The only difference between adventure and disaster is preparedness.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Help Kids Prepare!

From our friends at Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters (CARD)

Children and Youth: Start ‘Em Young on the Road to Readiness!

Helping a child to feel confident, empowered and safe during emergencies is a great thing for any parent or caregiver to do. Beyond learning to avoid dangers, the habits you instill with your readiness activities can help them be

A.Make it POSITIVE! Instead of focusing on the tragedy of the wrecked car, focus on the first responders; how wonderful they were, how nice the tow truck driver was, how pretty the flashing lights were.

B.Protect children from overhearing grown-up conversations regarding the tragic event.

C.Practice drills with your children like Stop, Drop, and Roll. Make it fun by doing it with them. They will likely remember because of the bonding experience they had with you.

D.Use TV shows as conversation starters. What would you do if that happened to you? How do you think they should have responded? What could they have done differently? You’ll be amazed by what they reveal.

E.Pack a Go-Kit with your child. Make them feel a part of it, let them choose their own backpack and be a part of deciding what goes inside. They will be excited to carry it instead of focusing on why they need to carry it.

Enjoying the world from the perspective of a child is such a wonderful thing. Helping a child be prepared doesn’t have to be a scary. By approaching it in a fun, positive way, and including them whenever possible, you can make this an experience they will use one day to prepare their own children.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Do You Love A Senior?

This comes from our friends at Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters (CARD).

Seniors and Elders: Old School Readiness!

We just love working with seniors. The stories we hear from our participants in our trainings are often fascinating and often quite funny. We have a lot to learn from generations past. When you’ve lived through multiple wars, experienced the deaths of many friends, and weathered countless tragedies and disasters,you get a different perspective and you develop different priorities.

If you are committed to the seniors in your life being prepared to prosper in the face of emergencies, there are several things you can do.

A.Ensure your senior has a ‘buddy call’ every day. A 2-minute call, done every day, can make a huge difference.

B.Sit down with your senior and fill out a list of people they would like you to call in case of emergency

C.As an activity, work with your senior build them a highly portable Go-Kit (keep it lightweight, and easy to move.)

D.Give preparedness supplies to your senior. Most seniors live on a fixed income, so little things help.

Do your part to make a senior in your life more prepared. It’s a sure-fire way to be a hero, even without a disaster.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

There's One Thing Your Cellphone Shouldn't Do...

From our friends at Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency (CRESA)

It's always exciting to get a new phone. New apps, better speed, and many new features, but what do you do with the old one? There are many options to donate them to help keep them out of landfills, but one thing is for certain... An old cell phone with a charge and battery does not make a good toy for a toddler!!

Unfortunately there are some education professionals that have suggested this is a good option as it helps introduce kids to the basics of technology. The flashing lights and beeps make them a favorite play item for many toddlers, however there is one thing that has been overlooked or just not understood. Even a deactivated mobile phone can call 9-1-1 baffling dispatchers and responders while wasting resources and trying to track down the caller to make sure nothing was wrong.

You may not be aware but in the U.S. and Canada, Wireless Mobile Carriers are required by law to provide 9-1-1 service even if they have no official phone service. This means any phone with a charge is still capable of reaching 9-1-1 in an emergency situation. Although this can mean the difference between life and death in real world emergencies, it also creates problems for dispatchers. An example of this is if you are for any reason disconnected from 9-1-1 during your call, the dispatcher is unable to call you back because the dispatcher does not have a telephone number to contact you with.

Allowing a toddler to have an old cell phone as a toy can easily become a problem if they figure out how to dial 9-1-1, especially when they hear a voice on the other end of the call. In fact it can be a criminal act to call 9-1-1 repeatedly for non-emergent reasons. A quick Internet search brought up several stories of individuals that had been charged because of the abuse.

Closer to home, recently a mother was cited in Astoria, OR for her toddler who repeatedly called 9-1-1. According to the Astoria dispatch center, the child dialed the emergency line seven times in six minutes. The mother now faces a misdemeanor charge of misusing 9-1-1 that could lead to a fine up to $6000 and a year in jail.

  There are plenty of other toy phones to give your toddlers giving them something that looks and responds like a mobile phone, yet won't connect accidentally. If you do choose to give your old mobile device to your child as a toy, please make sure you pull the battery. Unwarranted calls to 9-1-1 could end up costing a lot more than you could imagine. Your old Cell Phone is not a toy, and it doesn't matter what type of phone you have. There's no way around it, and there's no app for that!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Looking for a great opportunity?

Reserve Police Officer test date scheduled for Apr. 20th

The Longview Police Department is seeking qualified citizens to be reserve police officers. Reserve police officers are non-paid, volunteers.

Applicants must be 21 years of age by June 2014, possess a valid driver’s license, and have a solid background.

Testing will take place at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 20, 2013 at the Longview Police Department located at 1351 Hudson Street in Longview. The testing process includes a written examination (testing general knowledge, comprehension, and writing skills) and a physical agility test. The physical testing will include a 300-meter run, sit-ups, push-ups and a 1.5-mile run. The highest-ranking applicants will be processed through an extensive background investigation.

Successful applicants must complete a comprehensive training program. After completing their training, Longview reserve police officers are required to donate a minimum of twelve (12) hours per month.

For more information, contact Sgt. Dixie Wells or Cpl. Kyle Sahim at 360.442-5800.

Weather Update

From the National Weather Service:

A cold front will bring snow to the Cascade Foothills and Coast Range Wednesday evening through Thursday morning.  A strong cold front will move across the regional Wednesday morning with snow levels dramatically lowering Wednesday afternoon and evening.  Snow levels will lower to 3000 feet Wednesday afternoon and then down to 2000 feet Wednesday night.

Precipitation will decrease behind the front Wednesday afternoon but another approaching trough will continue mountain showers with accumulating snow through Thursday morning.

Snow amounts will not be significant, but will likely challenge anyone planning on driving to the coast or across the Cascade Foothills.  Expect 1 to 2 inches of snow above 2000 feet from Wednesday evening through Thursday morning.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Traffic Safety News


Cowlitz County, WA – In April and May Cowlitz County law enforcement will be out in force searching for child car seat violations. The law enforcement officers who are participating in the emphasis patrols will go through intensive child passenger safety training.

The first-ever Click it or Ticket-style surveys focused on child car seat use in Cowlitz County during January 2013 saw a number of violations including:

• Children younger than 13 in the front seat

• Other child restraint violations including kids not buckled at all or not using booster seats

• No seat belt use for driver or child passengers

• Improper use of seat belts, such as having backpacks on while buckled up or not using the shoulder strap (tucking it behind the back)

All of these violations earn motorists a substantial ticket: $124.

“Our goal with the project isn’t to write tickets, but to get kids buckled up according to Washington’s child car seat law which will reduce serious injuries and traffic deaths involving children,” said Lowell Porter, Director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

To abide by Washington law and for the best protection for their children, parents should try to adhere to the following when buckling up their child:

• Child ages: 0 – at least 12 months and at least 20 pounds – use a rear-facing infant seat. Keep your child rear-facing as long as your child car seat allows. Currently the American Association of Pediatrics recommends rear facing until age 2.

• Age 13 months to 4 years – use a child car seat with a five-point harness.

• Age 4 years to 4’9” tall – use a booster seat. Boosters should only be placed with a lap and shoulder belt.

• Up to age 13 – children must ride in the rear seat of the vehicle.

Most parents, according to the law enforcement officers, understand that infants need to ride rear-facing and not in front of an air bag. The newer models of infant seats allow a child to ride rear-facing for up to two years, which adds an important protective element.

Safe Kids Lower Columbia offers monthly car seat checks free of charge, and offer discounted rates on car seats if a new seat is deemed needed by a car seat technician.

Participating in this effort to reduce child car seat violations and improve child passenger safety are the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office, Kalama, Kelso, Longview, and Woodland Police Departments and the Washington State Patrol.

Parents needing more information this project can call 509-766-9230 or visit

Parents wanting more information on proper car seat installation or dates and locations of car seat clinics in our area are encouraged to visit the Safe Kids Lower Columbia website or contact Brandi Ballinger at Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue at 360-575-6280.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

“Be Smart, Don’t Rely on Luck”

From the Cowlitz County Traffic Safety Task Force:

Cowlitz County, WA - As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, remember finding a designated driver isn’t luck, it’s smart. Make sure you and your friends get home safely.

The Cowlitz County Traffic Safety Task Force is reminding drivers not to get behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking alcohol. Extra patrols will be going on during the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, between March 14 and 17, where local law enforcement agencies will be actively looking for impaired drivers. Participating in these St. Patrick’s Day patrols are the Castle Rock, Kalama, Kelso, Longview and Woodland Police Departments, the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington State Patrol.

“Whether you are gathering with friends at the local bar, or a private party, if alcohol is part of the festivities, following a simple plan will save you a lot of headaches,” said Samantha Thompson, Cowlitz County Target Zero manager. A DUI arrest is not the worst that can happen, you can be charged with vehicular homicide or vehicular assault if someone is killed or injured while you were driving impaired. Last July, the penalty for vehicular homicide in Washington State increased from 31 months to 61 months.

Washington State has a plan to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries to Zero by the year 2030 through a variety of strategies, including education, engineering, emergency medical services, and enforcement. One person is killed every 53 minutes in a drunk-driving crash in the United States, the majority of these crashes involve drivers who have a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or higher. Twice the per se limit of .08.

To prevent these tragedies from occurring, the “Target Zero” task force recommends the following steps to have a safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day:

• Plan a safe way home before the festivities begin.

• Before drinking, designate a sober driver and leave your car keys at home.

• If you’re impaired, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member.

• If you see an impaired driver, call 911.

• And remember, if you know people who are about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get where they’re going safely.

For more information, visit the Washington Traffic Safety Commission website,

Friday, March 15, 2013

Are you ready for the worst case scenario?

From the newly released Oregon Resilience Plan:

According to the report’s worst-case scenarios, 10,000 Oregonians could be killed by a big earthquake, and the timetables to restore basic services are staggering:

•Electricity: 1-3 months

•Police and fire stations: 2-4 months

•Major roadways reopened: 6-12 months

•Hospitals reopen: Up to 18 months

Take a minute to check out the article here:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mt. St. Helens sediment management

The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to be in Toutle this evening, holding another public meeting to solicit comments on the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for their proposed long-term plans for sediment management at Mount St. Helens. Corps officials say that this scoping process is the initial stage of the SEIS process, with four alternatives currently being proposed. The Portland District of the Corps of Engineers is looking at a plan that runs through the year 2035, working to maintain flood protection for the cities of Castle Rock, Lexington, Kelso and Longview. Today’s meeting starts at 5:30 pm in the multi-purpose room at the Toutle Lake Schools, and will include a brief presentation, display materials and an opportunity to ask questions of the SEIS team. Additional details are available on the Corps of Engineers Portland District website.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Lessons Learned

This is a great article from our colleague, Gerald Baron of Emergency Management Magazine.  To read more from Emergency Management Magazine click here.

"I admit, I should have been at my computer working when the earth shook this morning. Instead, I was out on my lawn trying to hone my inconsistent driver swing when this morning's Southern California earthquake hit a little before 10 am. Being about 15 miles from the epicenter of a 4.7 magnitude (some still say 5.2) earthquake is not an every day experience, even for someone from the earthquake prone Pacific Northwest.

As I look back at that experience, now just a few hours old, it reinforces some of the things about emergency communications that we keep talking about here. It took a few seconds for my mind to register what was going on. I was only about ten feet from the back patio of our winter home in Palm Desert. I thought I heard a loud truck going by behind me on the main road in our development. So when I suddenly saw the windows start to shake and the pillars in the patio moving I first thought, that truck is really causing some vibration. Then I realized it couldn't be (and the truck sound might have been the sound of the earthquake as my neighbor said). I watched the windows in amazement, first being oh so grateful not to be in the house as I thought it might start crumbling. I looked to the six foot high hedge just to my right and it was shaking as if one of those strong winds was blowing. But there was no wind.

Where's my wife? was my first thought. She ran into town to the grocery store. I need to call her. Lesson 1: first thing is needing to communicate to find out if loved ones are OK. For many, this panic to see if everyone is ok extends to pets. Emergency planners are realizing more and more that considering pets is a key to people's behavior.

But I couldn't call or text her. I left my phone on my desk. And I didn't want to go inside thinking that there was more and worse to come. Turns out there were four or more earthquakes near here this morning, foreshocks including one located a couple miles to the east in LaQuinta.

Then I thought, dang, without my phone I can't check Twitter to see what this is all about. Lesson 2: like many today my first thought was not to turn on the TV or radio, not even to go to a news channel on my smartphone. My first thought was to check Twitter because I knew if others were affected, there was going to be chatter.

It wasn't long before my desperation to contact my wife and get additional information overcame my fear of more shaking and I went in to get my phone. I got out of the house as quickly as I got it (I was still shaking and not sure I could tell if it was the floor or me.) The relief of having that little device in my hands is hard to describe. My lifeline.

I called my wife. She was fine, if shaken. She was in the wine section of Vons and the rattling of the bottles was amazing. She and most others left their carts and headed for the exits. Remarkably, she said the checkers stayed right where they were. Lesson 3: Even in this earthquake-prone area (we are after all, just a few miles from the San Andreas fault which is clearly visible in the nearby hills), I doubt that most people and companies are adequately prepared. What guidance is provided to employees to take action and protect customers? There was no PA announcement. Everyone did what instincts led them to do.

With my main question answered, I hit Twitter on the phone. Yes, there were tweets from all over southern california. Lesson 4: it's amazing how crude and disgusting some people can be even in these kinds of circumstances. But, it gave me helpful information to get some idea of the scope.

By the time I connected to Twitter and started seeing the tweets from those experiencing the quake, the news channels in the area were reporting breaking news on Twitter. The hashtag #BREAKING was actively used for these stories. Lesson 5: the news channels are very very fast with stories like this, and particularly on social media. I was staying outside and really had no thought of checking the local news channels on TV. Why should I risk going back inside? I had everything I needed now that I had my phone with me.

I quickly went to USGS to check their site. There I found out about the other quakes and as much info as I needed about the quake itself. Lesson 6: those hungry for info will go quickly to the source, or the most reliable and authoritative voice. This raises the question--how fast will you be? If USGS had not had real time info I would remember that, I would never ever even think of giving them a second chance in future events for fast, accurate information. It amazes me as I reflect on this now that with this reality so many organizations, and especially emergency management agencies, are so ill-equipped to be authoritative sources of information. They do not get it that today you are either fast, or you are completely out of the game.

After satisfying my intense hunger for information, my next thought was the others in my family. I got an AP Mobile breaking news alert about that time (a little slow I thought) and since there are usually only a few of these a week, I figured this quake was pretty big news around the country. My family would worry about us and if they didn't hear, they would really worry. I sent a group email to my kids and their spouses, then called my mom and dad. They hadn't heard but it was nice chatting anyway. Lesson 7: when you've been through an emotional experience, you want to share it. With your loved ones first, then just about anyone else who might have the slightest interest (like you, for example). And that puts more of a burden on the communication networks like cellular networks, which in most major events will likely buckle under the burden.

I suspect my experience is not unique. Experience is still absolutely the best teacher, but only if there are those willing to learn from it. I hope sharing this is helpful for you."

Just today we heard a comment that "it is not the business of government to have a social media presence." Emergency managers tend to think a little more proactively and much less bureaucratically than that.  Our consumers need emergency information as fast as possible.  Many of our consumers participate in some form of social media.  The use of social media is fast, effective, cheap and simple.  Therefore....we, as an agency, use social media as a means to get out information and engage with our community.  Simple as that.

Learn to Save a Life!

There's still room to sign up for Longview Parks & Rec Dept.'s First Aid & CPR class coming up on March 16th from 9:00 a.m. to noon.  The class will be held at the Parks & Rec building at 2920 Douglas Street in Longview and is $50 per person, $45 for Longview residents. 

To sign up, call 442-5400 or visit

Friday, March 8, 2013

Time to Spring Ahead!

It's time once again to spring those clocks ahead.  Know what else you should do while you're at it?  Change your smoke detector batteries and see if your emergency supplies need to be rotated.  Knock it all out in one fell swoop and then pat yourself on the back (you may want to stretch first.)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Don't Drink Out of the Toilet

The single most important item in your disaster supply kit is water. The human body can generally survive for 30 days without food, granted those 30 days would suck big time. However, a body can only survive without water for about 3 days. I've heard people say that they don't need to store a bunch of water because they can drink out of their water heater or the tank of their toilet. In theory, yes, you can do this. In reality, do you really want to? Have you looked in your toilet tank? Do you know what kind of gnarly floaties live in your water heater? Do you really hate yourself and your family that much that you feel they need to drink out of the toilet? Maybe you do, and that's okay (I guess), I'm not here to judge. But--if you value yourself and your family, you'll set aside a few bucks to buy yourself some decent emergency water. Here are a few tips:

Store at least one gallon of water per person, per day in a cool, dark place. The average individual must drink at least two quarts of water every day. Children, nursing mothers, the elderly and people in warmer climates need more. Additional water should be reserved for personal hygiene and food preparation. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security encourages individuals to store enough water to last a minimum of three days - bearing in mind that water is needed for drinking as well as for personal hygiene.

Choose appropriate containers for water storage; disinfect before use. Personally, I wouldn't store water in any plastic containers that have ever stored juice, milk or soda (or antifreeze or lighter fluid). Seriously, there is nothing that will remove the taste of what has previously been in there. Also, milk jugs are very, very low quality plastic. Not only will they leach chemicals into your water, after about 3 months they'll start to seep and leak and eventually crumble altogether. Honestly, it's much less hassle to just buy water already sealed in a gallon size or more. Make sure to check the label and rotate it as needed. There's no need to waste it once it's beyond its date. Just use it to water flowers or to clean something. The reason that there is a "use by" date is not because the water itself expires, it's that after a year or so the plastic begins breaking down. Those chemicals that are leaching into the water are NOT GOOD FOR YOU. Trust me. Rotate it.

Another good option is to buy three or five-gallon polycarbonate bottles (#7) and fill them with tap water. The #7 in the triangle on the bottom of the bottle means that it is a much higher quality plastic and will last longer without leaching. You can fill up these bad boys and not worry about rotating them for 5 years. Most municipal water is already treated with a variety of chlorine and fluoride, so there isn't a need add additional bleach. If you get your water from a well, you might consider adding a few drops of unscented bleach. The standard formula is about 10 drops per gallon of water. (Drops, like from an eye dropper, not 10 pours). Then seal the container and put a piece of tape on it with the date so you know when to rotate it. Also, you don't need to throw out the bottle after 5 years, just replace the water so it's fresh. The bottles are good for about 20 years

It's National Severe Weather Awareness Week!

Woo hoo! Party Time!  Maybe not, but it never hurts to know more about what kinds of severe weather we can expect in our area. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Natioanl Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) partnered to designate March 3-9, 2013 as National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, and is calling upon all Americans to Be a Force of Nature.

You can be a force of nature by knowing your risks, taking appropriate actions and being an example to your friends and neighbors by sharing your knowledge.  Because we live in an area prone to floods, snow and ice storms and wind storms, we need to be ready for action.

Check out and to learn more.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Emergency Preparedness--Dr. Seuss Style

Saturday is Dr. Seuss' birthday and in honor of this auspicious occasion, I would like to talk about emergency food storage in the manner that Dr. Seuss would discuss it. I am a picky eater, I'm getting better (as in, I no longer only order off the children's menu) but I'm still not sure that I would eat some of the "emergency rations" that come in some emergency kits. I know, I know, if I was hungry enough I would eat anything (case-in-point: reduced fat frozen "entrees"), but why punish myself or my family? That's why I have a sweet little butane burner that is rated for indoor use, a case of extra butane and a selection of foods that can be made on one burner with no electricity. Why would I subject myself to canned meat, Coast Guard food pellets or protein bars when the wonders of Velveeta Shells and Cheese are right at my finger tips?! Anyway, happy birthday to Dr. Seuss, this one's for you!

Powdered Eggs and Spam

I do not like powdered eggs and spam
I do not like them DEM-I-Am
I will not eat them after a flood
I would not eat them if I was stuck in mud

I will not eat them in a quake
I would not eat them, I want a steak
I would not eat them in a storm
I will not eat them in any form

That is why I have a plan
A stove, some butane and not canned ham
I have a pot, I have a pan
I have a burner, I could make some flan

Well, ok, that’s a bit of a stretch
However, some nice soup I could certainly fetch
Some pancakes, some noodles, some chili with beans
Eating lousy food in an emergency? There’s just no need.

I do so like emergency plans
Thank you, thank you DEM-I-AM