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In Our View: Preparing for Natural Disasters

Learning from Oklahoma

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The Oz-like nightmare of the EF-5 tornado that ripped through Moore, Okla., on Monday surpassed the force of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. A disaster of unimaginable intensity, a 1.3-mile wide killer, brings into focus how to help those suffering. In the process, Northwesterners are reminded to gird and plan for the unexpected.
The Better Business Bureau, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued a statement Tuesday that throws light on the easy con.
"Sadly, there will always be rip-off artists looking to line their pockets, so we urge donors to use caution in making decisions about where to contribute their hard-earned money." Ferguson said.
The warnings are common sense, but merit emphasizing: Never give out credit card numbers over the phone; avoid newly established charities with unverifiable background information; and, don't rush decisions. Consider contributing at, a website overseen by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
Washingtonians don't need to plan for an EF-5 tornado. Tsunamis, lahars (humongous mudflows from volcanoes) and megaquakes? Yes.
As The Herald reported earlier this year, the Snohomish County Red Cross (it includes Camano Island) is working with other Puget Sound chapters and community partners to launch the "Safe in the Sound" preparedness campaign, a three-year push to inspire action, provide innovative and accessible preparedness training (targeted to the most vulnerable populations) and building sustainable preparedness networks. The takeaway is to prepare, not scare.
With the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan as a backdrop, the Red Cross emphasizes that Washington is second only to California for risk of earthquake-related damage to basic infrastructure. A growing Puget Sound region that supports 4.5 million residents is especially vulnerable, with the Seattle area placing fifth among those nationwide likely to suffer a massive hit. Soon. Nevertheless, only 50 percent of local households have disaster kits (the extra flashlight doesn't count) and less than 30 percent know how to corral help when evacuating.
Currently, the Puget Sound-area Red Cross responds to a disaster every 16 hours. Scale that a thousand fold with a subduction quake, along with transportation, phone and Internet disruptions. It won't be pretty, and restoring services will take a long, long time.
Embrace the basics: families should practice a home-evacuation plan, establish an out-of-area contact, and build or purchase a disaster kit.
So give if you can, and prepare.

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