Hurricane survivor helps launch emergency shelter in Bellevue

KING 5's Michelle Li reports.

As we've seen recently in the news, a natural disaster can happen anywhere and at any time. Many people are trying to prepare with emergency water and food, but what if you can't make it home? Or what if mother nature obliterates your house?

Sammi Stinson found herself in that situation when Hurricane Charley hit her home in 2004. She and her son initially took shelter in the family van because the nearby shelter did not accept pets.

When she returned to her home, she says it looked like toothpicks. Nothing was left.

"There was actually fish swimming knee-deep in my home," Stinson recalled. "There were no side walls, no roof. There were no photos, no family things. We had the clothes on our backs."

Stinson served in the military and is a former police officer. Helping people is in her nature, but that experience gave her a new purpose. 

Stinson now lives in the Puget Sound area. She has since studied the ins and outs of emergency management and works as the facilities director at a new shelter at Bellevue Presbyterian Church.

"I just want people to be aware of the things that can happen," Stinson said.

The church has committed to helping 200 people and pets for more than 30 days in the event of a disaster. Volunteers recently held a drill setting up a bonafide shelter with a working kitchen, water filtration system, ham radios, cots, and bedding. The group even secured a $50,000 state-of-the-art generator from the Puget Sound Energy Foundation.

"We've got a lot of bridges. We've got a lot of infrastructure," said Janet Kim of Puget Sound Energy. "If there is a disaster, things might not be working the way they need to be, so I believe that every community should be prepared."

Bellevue Presbyterian leaders say they are taking that message to heart.

"We are just inundated with scenarios that say we need to have shelters, we need to be ready to go," said Scott Burbank of Bellevue Presbyterian. "It's too late after the event has happened to think we need to get our act together and think we need to have these things."

Stinson says it's more about having things ready for people. For her, it's about having the heart for people in tragedy.

"We're special with that here," said Stinson. "I think because we are the type of people that really care about people, and we're here for them--not just to get them a meal and a cot. So, for me, this is a special place to be able to do that."

KING 5 is partnering with Puget Sound Energy and the American Red Cross to help people be safe at home with start disaster kits. Select Walmart locations around the area will hand out free kids on September 16. 

© 2017 KING-TV


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