Opinion

Preparation: we’ve been here before

An unexpected package in the mail. A handful of powder or dust, spilled on the floor in a public area.

With America at war against nebulously organized terrorist factions abroad, and reports of possible contagion spread through our national post, we find in even the little surprises and petty annoyances of life the taint of fear and suspicion.

Even on our tiny island, a seemingly unlikely target for the warped aims of international terror, we are touched by a world gone suddenly somewhat mad. Sunday, a ferry run was cancelled for investigation of an unknown substance; on Monday, a “suspicious” letter – wrong address, too much postage – was diverted from the mail stream at city hall and into storage by police pending investigation.

We would note that in these and other episodes recently reported around Western Washington, we have been spared random harm. But we spoke with Bainbridge Police Chief Bill Cooper this week, who while urging calm on the part of islanders, suggested that heightened concern is neither unwarranted nor unwanted.

“Overreact rather than underreact,” Cooper said. “Call us.”

In talking with local officials and reviewing advisories from the Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management, we’ve been struck by the prescience of our preparations for the Y2K non-disaster two years ago. What was good household policy then is equally sensible now.

Families should designate a meeting place in case of emergency – outside the home in the incident of a fire, for example, and outside the neighborhood if by circumstance they find themselves separated. Set aside a supply of food and water, should distribution systems go down for some period of time. Work out a plan with neighbors for sharing skills and resources. And be prepared to stay home.

Various civil emergency policies will continue to take shape in the coming days; in the meantime, the Bainbridge Fire Department is an excellent resource for planning.

We’re still confident that a nasty winter storm – in itself a good reason to plan ahead – is at least as likely as a local incident of terrorism. And private individuals are unlikely targets. (If you do consider yourself at risk, take heart – at least you don’t work for a newspaper.)

The terrain may look unfamiliar, but we’ve been here before. We can get ready again.

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