Last week’s power outage that hit downtown Seattle for about an hour caused traffic gridlock, confusion, and momentary panic at the Northwest Asian Weekly office.
This newspaper was getting ready for press and when word spread of the outage, staffers scrambled to save all of their work.
Thankfully, our office in the International District was spared. We were just south of the line of demarcation at Jackson street. The outage affected the waterfront to I-5, and Pike street to Jackson.
Elsewhere in the city, the Seattle Art Museum’s Hammering Man took an unscheduled lunch break.
The Great Wheel along the waterfront stopped with at least six passengers on board. Luckily, staffers had a plan B. They used a rope to turn the wheel and help passengers safely to the ground. Manager Gerry Hall said the company has monthly drills to prepare for outages.
A woman, nine months pregnant, who works inside Seattle’s Columbia Tower, walked down 49 flights of stairs after the building’s elevator stopped working.
911 emergency services were not interrupted, but firefighters made 24 elevator rescues.
All this from a power outage that lasted for about an hour.
What if it had been a more serious and catastrophic event? Like an earthquake?
Power could be out for days, if not weeks.
Are you prepared?
Sharon Loper is the deputy regional administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 10, which serves Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.
She said FEMA watches minor events like the recent outage to see where messaging during emergencies can be improved. She said getting messages to the public is particularly challenging, especially in reaching people who do not speak English.
Government agencies say you should be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for a minimum of three days. In some emergencies, such as an influenza pandemic, you may need to prepare for weeks or months.
Your emergency survival kit should include:
- Dry or canned food for each person
- First aid supplies
- Flashlight and extra batteries
In addition, Loper suggests three things handy for emergencies: Cash since credit card or phone payment systems will be down, water, and some sort of communication device, like a radio or cell phone.
For a more comprehensive list of items to have in case of emergencies, go to doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/EmergencyPreparednessandResponse/Factsheets/EmergencySupplies.
You never know when the next outage is going to hit. And next time, it could last longer.
Take the time to prepare yourself. Your life may depend on it.