(Right to left) Gabrielle Karber, Ritusha Samal and Teagan Grabish show off the disaster preparedness poster their group developed as part of a short activity at FEMA. Photo courtesy of FEMA Region 10, Jeffrey Markham

(Right to left) Gabrielle Karber, Ritusha Samal and Teagan Grabish show off the disaster preparedness poster their group developed as part of a short activity at FEMA. Photo courtesy of FEMA Region 10, Jeffrey Markham

FEMA encourages year-round disaster preparedness

National Preparedness Month, on the tail end of hurricane season, encourages locals to be mindful.

As Washington Emergency Management teams assist with disaster relief on the East Coast in the aftermath of hurricane Florence, FEMA Region 10 continues promoting National Preparedness Month from its Bothell headquarters.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Region 10 has been headquartered at its current Bothell bunker office since 1979 and has another office in Anchorage, Alaska. The offices serve the Pacific Northwest area and works with state emergency management agencies, including Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

“As a regional office, we support our local states,” said Savannah Brehmer, Region 10 spokesperson. “FEMA is a coordination agency, so we’re really here to support the locals. In the event of a disaster, like we’re seeing right now in North Carolina, South Carolina and along the East Coast, we are present to fill in the gaps where the state and local efforts can’t.”

FEMA works closely withe the Washington Emergency Management Division, which recently sent a team to assist with relief efforts in Craven County, North Carolina.

A large part of FEMA’s work involves disaster mitigation and aims to minimize the impact of future disasters.

The major part of that preparedness effort is FEMA’s mitigation division, which focuses on risk analysis, floodplain management, insurance, hazard mitigation and the Environmental Planning and Historic Preservation Program.

“The purpose of the Mitigation Division is to put recovery out of business,” said Mark Carey, director of Region 10’s Mitigation Division, in an interview with the Reporter.

This is the focus of National Preparedness Month, which was partially chosen to take place when disaster is fresh in the mind of many Americans, according to Brehmer.

“[September] is at the latter end of hurricane season, so it just seems to be a national moment as we reflect on severe storms in the past,” Brehmer said. “If it’s on your mind, it’s a good opportunity… as we look at our East Coast neighbors, we can take notes and think about what would [you] have to do if [you] were in a similar situation.”

The first week of National Preparedness Month focused on encouraging locals to make and practice a disaster plan.

It’s important for everyone to have a general emergency plan and go-bag that has supplies, cash and documents, Brehmer said, but locals should also get to know their neighbors who will be the initial point of mutual support in a disaster.

This week’s focus is on insurance coverage and how FEMA helps in a disaster.

Brehmer stressed that FEMA is meant to fill in the gaps and that insurance will be the bulk of recovery assistance. FEMA aims to help with uninsured and under-insured losses.

“Insurance is a much larger slice of the recovery pie than FEMA would be,” Brehmer said. “Which is not to say FEMA won’t help, [but] we’re not there to replace everything you had, we’re going to try to make your home safe, sanitary and habitable in the event of a federal disaster declaration.”

The number of disasters each year is increasing, according to FEMA, but only half of them trigger federal assistance. FEMA only assists with disasters that state and local authorities are inadequately prepared for.

Brehmer used a minor flood in a small town as an example. Local authorities will look to the state for assistance if they cannot handle the impacts of the flood, and if the state authorities decide they’re not prepared to deal with the emergency, then they’ll seek federal assistance.

“It really depends on the capacity at the local level first,” Brehmer said.

Next week marks the conclusion of National Preparedness Month, but FEMA hopes that locals continue to be mindful of disasters throughout the year with the motto, “Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How.”

In an effort to continue preparedness outreach throughout the year, FEMA Region 10 recently established the Regional Youth Preparedness Council (YPC), which selected three teens from Washington to serve on the council, including Ritusha Samal of Redmond.

A national YPC has been in place since 2012, which allows teens from eighth through 11th grade to develop a culture of preparedness in their communities and develop habits early, according to a press release.

This year, FEMA Region 10 launched the regional YPC to coincide with September, which is National Disaster Preparedness Month, and local back to school safety campaigns.

Currently, the YPC seats nine members representing Region 10’s four states.

Ritusha, along with her fellow Washington council members, has completed more than 30 hours of Community Emergency Response Team training and helped promote Washington’s My Preparedness Initiative pilot program by educating her peers and presenting on disaster preparedness to 12 households.

“I’m impressed with the knowledge and energy that these young adults bring to the FEMA Region 10 YPC and we are proud to work alongside them,” said Federal Preparedness Coordinator Scott Zaffram in a press release.

Laura Goudreau of FEMA’s Disaster Emergency Communications shows the Cascadia Rising 2016 exercise Communications Sub-Workgroup the Regional Communications Center in Bothell. This room maintains emergency channels during disasters, which can be a critical component of life and property saving missions. Photo courtesy of Savannah Brehmer, FEMA

Laura Goudreau of FEMA’s Disaster Emergency Communications shows the Cascadia Rising 2016 exercise Communications Sub-Workgroup the Regional Communications Center in Bothell. This room maintains emergency channels during disasters, which can be a critical component of life and property saving missions. Photo courtesy of Savannah Brehmer, FEMA

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