Natural disasters – earthquakes, wildfires, tsunamis, pandemics, winter storms – will devastate the Roche Harbor area; the unanswerable question is when. We live on an island, and will likely have to depend on our own resources for quite some time after a large-scale emergency. We will be isolated from the mainland and must be prepared to survive with limited help for weeks. In addition, our area is a popular travel destination, so we must prepare for many stranded visitors. Most San Juan Island residents have made at least some efforts to prepare. Unfortunately, many residents underestimate what they will need to survive, overestimate the resources available after a disaster, and don’t know how to fill the gap between what they have and will need.
For decades, one of the Roche Harbor Neighborhood Association’s most important programs has been helping people prepare for emergencies and natural disasters. Our Emergency Preparedness projects have included publications such as checklists and blog posts about emergency preparedness, presentations and individual counseling at RHNA events, demonstrations of sophisticated new EP technology, CPR training, and much more.
In 2018, RHNA named this program for the late Rod Wiese, who led the Roche Harbor Resort’s emergency preparedness programs and was active in RHNA for many years. In 2021, the Rod Wiese Emergency Preparedness Program is led by Susan Martin, Vice-President of RHNA and an expert in international disaster response. RHNA also works with the Roche Harbor Resort and other nearby organizations, the San Juan County Department of Emergency Management and SJI Fire and Rescue.
San Juan County’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan Has a Special Role for RHNA
San Juan County has a 200-page Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP), which is the backbone of the entire county disaster response program. The CEMP describes the role of voluntary organizations like RHNA in helping with emergency preparedness:
Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) play enormously important roles before, during, and after an incident. In the County, NGOs such as the American Red Cross provide sheltering, emergency food supplies, counseling services, and other vital support services to support response and promote the recovery of disaster victims. NGOs collaborate with responders, governments at all levels, and other agencies and organizations.
The roles of NGOs in an emergency may include:
■ Training and managing volunteer resources.
■ Identifying shelter locations and need supplies.
■ Providing critical emergency services to those in need, such as cleaning supplies, clothing,
food and shelter, and assistance with post-emergency cleanup.
■ Identifying those whose needs have not been met and helping coordinate the provision of assistance
RHNA’s 2021 Emergency Preparedness Plan
On June 1, 2021 (delayed for over a year by the pandemic), RHNA announced a major Emergency Preparedness expansion project for 2021. The purpose of the RHNA project is to help our charity fulfill the County’s expectations in our neighborhoods. The RHNA project builds on existing efforts such as San Juan County’s public-facing website (IslandsReady.org) while identifying the emergency preparedness methods which best meet our neighborhoods’ special needs. RHNA has worked with the San Juan County Department of Emergency Management, the Roche Harbor Resort, SJI Fire, and other organizations in preparing the plan for this project.
The RHNA project has three goals:
- inventory needs and resources to identify and fill gaps;
- distribute clear and helpful information; and
- train, motivate and support peoples’ preparations.
Three principles guide the RHNA project:
- obtain best available information to identify the gap between needs and resources;
- collaborate with governments and other organizations to leverage resources and avoid duplication; and
- continuously test and monitor our progress and adapt our projects as needed to achieve our goals.
Specific planned projects and timing for the RHNA project include:
- Public Outreach (June-December): We will keep residents informed about the project through our website, emails, social media, and written publications. We will demonstrate practical preparedness steps. We will begin with a virtual town hall in June to hear your priorities and report to you in July.
- Identify needs and resources (June-August): Our principal tools will be surveys, focus groups, reviews of existing programs, and telephone or Zoom discussions and interviews. We will focus on residents’ preparations and needs, with a special effort to reach traditionally-overlooked groups in our neighborhoods.
- Identify gaps between needs and resources (July-August): We will analyze the findings to see where needs exceed available resources for effective emergency response. We will ask public and private experts and public officials to comment on our analyses.
- Pilot test methods to fill identified gaps (August-October): Having identified gaps in our capabilities, we will test activities that will better enable residents to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies. These will include:
- Training: We will expand our traditional individual preparedness counseling program by recruiting and training volunteers both for public outreach and education and for a certification program to reward households who meet minimum preparation goals.
- Group Purchasing: We will support residents through group purchasing efforts for emergency supplies, including food, water, first-aid equipment, and technology.
- Evaluate program (November and December): We will assess the pilot programs and report to residents on next steps to improve emergency preparedness, response and recovery.
The RHNA project is directed by Dr. Susan Martin, Donald G. Herzberg Professor Emerita at Georgetown University, where she founded and directed the Certificate Program on Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies. She is also a member of the advisory board of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and has advised US government agencies, such as the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, and state emergency management offices on their disaster response planning. Project staffing is provided by Dr. Yasmin von Dassow, a freelance editor and grant writer on San Juan Island, a marine biologist, and a volunteer with SJI Fire (she is undertaking this position as an individual, and is not in any way a representative of SJI Fire or any other organization).
For more information, about this project, please contact Susan Martin, RHNA Vice-President and Chair of the RHNA Emergency Preparedness Committee, at firstname.lastname@example.org.