People who live in high-rises will be particularly vulnerable after a disaster. Some could be stuck several stories up, without power or water, amid shattered glass and crumbling concrete. Many of them haven’t even thought about how to prepare.
“I’ve probably got two or three weeks of food, it's a lot,” said Maura Fallon, who is about as ready as one can be.
In addition to all those emergency rations, she’s assembled an impressive disaster preparedness kit in her 18th-floor condo.
“We’ve got face masks, glasses, protective eyeglasses, a vest, and a hard hat because we’re going to be digging people out of rubble,” Fallon said while sorting through her collection of supplies.
Her bathrooms are stacked with gallons of fresh water. Then there are the first aid kits, camping gear, tools, and even supplies to make a rudimentary toilet.
She packs all of those items in bins and stores them under the bed or in closets.
Fallon, who lives in the Enso building in South Lake Union, is an exception in this increasingly vertical city. She’s taken the time and invested the money to prepare for a disaster.
“What we realized is we really need to do it on our own, and we need to do it with our neighbors,” Fallon said.
But so many others aren’t making preparedness a priority.
“The vertical communities are very, very unprepared,” said Cindi Barker, the volunteer coordinator for Seattle Emergency Communication Hubs, a city-sanctioned network of gathering places, where people can cluster following a disaster.
She helps organize disaster drills at hubs in many neighborhoods, but on Capitol Hill, where there are so many new apartment buildings, there’s no hub. They just can’t get enough interest from the community.
“They put out word to say please, please, come help support this concept, and they just couldn’t get enough critical mass to support it,” Barker said.
She says many people seem to be too busy with work and other priorities to think about a worst-case scenario. Many high-rise building managers and tenants are not taking the time to prepare emergency kits, Barker said.
“Not only is it a physical problem -- having your supplies -- it's a mindset problem, because people I don’t think are really ready to be self-sufficient, and then also figure out how to pull their community to get through,” she said.
Barker points to Enso as an example of a building that’s taking the threat seriously. Maura Fallon’s neighbors organize potlucks so they can meet one another and share preparedness ideas. They do training, and they’ve partnered with other high-rises to swap resources, like a detailed disaster response handbook.
“The more that I have prepared, the more at ease I am,” Fallon said.
“You need to take care of yourself, and then you can help your neighbors, but if you can’t take care of yourself, then you become part of the problem,” Barker said.
Here is a disaster preparedness and response handbook, which was developed for the Bay Vista condominium building in Belltown. It can be easily adapted to other buildings.
Join KING 5’s Disaster Preparedness Facebook group and learn how you and your community can get ready for when disaster strikes.