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Welcome to Skagit County

December 19, 2007

If we fail to prepare, we are in trouble
By Skagit County Commissioner Sharon Dillon, District 3

The events that still affect the lives and well-being of those in Lewis County could--had luck been different--have affected us, the residents of Skagit County. I would like to share some compelling facts about flooding here. The Skagit River has flooded more than 60 times in the past 100 years. The cities of Burlington and Mount Vernon are protected by a well maintained levee system that has the potential in a large flood, predicted to occur in the future, to not adequately protect us. In 2003, 3,425 persons were evacuated from their homes in Skagit County. Floods the size of the 1917 and 1921 events would have breached the levees in Burlington and Mount Vernon. A 100 year flood would cause loss of human life and more than 1 billion in property damage.

It could close down I-5 and SR20, take out the Burlington Northern Sante Fe railroad bridge, disrupt oil distribution from the refineries, cut off the water system for Fidalgo and Whidbey Island, NAS Whidbey and the Town of LaConner, flood our municipal waste water treatment plants in Burlington, Mount Vernon and Sedro-Woolley and severely damage the sewage collection system for 40 percent of Burlington and Mount Vernon.

As we assess the recent events south of Seattle and the equal vulnerability of Skagit County, a few strategies come to mind. They require personal responsibility on the part of each Skagit County resident. We want to be ready for a crisis, get through it and restore ourselves, our infrastructure, our jobs and our quality of life. We are firm believers in being prepared.

While Skagit County government stands ready to serve, we may face challenges beyond our capacity. As Commissioners and County Departments we represent you and will be there to help you, but we and all citizens as individuals are in this together. Each of you may be on your own in the first minutes or even days when a disaster strikes. The time to take preparatory action is now. Waiting for an emergency is too late.

We have in place an incident command structure involving leaders and protocol.

But other measures may be necessary. Preparing before an event, knowing an evacuate route, an adequate shelter, and supplies to help healing at home, in the event of an earthquake, flood, bioterrorism event or major communicable disease are a must.

Each of you should be ready to take care of yourself and the important people in your daily life for at least three days following an emergency or disaster event. At a minimum, your disaster supplies should include water (remember even Seattle’s water got contaminated), food, extra clothing, shelter, a sleeping bag or warm blankets, a flashlight and battery operated radio with extra batteries, pet supplies, personal hygiene items, over-the counter and prescriptive medications, and cash.

Many disaster experts recommend that you actually prepare for up to six weeks. This means you need 42 days worth of survival materials for each household member.

If we face a community crisis, please remember: have a plan in place in case family members are separated when a disaster occurs, know where to meet and have a contact outside the area is best.

Taking CPR and First Aid are good preparation and considering joining the Skagit County CERT or Medical Reserve Corps are welcomed activity (see www.skagitcounty.net). Also, see www.ready.gov and the prep list that follows. If you end up healing at home from something like pan flu,

Prepare mentally you want to stay home.
Avoid dehydration symptoms of dehydration include dark urine and thick saliva. To prevent dehydration from prolonged temperatures, vomiting or diarrhea you can make your own electrolyte fluids following this recipe: To one quart of water add ½ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon table salt (or substitute), 4 tablespoons sugar and flavoring, if desired.
Disinfect surfaces by wiping common touch areas with a solution of ¼ cup household bleach to one gallon of water. Mix it fresh each time.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 to 30 seconds at a time.

There will be medical care available for those requiring serious intervention. If many people fall ill with the flu, basic services may be affected as in an earthquake or flood.

Repeat, preparedness involves 1 gallon of water per person per day, ready to eat food for a minimum of five days, warm clothing, a wind-up flashlight or a flashlight and extra batteries, a crank radio, hygiene items, a first aid kit with lots of masks and gloves, list of emergency contacts, insurance cards, keys and pet supplies. Also, keep a supply of medication and cash stored.

Ultimately, you are responsible for your own survival. You will always benefit by thinking things through and planning in advance.

We would like to have every person in Skagit County to be as prepared as they can be. We never know when these precautions will save someone’s life. Let’s always be safe and prepared.

Disaster Kit checklist:

  • Medications
  • Water (1 gallon per person per day)
  • Non-perishable food
  • Can opener
  • Battery powered radio
  • Walkie-talkies
  • Spare batteries
  • Cash
  • First Aid Kit
  • Pet food and supplies
  • Flashlight
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Bleach (to purify water)
  • Lighter
  • Sleeping bag or warm blankets
  • Helmet
  • Whistle
  • Waterproof tarp
  • Photocopies of important papers such as passports, credit cards, identification and medical records
  • Toiletries (contact lenses, etc.)