Emphasis will be on self-help programs for valley residents

By Ann McCreary

Photo by Ann McCreary

Jen Schumacher

Jen Schumacher has lived full-time in the Methow Valley for five years, and during three of her five summers here, the valley has experienced extreme wildfires.

Schumacher is the new preparedness coordinator of Methow Ready, an organization that helps the community prepare for disasters. She said the wildfires she has witnessed since moving to the valley are evidence of the need for disaster planning.

“We were in Mazama last summer and were close to being evacuated” during the Diamond Creek Fire, said Schumacher, who lives in the Edelweiss neighborhood.

Schumacher took over the job of Methow Ready preparedness coordinator in February. Methow Ready was created in the wake of the 2014 Carlton Complex wildfire with the mission of encouraging community members to plan and prepare for disasters.

A volunteer EMT with Aero Methow Rescue Services since last October, Schumacher said she wanted to become more involved in the community. “Getting into emergency medical services and seeing how it functions in a rural community” prompted her interest in the role that individuals and neighborhoods play during emergencies. “In a disaster, your neighbors are going to be your best resource,” she said.

When Methow Ready coordinator Hayley Riach decided to step down, Cindy Button, Aero Methow’s director of services, asked Schumacher if she would consider the position.  Methow Ready operates under Aero Methow, so taking the job made sense for Schumacher. “I really liked the concept,” she said.

Schumacher and her family have been visiting the valley for several years and had a part-time home in Methow before moving permanently to the Mazama area.

Over the past two months Schumacher has developed a newsletter with tips on disaster preparedness, and is planning neighborhood leader training sessions in May and June. The trainings are designed to help families and neighbors prepare, using a program called Map Your Neighborhood.

Aim is self-reliance

As many valley residents learned during recent wildfires, traditional emergency responders (police, fire, medical and utility) may be overwhelmed by demand when a large disaster occurs. The goal of Methow Ready and the neighborhood leader trainings is to help residents know how to be self-reliant during the first hours of a disaster when traditional 9-1-1 responders may not be available.

The Map Your Neighborhood program is being implemented around the nation. Participants learn the steps to take immediately following a disaster to secure homes and protect neighborhoods; identify the skills and equipment each neighbor has that are useful in an effective disaster response; and pick a location for a neighborhood gathering site.

Participants also learn to create a neighborhood map showing the locations of propane tanks and the locations of neighbors who may need extra help in a disaster, such as the elderly, persons with disabilities, or children who are home alone during certain times of the day.

Schumacher said there are about 10 organized neighborhoods in the Methow Valley with trained leaders. A neighborhood can vary from a couple dozen homes in an urban area to one or two homes in more remote, rural areas, she said. “However it works for people is how it works. It’s fairly easy to do. It doesn’t feel too overwhelming,” she said.

Neighborhood leader training dates are May 17, 5:30-7:30 p.m. and June 2, 10:30-12:30 p.m. To register, email methowready@gmail.com, call Schumacher at (509) 449-0069, or register on the Methow Ready website, www.methowready.org.