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Off my rocker: Prepare for emergency … NOW

Other than the fact that I was born a girl, I think I might have made a good Boy Scout.

OK, maybe I don’t know much about knot-tying, but we were a boating family, and I could readily have learned. Besides, I’m a person who whole-heartedly believes in being prepared. And who knows when the ability to tie a tidy bolen knot might be needed?

The first summer since I retired last February has been glorious. I have no intention of entertaining any complaints anyone might have about the past several months’ weather. But I do have to admit that summer, which ended last weekend, is officially over and that autumn — about which there is also much to appreciate — has begun.

That means, of course, that almost before we realize it, winter will be here. And as the seasons change, there are countless ways to prepare for the days and months ahead.

In fact, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has declared September as National Preparedness Month.

We, who live in Grays Harbor County, readily recall the “Great Coastal Gale of 2007,” huge storms that occurred in early December that year. Much of both Grays Harbor and Pacific counties looked like a bomb had dropped. Hurricane-force wind gusts toppled thousands of trees, knocking out electrical power for many. My older daughter, a Central Park resident, was without power for nine days.

Then, January of 2012, brought so much snow, with accompanying ice, to our area of Washington that Olympia was crippled to the extent government offices could not operate. My other daughter, who’d just begun a new state job in Aberdeen, couldn’t get to it. Nor could she attend some of her final classes in her master’s program in Vancouver.

Last week, I attended the “Staying Independent Fair,” presented by Information and Assistance and the Olympic Area Agency on Aging Nursing Services, with many other agencies, in Aberdeen. A helpful packet I received when I registered included an “Emergency Resource Guide,” prepared by the state Department of Health and the Emergency Management Division of the Washington Military Department.

The 46-page booklet, filled with information on how to be prepared, can be downloaded at www.doh.wa.gov/phepr/factsheets. Click on “Emergency Preparedness Fact Sheets :: Washington State Dept. (Yes, two colons.)

Then click on the emergency publications page link. The “Emergency Resource Guide” (2008) and the “Prepare: Home Emergency Guide (2012)” are both available.

PDF copies of the 2012 guide can also be downloaded in other languages. That guide also can be requested by e-mailing prepare@doh.wa.gov.

In 2012 in this country, “there were more than 450 fatalities and nearly 2,600 injuries due to extreme weather, like tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, extreme heat, and wildfires,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says on its website.

But, NOAA adds, “National Preparedness Month is a time to prepare yourself and those in your care for emergencies and disasters, both large scale and smaller local events. … You are not helpless in the face of an emergency. With just a few simple steps, you can be a force of nature by knowing your risk, taking action and being an example in your community.”

Another helpful resource is available on the Grays Harbor County Emergency Management website. Go to www.co.grays-harbor.wa.us/info/DEM and click on “All Hazards Guide.” It was published in 2009, but much about preparing never becomes outdated.

I already have a NOAA Weather Radio, which has battery backup. But maybe my first step in preparing for this winter should be checking how fresh its batteries are. But I won’t stop there.

Tommi Halvorsen Gatlin is a retired reporter, who still contributes to The Vidette. Contact her by emailing the editor at editor@thevidette.com

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