Thursday, March 26, 2015

You Too Can Be a Hero!!

Imagine waking to the ground shaking.  Things falling and breaking, entire buildings swaying if not falling.  Cracks opening up in roadways, bridges falling, power lines down, water lines rupturing.  It's a scene out of many disaster movies.

We have all seen scenes like this play out in movies time and time again, In fact there is a new movie coming out in May that will highlight a major disaster in this country and highlight how one hero will be shown to be the saving grace for many.   Hollywood likes to focus on one action hero saving many, but in reality, many true hero's that will likely arise is a situation like this. Everyday people who will come together and work as a team to help each other out until other help arrives!!

I think the majority of people understand that when and if something bad happens where you live, there never will be enough, firefighters, law enforcement officers, utility workers, road crews, nurses, and the list goes on.

It's easy to stick our heads in the sand and pretend something bad wont happen, but the reality is, it could happen anytime.  Understanding the risk, just as in any risk is important in the choices we make.  Personally I prefer being part of the solution, not the problem.

Surviving a major disaster will take everyone coming together and working together to responding as a neighborhood, and community to ensure those who need help the most get it along with getting us back on our feet.

I recently completed CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Training.  The basic skills I learned from preparedness, to basic first aid, fire suppression and search and rescue techniques can really come in handy, not only when the bad thing happens but in how I look at everyday situations

Our next class is coming up in April.  Do you have what it takes to help be part of the solution and be a true hero when emergencies happen?  For More information on CERT, please see

See pictures from the last CERT class on our Flickr Page  

Monday, March 23, 2015

Daily Operational Risk Management

Operational Risk Management- Look it up on the internet and you will get the idea that ORM is a great tool that will keep you alive and prevent stupid mistakes.  And this is true to a point.   Because of that many agencies and organization make it part of their annual safety training or include a blurb in their monthly safety bulletins.

But for ORM to really be effective it has to be something that is not trotted out once a year and discusses solely in the how to prevent accidents at work.  ORM is something we should practice- and in many cases do practice- in everything we do by integrating the 4 principals of ORM in our everyday decisions.

Accept risk when the benefits outweigh the cost.   On the 28th (Something on a Stick Day) you may be tempted to dine at your favorite petroleum dispensing diner.   Under the covered dome and heat lights are many culinary delights that pay homage to the day.   But take in your surrounding and the general condition of the establishment before you make the choice.   Because the benefits of that delicious deep fried goodness can be offset by botulism.

Accept no unnecessary risk.  If this week is any indication the 24th (National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day) will be a lovely day.  And one might be tempted to celebrate both the weather and the day with a snack and a stroll through a petting zoo.   Should that happen and should you drop a chocolate covered raisin on the ground- leave it.  The risk of mistaking your raisin for a droppin is too great- there are more in the box.

Anticipate and manage risk by planning.   March 15th (the ides of March) will mark the 2059th anniversary of Julius Caesar’s last appearance before the Roman Senate.  Had he planned ahead-and maybe listened to Mrs Caesar- he would have worn his metal toga.  Or at the very least kept his back to the wall and mitigated the risk of back stabbing Brutus.

Make risk decisions at the right level.   The 20th was Extraterrestrial Abduction Day and if ever there is a decision that need to be made at the right level this would be it.  We know not go into the basement of the spooky house alone or answer the phone while babysitting by yourself.  And we should know DO NOT GET OUT OF THE CAR TO CHECK OUT THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY!!!  If you’re not sure-and still want to take a look- call someone and get a second opinion.

Some helpful ways to integrate good decision making in your day

Friday, March 6, 2015

Daylight Savings Time; Should It Stay or Should It Go?

It sounds like a song, but it is not….it’s a question (?) one we ask ourselves every fall and every spring.  On March 8th we turn our clocks forward as we "spring" into the spring season. Everyone loves to fall back, getting that extra sleep time, but do we really get that or are our bodies telling us a different story.  Springing forward takes that extra hour away, Kind-of crazy. “SHOULD IT STAY OR SHOULD IT GO?”

Currently, Washington shifts to daylight saving time from the second Sunday in March through the first Sunday in November to extend daylight in the evenings. The rest of the year Washington is on standard time in the Pacific zone. This is also a point where it reminds you to change the batteries in your fire alarms

Some lawmakers in Washington State want to end the annual shift to daylight saving time and put Washington on standard time year around. What if a bill passed and on March 8th, the entire United States moved their clocks forward and didn't change them back in the fall? My personal opinion of this would to do just that…standard time year round.  It would save time and money.  People would not have to travel to work in the dark and home in the dark, electricity bills would be smaller, using lights less and less. There have been studies that show our consumption drops when DST goes into effect. A plus to the change of time is that this would be a reminder for you to check or change the batteries in your home fire alarms.

I think these lawmakers are onto something. And it'll be interesting to watch the public reaction in the years to come.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

You've Been Warned

CRESA Emergency Management staff has the ability to launch several different types of alerts within the Clark County. Our goal is to deliver coordinated, prompt, and reliable information to the whole community to effectively share information regarding a threat or hazard.

Beings emergencies and disasters vary widely our alerting systems must be diverse in order to meet the needs of the particular situation.

Each of the warning methods have specific benefits and limitations
  • No single notification system will work in every circumstance
  • Some of the warning systems require residents to pre-register in order to fully realize all of the benefits 
  • Some warning methods require little more then owning a newer smart phone or paying attention to the loud alert signals on the radio or TV

Let's review the major types of alerts that can be launched within Clark County.  Each of these warning types can be used independently or in conjunction with each other.  Emergency management officials and key stakeholders work together to identify the best fit for the situation.

Emergency Alert System (EAS)
EAS alerts are immediate, widespread, and cover the whole county.  Beings Clark County shares the broadcast market (TV channels) with the entire Portland and SW Washington region, EAS alerts cannot be limited to a single county or city. When an EAS alert is issued the entire region will receive the message.

These alerts broadcast on:
  • Television
  • Radio
  • NOAA weather radios
More information about the Emergency Alert System can be found at

Emergency Community Notification System (ECNS)
ECNS alerts are outbound phone calls, emails, and text messages sent to a very targeted geographic area.  

These alerts are used for a wide range of local emergencies, including:

  • Missing people
  • Criminal threats
  • Chemical spills
  • Boil water notices
Land-line phone numbers in Clark County are automatically included in the system.  You must self-register cell phones, email addresses, and VoIP (voice over internet) to receive additional alerts. 
To register your additional information with various community's systems visit

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)

WEA are text type alerts that can be sent to most newer smart phones within a geographic area. Alerts are based on your current location, not your home county or address associated with your cell phone.  These messages have a unique tone and vibration.  This short message will give immediate advice.

There are 3 types of alerts:

  • Extreme weather, or other major hazard
  • AMBER Alerts
  • Presidential alerts in a national emergency
You can opt out of all except Presidential alerts, we strongly encourage you to continue to receive all alerts.

Visit for the latest information on Wireless Emergency Alerts
The PublicAlerts website provides regional news and Twitter feeds in real-time.  Information is shared by participating agencies throughout the Portland Metropolitan Area.  The site also provides links to register cell and VoIP numbers with numerous community notification systems in the region.

Examples of information shared on the site include:
  • Service disruptions
  • Weather related closures
  • Public health emergencies
  • Transit delays
  • Road conditions
Visit for the latest information

As you can see there are many different tools in our alert & warning toolbox.  Technology and communications systems change very quickly.  We strive to incorporate a diverse assortment of platforms to achieve our mission of informing the community potential hazards and threats.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Family Preparedness: Make it Count!!

I recently moved to the Vancouver, Washington area with my wife and four kids. Accomplishing this feat alone was a full scale exercise in preparedness and planning. Honey? Where are the diapers and baby wipes? On a serious note, we’ve lived in disaster-prone areas in the past and have had to create emergency kits and store supplies. Once, while stationed in the Florida Keys, I loaded a 40 gallon plastic garbage can with instant noodles, soup cans, and extra water to last a week. I added flashlights, a NOAA weather radio and emergency blankets for good measure. Hurricanes were natural disasters we prepared for in advance.   

Living on the West coast, my family and I have a new set of emergencies to prepare for.

Family preparedness can make a big difference in an emergency, whether that means knowing the location of your fire exits or agreeing on a single point of contact to touch base with when local communication channels break down. Preparing for potential natural disasters in advance can help to reassure children and strengthen family bonds. Although we all hope for the best and might think natural disasters won’t happen to us, preparing like they can is our best bet.  

We’re all busy these days. But taking one day out of each week, for an hour or two, to prepare for a natural disaster really is in your best interest. Consider the following, allowing adequate time to think through each step of the process before making changes.

      Family Communications Plan:  This can be a one page document listing your family phone numbers, that everyone should carry, most of all children. Pick a relative or close family friend living in a distant city or state. That person should agree to act as the single source for everyone to call in to and report their status as safe. Local communications can be severely impacted during a major emergency, making this a good way for families impacted by disasters to know that their loved ones are safe.

          Emergency supplies and egress: Assemble an emergency disaster kit and stock it with enough supplies to feed and protect family for a week or more.  Help might not be able to get to you or your family for days and even then, disaster assistance and emergency response teams might not have the supplies you most need. An example of a disaster kit can be found at FEMA’s website:

  And don’t forget to practice regular fire drills and to practice egress routes in your home. Children should be included in these talks and activities too. Rehearsing with kids can make the activity fun and engages their natural curiosity.

      Rehearse, train and talk it through: Once you have established escape routes and relocation routes and you and your family have a reliable communication plan in place, don’t just put in on a shelf. Take time to rehearse the plans, break out the supplies and talk about each item and walk evacuation routes. Here’s where the preparation takes on more of a training feel. I realize the kids might not want to spend the weekend playing Find the Fire Extinguisher, but a little practice goes a long way to building good preparedness habits.

      Share:  Now that you are a well-oiled family preparedness machine, take time to spread the word. The next time you’re at the neighborhood barbeque, why not share what you have learned? If a plan, check-list or cache of supplies works for you, share it with others. Not everyone has considered what to do in a major disaster.
             Expand: Stay focused on improving your new preparedness habits. Again, don’t just make your emergency disaster kit and toss it in the bottom of the closet. Break it out and review the contents occasionally. Practice that fire escape route every other Wednesday night with your spouse and kids. Repetition builds routine and routine becomes habit. If you can locate your nearest safe haven or preassigned gathering point in an earthquake, flood or fire, as a family you increase your chances of survival that much more.

      Preparedness is a personal choice. As a family, it’s worth your time to make a communications plan, build an emergency kit, practice escape and know who to call in the event of an emergency. Taking time to do the work now will inspire confidence in your family and build momentum towards a better prepared household. Start today.  

Friday, February 27, 2015

Are You Cyber-Prepared?

Nearly every day, there is another news story about a business that fell victim to a cyber-attack.  Recently, security experts revealed that cyber criminals stole up to one billion dollars in a single organized attack on 50 banks. In 2014, the total number of information security incidents increased by 48% from 2013 and the FBI predicts that the number of attacks will grow exponentially in coming years.  They now consider cyber threats to be among their top priorities.

Most cyber attacks take advantage of computer users doing mundane, day-to-day tasks such as reading emails, clicking links, and downloading files.  So, at home and in the work place, we each need to be vigilant and we need to see ourselves as the first line of defense against these attacks.

Take steps now to prevent cyber attacks and be prepared to deal with the consequences.  Here are some basic tips.

1.   Update.  Update your passwords.  Update your security settings.  Update your software.  This might be another thing to add to your to-do list when we change our clocks in the spring and fall.

2.   Backup.  Make electronic backups of, at least, your most critical information.  Make hard copy backups of essential documents and other media.

3.   Practice safe surfing.  For example:

·     Only connect to the Internet over secure, password-protected networks.
  • Do not click on links or pop-ups, open attachments, or respond to emails from strangers.
  • Do not respond to online requests for personal information.  Most organizations – banks, universities, companies, etc. – do not ask for your personal information over the Internet.
  • Password protect all devices that connect to the Internet and user accounts.
Those are the very basics.  There may be other steps you need to take depending on the type of computer user you are.  For example, do you use social media a lot?  Do you use mobile devices?  Do you do a lot of shopping or banking on the Internet?  You should research additional steps based on the specific ways that you use computers.  

Here are some additional resources:

Friday, January 16, 2015

Pretend Your Power Goes Out...

Pretending that our power has gone out is not a stretch; recently this has happened twice for wind storms.  When normal frames of reference are gone and it's nighttime, it’s hard to move around without light.  That lamp that always stays on is out, the porch light and your neighbors lights are out.  That lack of sound from your refrigerator adds to the eerie feeling now to be replaced with scary howling wind.  The TV isn’t there to provide comfort, let alone if you’re watching the World Series, Seahawks or American Idol.  Eating cold Beany Weenies out of a can is not our idea of good dinner, but that’s for another blog post.   If you are on a well that is reliant on electricity or have medically fragile family members you are more vulnerable than others.  Power outage is simply very dark and unsettling.

What did you swear that you were going to do to prepare for the next event and haven’t gotten around to doing?  What’s stopping you?  Perhaps a little encouragement (wink, wink), a reminder of what it’s like to be dark and cold or perhaps its ideas on how to break it down.  Perhaps a reminder that your children, spouse, senior parent and pets depend on you to be prepared.  Like the song says “We Can Help” with encouragement and suggestions, but the truth is that no one is going to make it happen for you but you. 
Imagine how that uneasiness would settle down if you have a plan and you and your family members know where your immediate supplies are for power outages.  Or, if you need motivation, imagine the opposite.  Lets get started. 

Immediate Emergency Lighting. 
Flashlights should be available to grab when the power goes out, kept close by and always in the same place.  At home this might be plug in emergency flashlights/nightlights that illuminate when the power goes out.  You can pick up the previously plugged in, charged (and lightweight) flashlight to maneuver the dark hallways.  This should be enough to take you to your power outage supplies.  (You have these, right?)

Headlamps are favorite choices for hands free and inexpensive emergency lighting.  The one caveat is that they are battery dependent.  Keep the batteries fresh and have spares.  Secure your headlamp to your bed (think about earthquake shaking) and other important places just inside your home entry (might be the front door, could be the door from/to the garage).  Most of these types have built-in tilting heads – keep it tilted down out of others eyesight.    

STOP HERE – If you accept the challenge to improve your preparedness the first part of is up to you.  Start coming up with your own plan and evaluate where you stand on these issues.   We will continue this blog post the on February 6.  You have three weeks – GO!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Good News on this AMBER Alert Awareness Day

January 13th is AMBER Alert Awareness Day.  Facebook and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children announced an exciting new partnership that will take AMBER Alerts to the next level.  

As of Tuesday morning,  The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children will be able to issue Amber alerts via the giant social media site. If a child goes missing in your area, Facebook will put a notice on your News Feed with all relevant information, including a photo of the missing child and location of the possible abduction. It will look like this:
Under a new program, the social-networking service will send out Amber Alerts, which police and other authorities send out in an area where they may be searching for a minor. Alerts will now be active by default, rather than requiring users to sign up for notifications, according to Emily Vacher, Facebook’s trust and safety manager.
“People are interested in this already,” Vacher said in an interview. “We're just really amplifying what people are doing in hopes the right information gets to the right person at the right time so that a child can be reunited safely with their family.”
Under the new system, a bulletin be will be issued by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and then pushed through the Facebook system after local or state police determine the case qualifies for an Amber Alert. The alerts will include photographs and other details about the missing child -- and will be shown on mobile devices and desktop computers.
The alerts will appear in the News Feed, the main hub for information for Facebook users. Law enforcement will decide on the range of the target area for the bulletins, Facebook said.

Sources:  Huffington Post  and Bloomberg News

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency to be Testing Emergency Notification System


9-1-1 Dispatch Center
Regional Communications System - Emergency Management - Emergency Medical Services
Battle Ground, Camas, Clark County, La Center, Ridgefield, Vancouver, Washougal, and Yacolt


Emergency Management to be testing Emergency Notification System

Residents in the Lewis River Drainage and areas of Woodland WA will receive a test call from CRESA Emergency Management as part of the Southwest Washington Region IV Emergency Notification System on November 20th between 10:00 AM and 2:00 P.M.  The test will call all landlines, registered cellular and VoIP (Voice over Internet Phones) from Merwin Dam to Woodland.  

CRESA Emergency Management in partnership with Skamania, Wahkiakum and Cowlitz Counties have been working with Hyper-Reach, the emergency notification system provider, to ensure residents are provided warning and could be notified in the case of an emergency.

The Regional Emergency Notification System allows Emergency Management to send a targeted message to a geographic location in times of emergency.  These alerts can be used for anything from Missing Persons, Criminal Threats, and Evacuation notices.  Traditional land-line phone numbers are automatically included in the system.  Mobile numbers, e-mail addresses and VoIP need to be registered to be part of the system.  

There is a misconception about what is a “Traditional Land-line.”  Just because you have a phone that plugs into the wall does not mean you still have a traditional land-line.  If you have bundled your phone with your cable television and Internet, you no longer have a traditional landline.  To be sure you are in the system, residents are encouraged to visit to register their cellular or VoIP phones to receive these notifications.  Notifications may also be received via text message, email, and or TDD depending on preferences selected during registration.  

By preforming these test drills, the system can be evaluated to ensure the data is correct, identifies any problems which allows them to be corrected prior to an actual emergency.

Residents with questions or requiring additional information should contact  Eric Frank at 360-992-6289 or 360-601-8962

Contact:  Eric Frank
CRESA Public Information Officer
360-992-6289 Desk
360-601-8962 Cell

Monday, November 17, 2014

I'm Able to Bundle Up... Not Everyone Is As Fortunate....

For many of us, a dip in temperatures is an inconvenience and something we take for granted.  For most of us, when temperatures drop, we may throw on an extra layer, turn up the thermostat, or stoke the fireplace, but for many in our community, even a modest drop in temperature can lead something more severe and potentially death.

Over the weekend with the bitter cold here in the Vancouver area, (something we do not see regularly), I found myself thinking a bit more about those who are less fortunate and do not have the simple luxuries of turning up the heat, or an extra jacket, hat and gloves, or even that roof over their head to turn up the heat in.   As an emergency manager I was aware of some of the shelter programs within the city and county, but were these enough to handle the need during a cold snap like what we are currently in the middle of?

I went to to find more on locations throughout the region.  As I got to Clark County, I found one phone number, 360-695-9677  that directed me to a live person to help match up my need if I did need help.  The Council for the Homeless is behind the number, which helps organize and find temporary housing for those in need.  The Winter Hospitality Overflow or WHO operates from November 1st - March 31st of each year.  It is a team effort between the Council and several partners within the faith community and volunteers from throughout the community that come together to help provide additional shelter space during the coldest months when the need increases.

Need Assistance?

WHO beds are available on a first-call, first-serve basis through the Council for the Homeless Housing Hotline. To access these beds, call the Housing Hotline at 360-695-9677. Families, couples and single females can call anytime from 9 am – 5 pm Monday, Wednesday and Fridays and 9 am – 7 pm on Tuesday and Thursdays, Saturday and Sunday 9am – 12 pm; single males can call Monday, Wednesday and Friday starting at 11am – 5 pm and Tuesday and Thursday 11 am – 7 pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am – 12 pm.

Quick Facts

  • St. Andrew has a bed capacity of 42 for single women, couples and families, plus 8 additional emergency family spots, for a total of 50 beds.
  • St. Paul has a bed capacity of 24 for single men.
  • Each WHO shelter is staffed with professional Share case managers who help guests work toward self-sufficiency.
  • More than 50 faith congregations and community organizations have donated time and talent to ensure each WHO site is open for five full months!

The Council for the Homeless can also be found on Facebook.  They have been involved in many area bazaars recently and have been selling their Good Deeds with Beads.  They will also be in the lobby of the Kiggins Theater Wednesday,  November 19th during Hello Vancouver selling their bracelets.

Please join me in supporting this non-profit providing emergency shelter to those in need.Demand for services far exceeds available funding.  If you are able to help support through donations or would like to learn more about how to volunteer, please contact Kevin Hiebert.