News

Is it too soon to hunker down for the winter?

Wary of storms and outages, the city wants neighborhoods to be ready.

For most, the gusty, rainy days of early October are a symbolic end to summer.

For Ed Call, they are a chilly reminder that though he has made strides in preparing the island for foul weather and potential disasters, his work will soon be tested.

“The reception has been overwhelmingly more positive than I expected. I was expecting people to be much more skeptical,” said Call, hired by the city in May as an emergency preparedness consultant to ready the island for disasters like last winter’s severe storms, which left parts of Bainbridge without electricity for over a week.

“There are a few pockets in neighborhoods and individuals who really believe ‘there’s not going to be a big earthquake,’” Call said, “or ‘it’s not that big of a deal if the power goes out’ or ‘a tree won’t fall on my house.”

On Tuesday, Call will hold a public meeting at City Hall to discuss how islanders can draft emergency plans to make their neighborhoods more independent and emergency services more efficient during a disaster.

For the past three months, Call has been stumping his neighborhood preparedness program at club meetings and community events to attract volunteers.

He sets those volunteers to work collecting information on demographics, skill sets and resources in island neighborhoods, then helps them use that data to draft customized emergency plans.

That way when the lights go out, neighbors will know if there is an elderly person who needs to be checked on, a retired doctor nearby they can call for medical help, and what tools they have available in the area.

“When a storm hits they’ll have a list of five or six people with chainsaws who they can put to work clearing trees so that fire and medical services can get through,” Call said.

Already he has 98 Bainbridge streets and neighborhoods gathering information, and he expects some to be ready with emergency plans in the next few weeks.

Even those that are far from finished planning are much better prepared than they were a year ago, Call said. He estimates that he has reached 40 percent of island neighborhoods, and hopes to draw more volunteers at his meeting Tuesday.

To better prepare city services, Call has focused on creating new ways to communicate with citizens, and utilizing neighborhood data for targeted responses.

During last winter’s storms there was very little information available for residents that was specific to Bainbridge Island, and many believed the power outage would last only hours.

While there were few medical emergencies during the storms, tree-clogged roads isolated many islanders from emergency aid.

“I think that was a wake-up call for a lot of people,” Call said.

According to NOAA. there is a La Nina cooling pattern in the Pacific this year, compared to last year’s warming El Nino.

La Nina usually brings heavy precipitation to the Northwest in the winter, and wet weather means more loose tree roots, unstable banks and snow.

Call has coordinated with KOMO 1000 radio to ensure that Bainbridge officials can give live alerts and updates if storms hit this winter.

The city has also mapped locations across the island where bulletins can be posted describing the scope of the emergency and what resources are available for disaster victims.

The information gathered by Call’s network of neighborhood volunteers will allow emergency services to determine what parts of the island have been hardest hit and to know in advance where the most at-risk citizens live.

“I don’t ever want to say the city has nothing left to plan, because there is always something to plan for,” Call said.

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Be prepared

Learn about the city’s neighborhood mapping program at 7 p.m. Oct. 9 at City Hall. For more information contact Ed Call at 473-7818 or email eacall@comcast.net

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