government buildings and schools, underground subway tunnels, and private shelters. Even President Dwight D. Eisenhower took part in the show, heading to an underground bunker in Washington, D.C. The entire drill lasted only about 10 minutes, at which time an all-clear signal was broadcast and life returned to normal. Civil Defense Administration officials estimated that New York City would suffer the most in such an attack, losing over 2 million people. Other cities, including Washington, D.C., would also endure massive loss of life. In all, it was estimated that over 12 million Americans would die in an attack.

For the rest of the story, click here

Emergency Management Departments stemmed from the the Civil Defense Department. We still have some candy in a tin left over from the Civil Defense fallout food rations. Our director still eats them! (The other two office staff members do not condone this action, however). Anyway, I thought this was interesting info to share. Plus, I wanted an outlet to show off the picture of the Civil Defense poster with the pink ostrich.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Solar Bursts Could Disrupt Communications Today

Is your cellphone or GPS acting up? It's probably due to a solar flare. For more about solar flare, click here. For more on today's solar burst, click here. Today might be a good day to unplug yourself from all of your gadgets, relax and return to the pioneer days of yore (like 10 years ago).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Did You Subscribe?

Following the industrial fire, we've had a bump in blog subscribers, which is fantastic! However, make sure you've followed all of the directions so that you actually receive blog posts. If you have recently subscribed and have not received an email with the days blog posts by 4:00 p.m., make sure you've followed the directions that were contained in the email you should have received from Feed Burner. The email should read as follows:

Hello there,

You recently requested an email subscription to Cowlitz County Sheriff Emergency Management. We can't wait to send the updates you want via email, so please click the following link to activate your subscription

(If the link above does not appear clickable or does not open a browser window when you click it, copy it and paste it into your web browser's Location bar.)

So, then you need to click the following link to actually activate the subscription and get the email. Got it? Great.

As a special gift for our new readers, I will dust off my Subscribe song. If you're not yet a subscriber, you should consider it. Maybe this little ditty set to the tune of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," will seal the deal:


First I was afraid,
I was petrified.

Thinking I could never remember to check the blog
without a guide.

But I spent so many nights
Wondering how I could be so wrong

And I grew strong
And I learned I didn't even have to log on

No, no not I
I'll just subscribe

As long as I know how to type
I know I'll stay online

I've got to know which roads are closed
I've got to know the latest tips

I will subscribe
I will subscribe

Hey HEY!

......Or maybe you think we're all idiots here and this just confirmed it.....

Week 11 Shopping List

We're almost to the end of our 12 week emergency preparedness shopping extravaganza. It's hard to believe only a mere 11 weeks ago you were totally unprepared for a disaster, but just look at you now! (Right? You've followed all of my advice? You have an awesome disaster kit? Right?---this is a guilt trip, in case you haven't caught on). Anyway, here we are at week 11 and the theme of the week is "Special Items As Needed." So, you may need some of these items, you may not need others. Here goes:

*Food for special diets (i.e. food allergies, religious preferences, diabetic)

*Baby food, bottles or infant formula

*Diapers (make sure to update sizes as needed, a size 1 diaper isn't much help when your kid now wears size 5, ask me how I know!)

*Pet food (you might begin to look pretty tasty to your hungry Rottweiler after awhile)

*Leash and pet carrier

*Spare eyeglasses or contact supplies

*Items for denture care

*Extra hearing aids and batteries

*Feminine hygiene supplies

*Any other medical or mobility supplies you or a family member might require

Alrighty--we're almost there. If you've missed the previous 10 shopping lists, look at the right-hand side of the blog and scroll down til you find the "labels" section and click on 12-week shopping list.

Think I've missed stuff? Want to share what you have in your kit? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Agencies Follow Up on Millenium Fire

Longview- Multiple organizations are continuing to monitor and investigate the aftermath of the fire incident at Millennium Bulk Logistics that occurred last night at around 6:30pm. The Department of Ecology (WDOE), Southwest Washington Clean Air Agency (SWCAA), and the Cowlitz County Health and Human Services are determining the potential environmental and health impacts from the blaze. Investigators from Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue are still determining a cause and are evaluating what materials were involved in the structure.

There were many concerns that a 500 gallon tank of sulfuric acid, used to treat storm water runoff, was involved in the fire. Fire officials have confirmed that this tank was not involved in the fire nor has it been compromised in any way. At this point it appears that only normal industrial building materials (foam insulation, plastic piping, and standard construction materials) were involved in combustion. The structure (approximately 150 foot by 100 foot) was constructed of steel and did contain some interior partitions.

Assistant Chief and Safety Officer of the incident Alan Headley comments, “The initial effort was to contain the fire and reduce the amount of smoke dispersed. Our crews directing water streams into to the smoke column to reduce heat and contaminants released. We’re very thankful nobody was injured. The Millennium representatives on scene were very cooperative and helpful during the incident.”

WDOE is working with Millennium environmental staff to evaluate and manage fire suppression water. They have stated that the majority of the water used to suppress the fire is contained within the water treatment facility’s containment structures and that all of their emergency protocols have been followed. They are not aware of any releases to outside water sources and Millennium staff has installed back-up pH and flow equipment to monitor the discharge at Outfall 002A. “We made observations and talked with fishermen downstream. No evidence of ash or charred material was found. The river is running very high and fast. We don’t think any additional water monitoring or sampling is required, stated Jim Sachet, SW Region Spill Manager for the WDOE.

SWCAA technicians are on scene at the facility and are continuing to monitor the air for any harmful particulates. SWCAA monitors air quality for SW Washington. St. John’s medical center has been contacted and report that only six people requested medical evaluation for minor respiratory irritations. Bob Elliott, executive director of the SWWCA, said he had been in touch with Cowlitz Emergency Management officials about the fire. Based on the acidic smell of the smoke, it sounded like it contained "some level of toxic air pollutants," he said. “Staying indoors was the correct recommendation by the Sheriff," Elliott said Tuesday night. "The investigation of the fire is going to help tell us more."

According to Dr. Jennifer Vines of the Cowlitz County Health and Human Services Department, regarding the burning of plastics, insulation, and Styrofoam. “The most immediate potential
health effects are eye, throat and lung irritation from particulates, which are tiny particles (smaller across than a human hair) that result from incomplete burning. Individuals with heart or lung problems like congestive heart failure (CHF), asthma, or emphysema (COPD) are more sensitive to these particles and may want to stay indoors until the particulates clear out of the air naturally. Anyone with symptoms severe eye irritation or breathing trouble should seek medical care. In general, natural air currents tend to dissipate pollutants over hours to days, so exposure to particulates and potential toxins is limited.”

Millennium Bulk Logistics Longview Terminal is an existing alumina export terminal which is proposed to be modified to incorporate a new coal export facility and equipment for cement products imports and distribution. The terminal is located near Longview in Washington State. The company proposing the new facilities, Millennium Bulk Terminals (MBT), is a subsidiary of Ambre Energy, an Australian resources company. Millennium officials say the facility would create about 70 permanent jobs and generate $1.5 million in state and local tax revenues annually, double that during construction, which is expected to take 12 to 18 months. Millennium CEO, Joe Cannon, was already scheduled to arrive in the United States today for other business.
Contact Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief Alan Headley at (360) 957-2698 with any questions.

Lost in Translation

Here in DEM, we try to mean what we say and say what we mean. But what if you don't know what we mean? We got some calls earlier today from people that received our automated call regarding the fire and the direction to Shelter-in-Place. The reverse call indicated to stay indoors and shut windows, but if you didn't hear the message, you may not know what we meant. Here are the basics:

* Go indoors immediately
* Close off nonessential rooms such as storage areas, laundry rooms, and extra bedrooms
* Close all doors and windows
* Turn off any air conditioning or furnaces
* If smoke begins to seep in under doors and windows, seal gaps and cracks under doorways and windows with wet towels and duct tape
* If you are told there may be a danger of explosion near your area, close the window shades, blinds, or curtains. To avoid injury, stay away from the windows. If windows break due to the explosion, the shades will help prevent glass from shattering into your home.
* Remain indoors until an all-clear message is given via phone, radio, television or computer

Dispatches from Disaster, Part III

Here is the last installment from my questions to Linda Coordes who responded to the tornado devastation in Alabama. To see the previous posts click here and here.

I asked Linda what she thought was the most beneficial training that she had received that helped her with the disaster response.

The CERT training really helped me understand the steps and protocol of the response. The search and rescue markings were familiar and therefore less intimidating. The incident command system was easier to understand. The first aid training gave me confidence as I ventured into unfamiliar and sometimes downright dangerous territory. Both CERT and Red Cross emphasized the importance of being prepared to take care of my own needs. This was critical. Basic necessities we take for granted are often unavailable in the field. When they can be obtained they are first directed to the victims. I was told to take EVERYTHING I might need, I did, and I was thankful. The Red Cross training specifically helped me understand my role and expectations as a Red Cross volunteer. It offered scope, structure, and purpose to my experience. Since I deployed in the area of Disaster Mental Health I also used my education and experience as a Licensed Social Worker. So in a nutshell, I was able to combine my background and who I already am as a person and a professional with new skills acquired through CERT and Red Cross to really make a difference for someone in crisis. I would definitely encourage anyone who wants to do disaster relief work to do so under the umbrella of a well-established volunteer organization (VOAD). Having recognizable identification makes all the difference in gaining access to affected areas. Having the infrastructure of the Red Cross provided the security, safety, and resources necessary to do the job I set out to do.

I also asked her what additional training or experience would she have liked to have had prior to responding.

Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility…can you teach that? Nothing short of experience could have prepared me for the amount of flexibility required to preserve my sanity. My new motto: “It is what it is…” There is so much you have no control over, and that includes your own personal comfort. In the midst of a disaster relief operation you may or may not have your own basic needs met. You may or may not be able to provide what the victims really need. You have to draw on every ounce of compassion, understanding, and patience you possess…not only for the victims but for the other responders as well. Take a good sense of humor and a large dose of self-care. I’m not sure how to teach it, but it’s essential to survival. I guess you just have to live it, and then share what you can…learn from each new experience. Maybe being a rookie was a good thing, I had no expectations (or at least none that were realistic) and everybody said “every disaster is different”. Nobody with experience could compare this response operation to any other. Maybe that in itself is the voice of experience, understanding that everything you experience will be new and different. Don’t make any plans that cannot be easily changed each and every step of the way.

We are so proud of our local volunteers doing great work! If you are interested in becoming a Red Cross volunteer and responding to disasters in our area and all over world, click here for more information.

Flash Alert

Many organizations including law enforcement, fire departments, and school districts have recently added the Flash Alert service which allows news media and community members to stay up-to-date on upcoming events, public education, and emergency incident messages.

This service is free to join; to add the Flash Alert News Service just log on to Then click “Portland” on the map to the right and choose which organizations from which you would like to receive notifications (your local fire and police, Dept. of Emergency Management, schools, etc.).

There you can subscribe to emergency alerts and news releases. Just type in your e-mail address and follow the steps to create your account in just a few minutes. You can add up to two e-mail addresses and have messages sent directly to your cell phone. Once you have registered, you will receive a confirmation e-mail or text message with a three letter validation code. Input this code, click update, and you’re done!

Police and fire departments, schools, and other government organizations use these services to get information out to media and their communities such as school closures, weather emergencies, and breaking news. Flash alert started primarily in the Northwest by journalist Craig Walker and has now branched out to seven states.

Emergency Calls

Many residents have called or emailed with concerns about why they were not included in the emergency reverse calling that was sent out last night regarding the industrial fire. The smoke plume was traveling west to east, so the decision was made to contact the 7,000 residents that were in the travel path of the initial smoke plume. As to the timeliness of the call, the ECNS system is capable of calling all of the landlines in the county, however it can only make a certain number of calls at a time and it takes time for all numbers included in the map to be called. The calls were made in a geographic area to areas that were closest to the smoke.

If you would like more information, please feel free to send us an email at, call the office at 577-3130 or for more information from Cowlitz 2 Fire and Rescue, call 578-5218.

More information on health effects from the smoke will be coming shortly.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Since you're already here...

If you're new to the blog, take a minute to look around, get acquainted with us, check out some of the older posts. Perhaps register your cellphone with the Emergency Community Notification System (ECNS) to receive emergency alerts--move your eyes to the right (you may have to scroll up a ways) to the ALERT Cowlitz County icon. See it? Our ECNS is capable of calling landlines in Cowlitz County, but you have to manually register your cellphone to receive alerts such as the ones received tonight by people in West Longview. If you only have a cellphone, you could be missing important emergency information if your cell phone is not registered.

You could also sign up to receive emergency information by text. All you have to do is text: Follow CowlitzDEM to the number 40404 and you will get anything sent out by our emergency info Twitter account.

If you have a Twitter account, you can follow us @CowlitzDEM and @CowlitzDEMChat. The first account is for emergency information, the second is more informal and is where we send out information on preparedness, events and other non-emergency info.

Updated Updated Update

Update 10:05pm
The recommendation to shelter in place has been lifted. There is a hazmat team on scene working with local fire agencies that are still on site. The water run off in the suppression efforts are contained on site. The materials that were involved in the fire were plastics and insulation in the building. Fire investigators will be onsite monitoring the situation and beginning the investigation surrounding the cause and origin of the fire. The road closures are lifted.

Shelter in Place Order Lifted

An investigation determined that plastic products were on fire, not chemicals. The shelter in place order is lifted.

TDN story

For additional information, click here to see The Daily News Story

Updated Update

Longview, Wash - Update 9:50p.m.
There was concern in the initial phase of the fire suppression that a 500 gallon tank that contained sulphric acid was possibly involved in the fire. The incident management team was able to conduct a closer examination of the tank and they have confirmed that the chemical in the tank was not involved in the fire. The roads surrounding the immediate are that were closed have not yet been opened.


Longview, Wash - Update 9:20 p.m. The incident command reports the fire is out, but there are hot spots that remain and they they will continue to monitor the site. There is no need to evacuate. People in the Longview area, especially in west longview should continue to shelter in place; keeping doors and windows closed, if they smell any odor that is unusual. The Department of Emergency Management has sent this message out in an automated phone message to residents in the area. There were 5 fire agencies involved in the efforts, this includes, Longview Fire, Cowlitz 2 Fire and Rescue, Kalama Fire, Woodland Fire, and Cowlitz County Fire District #5 (Kalama). Road closures were conducted by the assistance of the Washington State Patrol. More updates will follow in about 30 to 45 minutes.

Fire at Chinook Ventures property is contained

The fire is contained, but fire officials still ask that residents remain in their homes for the time being.

Longview Residents Advised to Remain Indoors

Sheltering in place is still the official recommendation regarding the chemical fire at Chinook Ventures on Industrial Way. It is best to remain indoors with doors and windows shut. As an extra precaution, you may want to turn off window air conditioning units or heat pumps. Unless specifically asked, there is no need to evacuate at this time.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Disaster and Safety Planning for Seniors

Elder Options will be hosting a "Disaster and Safety Planning for Seniors" seminar that is free and open to seniors, families and caregivers. Jeanne Brummitt of Elder Options will teach class participants about fall prevention strategies and talk about home safety equipment. Jennifer Engkraf of the Dept. of Emergency Management will be on hand to mumble things about preparedness and occasionally trail off in mid-sentence. I'm kidding, my presentation will be riveting, I'm sure.

The class will be held Tuesday, June 14th from 5:30-7:30 at Elder Options, 872 15th Avenue in Longview. Space is limited, please call 636-1000 to register. Join us for door prizes, refreshments and lots of useful information!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Continued high water on the Columbia

The latest National Weather Service (NWS) forecast calls for continued high water on the Columbia River this weekend. The river may rise and fall several inches during this period but no major changes are expected. We are cautiously watching the warmer weather forecast for our region to see if this will cause the snowpack to increase river levels further. We will keep you posted on what we learn.

Keep track of the Columbia River and the various river gauges on it at:

Map Your Neighborhood concept wins FEMA award

From Washington State Emergency Management Division

Washington's Map Your Neighborhood Program Wins FEMA National Award

Camp Murray, WA--Washington State's Map Your Neighborhood program has won the first national Challenge Award from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The award was announced today by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate on his blog.

"We are very pleased this Washington State program was the top pick for innovative community preparedness programs from among 50 entries nationwide," said Jim Mullen, director, Washington Emergency Management. "Map Your Neighborhood has been adopted in 29 counties and more than 120 city/community organizations in Washington State. The program has received inquiries or been implemented in 30 states and more than 120 cities across the nations."

Mullen said the program's success is based on its focus on disaster preparedness at the neighborhood level so neighbors can care for neighbors in the first hours of an emergency before first responders can reach them. "Groups of 15-20 neighbors meet together under the program to carry out a nine-step response plan that includes a skill and equipment inventory, a neighborhood map of utility connections, and a contact list of specific needs in the neighborhood." he added.

Today's aware is also a tribute to Dr. LuAn Johnson, who implemented the program at the Washington Emergency Management Division, said Mullen. "While Dr. Johnson recently left the agency, she has established a program for our state and nation that can save many, many lives in future disasters. On behalf of all those who have or will benefit from her efforts, we thank her."

More information about the Map Your Neighborhood program can be found at:

(If you are interested in putting together a Map Your Neighborhood presentation in your neighborhood, contact Jennifer at 577-3130.)

The sun might be out, but the water's still COLD!

From Portland National Weather Service


The forecast for sun and warmer temperatures brings with it excitement for outdoor recreation, but it also brings a specific hazard--playing in or around water that is cold, high and swift.

The Columbia River will remain high through the weekend. A flood warning remains in effect for the Columbia at Vancouver and many recreational areas that are typically accessible this time of year will be inaccessible. In addition, other area rivers, such as the Clackamas and Sandy, will see increased flow in response to snow melt in the Cascades as temperatures warm.

This weekend will be the warmest so far this year and pleasant enough to attract people to area rivers and lakes. Unfortunately, springtime conditions often result in drowning fatalities in local waterways. Water conditions may appear harmless, but the waters in rivers and creeks are dangerously cold and swift. Caution must be exercised around rivers and lakes.

Water temperatures this weekend will range from the mid 50's in the Columbia to as low as 40 in the streams draining the Cascades.

River hazards include getting caught in debris, capsizing and difficulty getting out of the river due to fast currents and high water covering landing areas. Hypothermia can occur in a short amount of time and shock from falling into cold water can result in drowning.




Week 10 Shopping List!

We’re coming to the home stretch of our preparedness shopping tippery. There are only four items to get this week and you may already have them. If you already are in possession of these items, don’t strain your arm patting yourself on the back, you still need to know right where they are and if they are in operable condition. So what are these 4 mystery items? Here ya go:

*Battery powered camping lanterns (handy for long term power outage)
*Extra batteries for aforementioned lanterns
*Fire extinguisher
*Disposable camera (to document losses for insurance purposes)

And that’s it. Be sure to check in next week to see what's next.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

More Dispatches from Disaster

I asked Linda what information she thought Cowlitz County residents needed to know about disaster response and recovery?

Don’t be apathetic. Have a plan. Don’t expect communication or emergency response to be available or reliable. Be able to survive on your own. Be prepared! (Where have I heard that before?) Just because we don’t have hurricanes or tornadoes definitely does not mean we do not have our share of disaster potential…earthquake, volcano, mudslides, flood…don’t underestimate the power of mother nature! The Cowlitz DEM and Red Cross have the information available. Pay attention to it! Use it! There were three different types of areas affected by the tornadoes. There were pockets of complete devastation. Survival was nothing short of a miracle. Nothing was salvaged but a few lives.

There were areas on the outskirts that had access to telephones, electricity, emergency response, etc. These survivors just needed to move to a motel or in with family for a few days, eat at restaurants, call the insurance, etc. There was huge area in between the two where disaster preparedness made all the difference in the world. These were hundreds of inaccessible neighborhoods where survivors needed several days worth of food, water, and impromptu shelter until roads could be cleared, cell phone service restored, etc. Many people were without contact to the outside world for 3, 4, sometimes 5 days. When the disaster subsides be ready to re-build on your own. Have insurance when possible. Keep your important records in a safe, water/fire-proof container. Appreciate relief efforts and government assistance but don’t expect it…resources are limited for everyone.

I asked Julia the same question:

People need to make sure they sign up with the Red Cross Safe and Well program so family knows where they are and that they are safe. there are many in joplin that have posted family that they still cannot find hoping to get a response.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dispatches from Disaster

Two local volunteers, Julia Bishop and Linda Coordes, have responded recently to tornado-ravaged Alabama, Mississippi and Missouri. I asked them both some questions about what they learned and what they wanted to share with Cowlitz County citizens. I'll share their responses over the next few days.

I asked Linda what was the most frustrating aspect of the response.

The biggest frustration was waiting for the existing and/or responding infrastructure to become organized. It was easy to walk through the field and identify critical needs but difficult to wait for the supplies and man-power to respond. The scope of the disaster was so great and so wide-spread it took days to really understand where and how the response should be focused. This wasn’t because the leaders weren’t listening, it was simply a consequence of the damage to communication tools and destruction of existing emergency response equipment/resources. It was also incredibly difficult to express these difficulties to victims whose trauma and immediate needs far out-weighed their ability to logically comprehend the barriers sitting between them and the help they so desperately required.

I asked Julia the same question:

The biggest frustration that I ran into is that if the people had destroyed or major damage they got FEMA assistance otherwise there was little help. There was so much debris!!! They needed teams of people with chain saws and chippers to clean up all the downed trees and remove all the branches. There were many more trees that needed to come down. You had to always be aware of things still falling from trees.

The people there have been devastated over and over and the resources are depleted. Not many places that had much left to offer, as far as, free food and free clothing. Financially there was almost nothing left to offer them.

The people were very resilient and could not have accomplished as much as they did without the help of neighbors. They all were very good at looking out for each other and working together. We need to learn from that. The Mapping your neighborhood. I was mainly in real rural areas. If there is a blessing in a disaster it was the fact that it hit mainly rural areas in Mississippi. Not as much loss that way, but the people were hard to find.

Stay tuned for more tomorrow!

Preparedness Supplies on Sale!

From Brian at The Survival Bunker:
The Survival Bunker will be transforming into an online only (Ebay) retailer and we will be shutting down our brick and mortar store in Kalama on June 18th, 2011. We are having an inventory reduction sale, 10% off everything in the store (except silver items). Come in and stock up on some great gear!

If you are local and you purchase from me on Ebay, select the "Local Pickup" option to save on the shipping charges! Thanks for your business, support and patronage over the past year!

Click here to visit the Ebay site.