Emergency preparedness was the theme of the de facto two-part Oct. 20 meeting of the Pierce County Council. A regular council meeting was held in the early afternoon, followed by an evening council meeting, the latter owing to the county charter requirement that each district – in this case, District No. 2, encompassing Puyallup, Sumner, Fife, Milton, Pacific, Edgewood, northeast Tacoma, southeast Auburn, Browns Point and Dash Point – host such a meeting annually.
Due to limitations on large in-person gatherings related to the COVID-19 pandemic, both meetings were held virtually, with council Chair Doug Richardson essentially running the meetings from council chambers in Tacoma.
The afternoon meeting saw the council unanimously pass Proposal No. R2020-108, a proclamation dedicated to and recognizing first responders in dealing with a series of early September brush fires along State Route 167, a fast-moving fire in Graham and the Sumner Grade fire that threatened Bonney Lake and Sumner. Extremely dry weather conditions and high winds resulted in 19 residential and eight commercial fires, as well as 72 brush fires that endangered residents and communities over a three-day period.
“I just want to honor our firefighters for the work that they do,” Councilmember Connie Ladenburg said. “It’s amazing, you know. I’ve had friends of mine that are firefighters. They always say we run into a fire when everyone is running out of a fire. And literally they do put their lives on the line. So our appreciation goes out to them.”
That appreciation, as well as information on county emergency preparedness, continued at the evening meeting, which included a panel of experts: Jody Ferguson, Pierce County Emergency Management director; Bud Backer, East Pierce Fire and Rescue chief; and Jeff Engel, Sumner deputy police chief.
“We in Emergency Management don’t have a warehouse full of extra firefighters, extra police officers, extra police staff that are waiting to go to work,” Ferguson said. “So we have limited resources, especially now during COVID. It really reinforces that preparedness is a partnership between government and the people we serve.”
People are potentially susceptible to a variety of disasters, she pointed out, including volcanic eruptions at Mount Rainier, landslides, earthquakes, severe weather, flooding, wildfires and even cyber-attacks that could wreak havoc on a population dependent upon mobile computer technology.
Backer agreed, speaking of fires.
“Anywhere you have people, we will have fires,” he said, noting that the vast majority of fires are caused by accidents or negligence.
He offered some general tips to residents on making homes less prone to fires, including keeping up on general maintenance – including landscaping – and not stacking firewood directly against an abode.
Backer stressed the importance of residents knowing their neighborhoods in case an evacuation order means a quick exit to or from their homes by an unfamiliar route, adding people would be surprised how many folks know of only way to get to their homes.
Engel stressed the importance of amateur radio operations, which are often used as a means of emergency communication when wireline, cell phones and other conventional means of communications fail. He said he hoped to see more young people take an interest in a form of communication that can be used to coordinate disaster relief activities when other systems fail.
For more information, check out the Pierce County Emergency Management website,
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