By Cindy Button
Today as I step outside into the heat and smoke, I am taken back to July 16, 2014, when the Cougar Flats and Stokes Road fires gained momentum and roared into the record books as the largest wildfire in Washington state’s history. With fire season fully underway, many of us are asking ourselves if we are ready should we encounter such a situation again. And we are wondering what steps we could take to be even better prepared. As sure as the sun rises, we will encounter a challenge, whether it be a fire, earthquake, flood, mud slide or power outage. Therefore, I want to tell you about a new campaign launched by the Methow Valley Long Term Recovery organization, called MethowReady that is on the scene to help the Methow Valley do just that — get ready.
Whether we like it or not, chances are the most likely people to be the first responders on the scene when a disaster strikes are you and those closest to you. How prepared are you? Do you have a family emergency plan? Do you have flashlight, leather gloves, sturdy shoes and fire extinguisher all at the ready? Do you have at least three days supply of food and water and medications on hand? Do you have a plan for what to do with your pets or livestock?
These are some of the issues that MethowReady can coach you on. I encourage you to check out www.methowready.org and familiarize yourself with its readiness tips. Perhaps one of the most critical pieces of advice on the website is to conduct your preparedness activities in coordination with your neighbors. Studies show that having a coordinated preparedness effort among neighbors helps save lives, reduces the severity of injuries and trauma, and reduces property damage.
How to get involved
As I write this, neighborhood preparedness teams are forming across the valley. Please join in and get involved. If you are inspired to take a leadership role in a neighborhood team, attend one of our two volunteer neighborhood leader training sessions — either July 23 at Aero Methow Rescue Service in Twisp or Aug. 5 in the Winthrop Barn’s conference room, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at each event. To make it easy and enticing, we are even going to feed you free pizza and cookies! At these workshops you will meet other proactive people who are taking the initiative to be prepared and help their neighbors be so as well. Whether your “neighborhood” consists of five homes along a drainage, or 20 homes in downtown Winthrop, you and your neighbors can benefit from teaming up together.
Being prepared is not only a gift to you and your household, it is, dare I say, an obligation to the community at large. If you are fully prepared, you will no doubt experience the benefits. But you will also be freed up to help those in your vicinity who need you, perhaps someone who can’t tackle the challenge of a disaster alone. I ask you this: Who is relying on you to be prepared? Who can count on you for help?
Additionally, being prepared allows the public safety and emergency service agencies to focus on doing their jobs — saving lives and property. This is probably why 13 local community and emergency service agencies have teamed up in partnership with MethowReady, including: Aero Methow Rescue Service, Carlton Complex Assistance Network, Lookout Coalition, Okanogan Conservation District, Okanogan County Electric Co-operative, Okanogan County Department of Emergency Management, Okanogan County Public Utility District, Okanogan Fire District 6, Room One, Town of Twisp, Town of Winthrop, Twisp Police Department, and the Winthrop Marshal’s Office.
One of the unique and special qualities about the Methow Valley is our community. Amidst all the devastation, chaos and loss of last summer, there was cohesion and care. People were talking to neighbors they had never met. New bonds were formed, old ones strengthened. MethowReady’s neighborhood preparedness teams are a vehicle for helping our community become even stronger. The benefits will serve us beyond times of stress and tragedy. So if you foresee that you could serve as a leader, attend one of our trainings. If not, when you get a knock on your door or an invitation in the mail to attend a preparedness gathering in your neighborhood, say yes and be a part of what makes this valley so special — community!
To register for volunteer neighborhood leader training, email Sandi Scheinberg, the Methow Valley Long Term Recovery Preparedness Coordinator at info@MethowReady.org. Visit www.MethowReady.org to learn more.
Cindy Button is executive director of Aero Methow Rescue Service in Twisp.