Disaster readiness at Bellevue College

Natural disasters at Bellevue College are few and far between. However, proper preparation is still very important. Luckily, it is very easy to prepare for most of the trials and tribulations that might befall the campus.

Strong earthquakes do occur in the Puget Sound area. The last large earthquake, magnitude 6.8, was in 2001 and was centered in Nisqually. Seattle City Light reported that the quake left 17,000 people without power. Hundreds of people were injured and damage to the city was estimated in the billions. Earthquake preparation should be a part of everyone’s emergency kit.

Weather is also a problem in the Seattle area. Snow, while not a constant threat, can come heavy and fast. In February 2017, as much as 14 inches of snow were reported overnight in places around the greater Seattle area. Snow, and the freezing weather associated with it, has many debilitating effects, such as downing power lines, creating slick roads or even trapping people in their own homes if roadways become blocked. Preparing for snowy weather is one of the cornerstones of any emergency kit.
An often overlooked part of emergency preparedness is the change of seasons. We are now fully into the swing of fall, and that means a few things need to be taken into account before they cause mishaps. Fall brings with it rain, colder temperatures, earlier nights and cloudy skies. These combine for a multitude of other issues that might catch someone who is still in the summer mindset unawares. Preparation is key here, too.

There are many great resources to use to prepare for disaster in Seattle. Seattle.gov, Seattle’s own website, has options and lists for building different types of emergency kit and preparing yourself for the worst.

By their guidelines, a home emergency kit should have enough supplies to last through seven to ten days of hardship or isolation. Water should be a gallon per person, per day. Food should be non-perishable and calorie dense. The best light sources are flashlights (hand cranked or with plenty of batteries) or light sticks. Avoid candles, as they are a fire hazard in an already hazardous situation. Keep a pair of warm and dry clothes to change into tucked away as well. A first-aid kit should include any special medications or devices as necessary.

Bellevue College has also done its best to ensure that, when disaster does strike the school, it will be prepared. The first responders to campus catastrophe are the members of the Public Safety office. They have taken several steps to ensure that the school can handle whatever nature throws at it and compiled them in the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan. It details several potential emergency situations that might occur, from earthquakes to explosions. It also provides a flexible framework for Public Safety and school faculty to act upon to ensure the best course of action in whatever situation arises.

Part of the steps that Bellevue College has taken to ensure student safety include positioning of emergency resources around the school. Maps detailing evacuation zones and emergency equipment can be found all over the campus in places such as classrooms, offices and stairwells. The emergency equipment found on campus includes Automated External Defibrillators (AED), mounted aid phones, and blue crisis response boxes in strategic locations. Fire extinguishers and first aid kits are also located in several locations on each floor of every building on campus. Bellevue College is fully committed to ensuring that all students are safe, no matter what might happen.

Of special note are the crisis response boxes around campus. They are large, rectangular boxes that stand approximately 3 feet in height, are painted completely blue, and have the words “Crisis Response” on the side. As per the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, each box is, “intended to supply individuals during emergency events such as earthquakes, floods, or snowstorms until emergency responders can begin rescue efforts. Each box contains flashlights, blankets, water, response kits, first aid supplies, flares, carry tarps, and personal protection equipment that should sustain Bellevue College for approximately 3 days.” There are 15 of the crisis boxes in total, and their locations are clearly marked on the emergency maps around campus.

Rain, cold, and slippery sidewalks or parking lots go hand in hand. One of the most important tips to deal with slippery surfaces and prevent falls on campus is to slow down. Midwest Medical Edition, a respected medical journal, has other tips for avoiding falls in slippery conditions, such as avoiding shortcuts, which might not be safe to walk on in slippery conditions, and using a wide stance when walking over potentially slippery surfaces. Sprinkling sand over areas you use frequently, such as under your car at home or on your porch steps, also helps avoid falling.

Vehicle safety is of paramount importance in the fall and winter months as well. Slowing down should be an immediate reaction to any adverse road conditions. Pedestrians will be harder to see and react to as the darker months approach. This is especially important to remember while driving through the school’s parking lots or near crosswalks. Pedestrians may want to wear brighter colors in hours of darkness to ensure they are visible.

It is said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When nature is involved, preparation is sometimes the only chance someone will get to ensure their safety. However, taking a few preventative steps is easy, and well worth it when disaster does strike.