Q&A: Chuck Wallace, Grays Harbor Emergency Management

Chuck Wallace, the deputy director of Grays Harbor Emergency Management, is a retired firefighter and Philadelphia native. He took the postion at Emergency Management in 2009. He’s currently gearing up for the Great Shakeout Thursday, a large-scale disaster drill starting at 10:17 a.m. For more information about that, visit shakeout.org/washington, or call Emergency Management at (360) 249-3911 ext. 1575.

What advice would you give people to prepare for the fall and winter storm season?

The weather in the Pacific Northwest is volatile during the storm seasons. The last two weekends of last month produced a tremendous amount of rain helping to break all-time rainfall records in numerous areas for the month of September. A few weeks ago, we just skirted being impacted by hurricane force wind gusts. The last day of September even produced a tornado in Western Washington and many Western Washington rivers were close, if not surpassing flood stage.

The greatest piece of advice Grays Harbor County Emergency Management can provide everyone is to learn as much as possible about the different types of storms and natural disasters which could impact you, your family and pets at home, school and your workplace. Obtain information on how to prepare a Family Emergency Plan which includes what all members of the family will do in the event of a severe weather or natural disaster event. It includes how you will communicate if you are separated, where you will meet, phone numbers and addresses of relatives, doctors, insurance companies, and banks. It also helps you understand how to prepare “GO KITS” for each member of the family including your pets for home, work, car and school. Purchase an All Hazards Alert Weather Radio

Are there common misconceptions you encounter when you’re talking to people about preparing for emergencies?

As many times as specific details, news and information are provided to the public through social media, newspapers, television and community forums, rumor, innuendo and misconceptions still exist in the county. Grays Harbor County Emergency Management hopes that through constant education and clear, concise and timely messages, we can quell the rumor and misinformation that circulates at the same time. The best advice we can give is to contact your local law enforcement, fire agencies or tribal emergency manager about your questions and concerns. Everyone is always welcome to contact Grays Harbor County Emergency Management and we will do our best to provide you with the current correct information or put you in touch with your local contact.

What’s your family’s disaster plan?

My family is splintered around the state of Washington. We all carry extra water, blankets, flashlights, a shovel and a first aid kit in our cars. All have “GO KITS” and we know who to contact in the event of an emergency and we cannot contact each other. All have an All Hazards Alert Weather Radio in our homes and understand that texting via cell phone might work in a disaster even if we cannot make a phone call.

What’s the best way to get information during a natural disaster?

The fastest way to receive warning and other pertinent information during a disaster is with an All Hazard Alert Weather Radio. Next is with a battery operated AM/FM portable radio and then via a text message on their cell phones.

How do people find their nearest tsunami evacuation area?

The Grays Harbor County Emergency Management website indicates the designated tsunami assembly areas provided by the local jurisdictions of the county. Every jurisdiction can also provide you with their specific information. However, in the event you feel the ground shake and realize you are involved in an earthquake, please adhere to the following advice:

• Drop, Cover and Hold on (always protect your head)

• AFTER the shaking stops, think if you are in an inundation area. If you determine you are or if you aren’t sure, IMMEDIATELY move toward higher ground. If the highest place is a hill, go as far up as possible. If you have no hills, make attempts to enter the tallest, most stable looking house or building you are near and move to the highest place you can (yes, the roof may be your best place for safe haven). Remember, if you have felt an earthquake, there is a great chance you will feel aftershocks. Also, if you are in an inundation area, tsunami waves could impact the area. A tsunami event lasts 24 hours. If you believe it is safe to move and roam the streets you will subject yourself and your family to great peril. Remain where you are until you are told via All Hazards Alert Weather Radio, AM/FM Radio or from a local official that it is safe to leave where you are.

Any common do’s and don’ts if a bad storm hits or we’re faced with a disaster?

DO — Prepare a Family Disaster Plan including “GO KITS” for each member of the family including your pets.

DO — Purchase an All Hazard Alert Weather Radio

DO — Sign up for the Grays Harbor County Notification System at: http://www.co.grays-harbor.wa.us/info/DEM/EMailTWS.asp

DO — Become involved in a volunteer community group to assist others in their time of need.

DO — Sign up to take CPR, First Aid and CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) classes

DO — Learn the warning signs of Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning if you use a fireplace, portable generator or space heaters during disasters. CO is colorless, odorless and can be fatal.

DO — Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

DO — Adhere to the advice of local officials. They have your safety in mind.

DO — Follow local radio stations for the most up to date Grays Harbor County pertinent information. Television WILL NOT provide you with the necessary information you will need to know about your locale and our county.

DO NOT — Call 911 for anything except a true emergency. They will be inundated with phone calls, most of which will not be emergency related.

DO NOT — Drive during severe storms or natural disaster events. You will jeopardize yourself and others.

DO NOT — Venture near downed wires or tree limbs due to the possibility of electrocution.

DO NOT — Use portable generators or barbecue grills indoors or near open windows or doors due to Carbon Monoxide poisoning hazards.

DO NOT — Hesitate to contact Grays Harbor County Emergency Management to answer any questions or to schedule a meeting or speaking engagement, (360) 249-3911 ext. 1575.