While the devastation from Harvey is more than 2,000 miles away, Washington state has specialized emergency teams that are ready to assist.
So far, the state has sent resources from Washington Task Force 1, comprised of Pierce County, King County and Seattle personnel, to help with search and rescue water operations. Additional water resources from King County could also be sent.
“Right now, we’re working with our sheriff’s department to see if they are able to assist with swift water,” said Jody Miller, deputy director of Emergency Management for King County. “They have amazing swift water capabilities, and I know they’re very anxious to assist, as are many people.”
Miller and her team have been closely monitoring Harvey from the county’s Emergency Coordination Center in Renton.
“There are rooms like this all over Texas that are filled to the brim with people,” said Miller, referencing the room in our region that sits ready to activate on a moment’s notice, in place to face whatever catastrophe, however overwhelming.
“I don’t know if anyone can prepare for a Harvey,” Miller acknowledged.
The monster storm unleashed unprecedented flooding, after pounding the Texas coast one week ago.
Authorities continue to search for survivors trapped in their homes; the death toll has climbed to nearly 40 people.
“We have a tough time understanding how overwhelming this is,” said Miller who acknowledges the images are heartbreaking and hard to see, even for those who work in disaster response.
“We're supposed to be seasoned professionals in this business, and we're crying right along with everyone else,” said Miller.
King County Emergency Management staff remain on standby in case they get the call to deploy.
Meanwhile, when rescue turns to a full-fledged recovery operation, a small team of four King County employees who specialize in alternative dispute resolution will deploy to Texas. The employees also serve as FEMA reservists and will assist the federal agency in resolving problems on the ground.
“Folks in Texas are extremely tough, and they’re not necessarily going to ask for help, so when we’re proactive, and we do the reaching out—it will just make it that much better,” said Miller.
As county officials prepare to potentially send more help to Texas, they’re also studying the disaster to make sure our region is prepared for its own.
“Our staff is gathering multiple times a day, as we start to get new information, new reports come in, we gather a group together and we talk through, ‘Okay, what would we do in this situation? Do we have plans in place for this? Is there more work that we can do here?”
Emergency managers know preparedness is key, and it’s a message they want to relay to the community at large as well.
“If people have been putting off putting together a kit and getting organized, this should really remind us that now is the time to do this,” urged Miller. “Have the peace of mind of knowing that you’re prepared to be on your own for potentially ten days before help can arrive.”