Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cell Phones and 9-1-1, Do They Tell Us Where You Are??

There are a couple of common misunderstandings about how much information cell phones provide 9-1-1 when they are used: 

When you call 9-1-1 from a cell phone, there is no guarantee that your call will go to the intended 9-1-1 call center, especially along the Columbia River corridor. 

Cell phone calls are sent through a cell phone tower – usually one that is in close proximity to your location.  The 9-1-1 center your call is routed to is based on the location of that cell phone tower.

If that cell phone tower is busy, your call may be routed through other cell towers.  In Clark County if you call from near or around the Columbia River, you call may be routed to Multnomah or Columbia counties. 

A 9-1-1 call taker will generally always ask you for your location to confirm where you are so that we know how to get you the best and quickest help.  Since many addresses involve streets that can also exist in nearby counties, ALWAYS give your city in addition to your street address.

Even if your cell phone has geo-location services enabled, 9-1-1 dispatchers do not always receive exact address information from cell phone callers.

Location information received by a 9-1-1 center from a cell phone can range in accuracy so do not assume the call taker can find you through your cell phone’s GPS.  Generally, the 9-1-1 calls are routed correctly, however cell phone calls are transferred to other 9-1-1 centers every day.

Two basic reminders….
  • Know your location when you call 9-1-1
  • If you call from a cell phone, give your street address AND your city.
CRESA also has “Know Your Location” posters that can be requested by agencies who wish to more prominently display location-based information for callers to 9-1-1.

These signs have already been placed throughout the Westfield Shopping Town to provide callers with specific information about the locations of particular stores. 

All school districts have received these posters and we encourage businesses, assisted living facilities and other larger residential locations to post their address visibly so that it can be seen by people who may need to call 9-1-1 in case of emergency.   

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ride to Recovery, Bikes During Disasters

With May being National Bike Month it’s a good time to reflect on how everyday tools can help us in times of disasters.  Bikes can be wonderful assets during large scale disasters.  

  • Since bikes only rely on “human powered” fuel you won’t have to worry about the gas shortage and long lines at the pumps.  
  • After a large earthquake it is likely that roads will be extremely damaged and simply driving your car to the grocery store will no longer be an option.  Having a durable bike will allow you to navigate the obstacle course that was once your neighborhood.  
    Roads could be severely damaged.
  • After a large disaster aid from outside the region will eventually be able to trickle in, but distributing the aid to every household will be very challenging.  Using bike to pick up and even help distribute supplies will be a great help in rebuilding our community.

Bikes are only useful if they are working.  How many times have you been excited to dust your bike off and go for a ride only to find flat tires and discovering your tire pump is broken?  You should know how to complete general maintenance on your bike and have some spare parts and tools on hand.  You can often find bike maintenance classes offered in the area.  
Want to kick your disaster biking up a notch?  Join the quickly growing world of cargo bike enthusiasts.  I purchased my first cargo bike last summer and love to find excuses to use its “cargo” capabilities.  A trip to the grocery store is now an adventure for the whole family.  Cargo bikes have already proven to be highly effective in real world disasters.
Cargo bike aiding in Nepal relief effort.

The Disaster Relief Trials organizes several events aimed at testing how well cargo bikes and riders would perform during a disaster.  This competition demonstrates how we can use everyday tools to improve the response and recovery efforts.  As you are out biking around this summer think about how you could get supplies from Point A to Point B without the use of a car. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Health and Wellness in Emergencies

Help yourself so that you can be of more help to others, especially in emergencies. We hear often the example about being on a plane, during an emergency, and putting on an oxygen mask. Airline officials tell us we should place the child’s oxygen mask on first, then our own. And this makes sense. From the perspective of self-preservation, we need to help ourselves before we help others. We are more effective with the level of care we provide.

And again, we've heard it all before. We know we need to practice self-care and look out for our own well being. In the event of a disaster, our health becomes a major priority. Let’s consider it this way. Generally speaking, the human species is now more comfortable and sedentary than ever before. We have most of our major comforts at our finger tips, push button technology and 24/7 convenience. So, why should I bother to stay fit or eat right? 

Our internal biology influences our external performance. How we treat our physical self, how much fresh air we get, whether or not we use our bodies actively contributes to our performance. Even our thought patterns determine how we feel and influence the experiences we create for ourselves. (To get a sense of this, check out James Allen's seminal classic As a Man Thinketh). Confronting coworkers for things said or done you don’t agree with, dwelling on   stressful situations, or dreading that looming deadline all contribute to our overall performance. As a different option, look for what’s good and exciting each day instead.

How can eating healthier, getting a full night of sleep and exercising get us to help others? First of all, you are what you eat. Your food is your energy, energy your output, and your output is your performance.  So keep eating whole foods throughout the stressful events of an emergency or incident, stay hydrated, and get a suitable break from whatever stressful incident is unfolding. Whenever possible, get out of the incident command post and take a short walk. Get exercise on a daily basis no matter what your environmental conditions. 

We’re also better able to manage our emotions when we sleep a solid 8 hours and get outside to move. Making a half hour in your morning routine can help a lot. Let’s face it: pressure rises and tempers can run short in an emergency event. Create a morning routine that focuses on calming or energizing activity, setting up your to-do list and prioritizing what you want to accomplish for the day will get your further. 

Talking about health and fitness is one thing; taking positive steps is another. Finally, make it a habit. Work living vitally into your daily life. You’ll be healthier and happier that you did.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Learning from Disasters - 2014 South Napa Earthquake

A great way to build disaster resilience is to analyze actual disasters that have occurred recently in communities that are similar to ours and to apply the lessons learned. The magnitude-6.0 South Napa Earthquake which occurred on August 24, 2014 provides an excellent opportunity for this.  In February, FEMA published an excellent analysis of this event and its impact on buildings. Though it's very detailed and technical there are a number of helpful insights that a anyone can take from it.  Here are a few highlights:

1. Most residential buildings withstood the earthquake well.    However, two structural components were vulnerable: cripple walls and masonry chimneys.  And though it wasn't an issue in this moderate earthquake, don't forget that it's also essential that your house is secured to its foundation.

Collapsed chimney - 2014 South Napa Earthquake
2. Damage to fire sprinkler systems was common and there were situations where substantial water damage resulted.  In your workplace, make sure that enough people know when and how to safely shut off the fire sprinkler system.

3. Sadly, in this moderate earthquake there was one death.  The victim was struck in the head by a TV.  This confirms what we observe in most earthquakes in the U.S.  Injuries and fatalities will occur not from building collapse but from non-structural items and contents such as furniture, appliances, and similar things falling on people.

Overturned unanchored bookshelf - 2014 South Napa Earthquake

The report has many other interesting observations and recommendations.  Here's the link to the full report:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

See Behind the Doors... Cascades Volcano Observatory Open House May 2nd

This May marks the 35th Anniversary of the eruption of Mount St Helens.  In commemorations, the Cascades Volcano Observatory which just happens to be in our back yard here in Vancouver, will be hosting an Open House May 2, 2015 from 10:00am - 5:00p. The Observatory is located at in the Columbia Tech Center on the corner of 164th Ave and 15th SThe Open House will feature opportunities to talk with volcanologists about their research, monitoring equipment demonstrations, and hands-on science activities.

"The 1980's unrest and eruption of Mount St Helens were defining moments for volcano science and crisis response.  So much of how we respond to eruptions around the world today evovled from our experiences here" stated John Ewert, Scientist-in-Charge at Cascades Volcano Observatory.  While touring the facility during the Open House, you will witness exhibits that show the progress made in monitoring Cascades volcanoes, volcano science, hazard assessment, monitoring technology, eruption forecasting and future plans.  

The recent eruption of Chile's Calbuco Volcano has once again brought attention to these sleeping giants in our back yards that we live among.  This Open House is  a great opportunity to see behind the scenes and take a closer look at the science involved in monitoring and understanding when the next eruption may happen in keeping us safe. 

For more information about the Cascades Volcano Observatory, please visit their website at:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Community Volunteers- Who are they

On April 21st, CRESA hosts the Clark County Citizen Corps Appreciation Event.  This is really one of the high points of our year as we thank and acknowledge our volunteers for the support they give each year to their community.  As a follower of CRESA you may be among the nearly 63 million people who volunteered last year (according to the US Bureaus of Labor Statistics).  But if you’re not then you may want to know a bit more about those do volunteer.

For the year September 2013 to September 2014 the US had a volunteer rate of about 25%.  Of those approximately 43% were male and 47% female.  Teens were more active (26%) than twenty something’s (19%) and those of us in the middle had the highest rate of volunteerism at 30%.

Married couples volunteer more (30%) than those who have never married (20%) and those with other marital statuses (21%).   The volunteer rate of parents with children under age 18 (32%) remained higher than the rate for persons without children under age 18 (23%).  Thank you to all our little league and soccer coaches.

Religious organizations lead by type (33.3%) followed by Education & youth services (25.1%), social & community service (14.4%), Health Care (7.4%), Civic (5.2%), sport & hobby (3.9%),  Environmental & animal at (2.6%) and Public Safety at (1.1%).  The remaining volunteers are not determined by type or are in other categories.

These folks give an average of 50 hours a year and participate in at least 2 organizations and 92% have full or part time employment.

These numbers give an overview of who, when, what and how we volunteer.  But if you want to get a sense of who the folks really are- and maybe find an organization where you fit in- then check out our website or leave us a note and maybe we can help

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Accidental Calls... Don't Hang Up!!

Ever get a call from a loved one or good friend, and when you answer there is no one on the other end?  You can hear them giggling or chatting away... but its not to you!  I've heard friends singing at full volume... out of tune... to the radio unaware that I can hear them also.  You too then have been a victim of a "Pocket Dial."

This recent phenomena, which may cause a little embarrassment to the caller and a little frustration or entertainment to the call receiver, has also become a problem when that number dialed is 9-1-1.I am sure like me, you have seen people store cell phones on their bodies everywhere.  Anywhere from pockets, and socks to even bras.  Yes people have become resourceful in how they keep this modern day life line with them at all times.  

Or how many of you have given your old phone to your child to play with?  Did you know, that as long as that old phone has a battery charge, it can still call 9-1-1?  If you do decide to let your child have your old phone, take out the battery.

These accidental calls now make up about Twenty Percent of all calls to CRESA 911.  That may not seem like a lot, but when you factor in that by state law CRESA 911 needs to call you back, to verify there actually is not an emergency it starts to really add up!!

What Can You do to be Part of the Solution?

  • Use your cellphone's key lock to help prevent accidental calls
  • Protect your cellphone by locking and storing it carefully
  • Don't allow children to play with your phones
  • Programming 9-1-1 into your causes accidental calls.  Instead, teach children how to dial 9-1-1.

What Can You do if You Accidentally call 9-1-1?

Stay on the line, and tell dispatchers that it was an accident. Be prepared to answer any questions they may have.  Staying on the line helps ensure that you are OK.  It also helps save time by not having to call you back or the sending of a law enforcement officer to verify you are alright.  

Recording: Cathy Field - Mason County, Roxanne Castleman - Pierce County 
 Radio Station: KGHP - 89.9 FM Gig Harbor, Washington 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Thank You from Our Director

Here At CRESA we are Very proud of the awesome staff that makes up all of CRESA's three divisions.  This week has allowed us to highlight our largest department, 9-1-1 Operations.  Below are a few words from CRESA Director Anna Pendergrass in regards to this awesome team....   We've also created a video highlighting there awesomeness!! 


Please join me in paying tribute to our 9-1-1 Dispatchers as we celebrate National Telecommunicators Week this week.

Our dispatchers are the true “First, first responders” and the “Voice of 9-1-1”. They are the first and strongest link in the chain of survival and because of this, many lives are saved. They quietly go about their duties, often-times under trying and stressful conditions, while remaining calm and in control. They work together as a well-oiled team, coordinating resources and responses, ensuring that assistance is rendered quickly and accurately.

They are the ones who give the highest priority to making sure that their “officers” on the street make it home safely each night, whether it be law enforcement, fire or EMS. As the dispatching profession has grown with the advancement of technology and the job has become more and more difficult, our dedicated professionals have risen to the challenge. As the economy has taken a down-turn and extraneous duties have been transferred to our dispatchers, they have done their best to accommodate those extra tasks and handle them with professionalism and attention to duty.

I am very PROUD of the men and women who sit behind the mic 24/7/365 and “Answer The Call”!  These individuals truly represent our CRESA Values:

·         Dedication is a commitment to our task and purpose. We are dedicated to the organization, each other, our families, and the community we serve.
·         Integrity is the cornerstone of our profession. We value ethical conduct and public trust. We are people of character and principle that are committed to upholding our position of trust.
·         Creativity is thinking broadly and strategically. We are inventive and innovative yet practical when creating solutions to difficult challenges.
·         Passion is driven by a desire for excellence. We care deeply about the people that need our help. We inspire the best of our colleagues and ourselves.
·         Communication is required to effectively serve. We are part of a community. We consider all to be valued partners in our drive to fulfill our mission.
·         Concern is a desire to support others. We know others may depend on us during times of high stress and naturally give them our support.

Please take a moment to reflect on the great job they do and if you get the opportunity please tell them “THANK YOU”! 

Anna Pendergrass, Director of 911 & Emergency Mgt

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What Is That Giant Bright Ball In The Sky?

With local temperatures reaching almost 80 degrees by the end of the week soggy residents of the Pacific  Northwest will gravitate towards the warm glow of the long awaited spring sun.  Even though the weather this winter has been unseasonably mild the first 80 degree day is something to celebrate.

As a lifelong Pacific Northwestern-er I have endured many "web foot" jokes and inquires on how I could enjoy living in such a grey and dreary place.  It is no accident that the TV show Grim chose Portland as it's backdrop, /grim/ adjective: forbidding or uninviting.  If you were to visit this region on a random day in late November you may wonder what all of the hype is about.  You would most likely be met by a constant drizzle, aka light rain and cool temperatures.  If you are planning to visit the area within the next week you will understand why we welcome the spring sun so enthusiastically.

I don't want to rain on your parade, but as an Emergency Manager it is my responsibility to say "Have fun in the sun, but..."  As you rush out the door take precautions to protect yourselves from some of the hazards often associated with warm spring weather.  I'm not telling you not to go enjoy the sun, but just take a monument to ensure you do it safely.

Keep the Cars Cool

Every year we warn about not leaving children and/or pets in cars without proper ventilation.  With temperatures at 83 degrees, even the windows rolled down 2 inches, the temperature inside the car can reach 109 degrees in only 15 minutes.  Your car literally becomes an oven where serious injury and death can occur within minutes.  Please plan your day in advance to avoid leaving pets and children in hot cars.

Warning, The Water You Are About to Enjoy Is Cold

Every spring there are news stories about accidents on the water.  Though there are numerous causes of these accidents most could have been preventable.  This weekend swimmers and boaters will flock to the watering holes throughout the region.  Some general reminders about water safety include, but are not limited to:

  • Always wear a personal flotation device
  • Test water temperature before taking the "leap of faith"
  • Closely monitor children, form a "buddy system"
  • Drink alcoholic beverages responsibly
  • Beware of rocks just below the water's surface
  • Apply ample sunscreen often
I hope everyone has an amazing weekend.  Despite my warnings of some key isolated situations spring is a glorious time of year in the region.   I am hoping that we don't end the weekend with news stories about sad accidents in the sun.   Take the time to plan ahead to help ensure everyone has a great time in the sun, and save a spot for me!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Here You Are To Help Save The Day!!

If you were like me growing up, at one point in time, when asked what you wanted to be growing up, you probably answered a "Super Hero."  I think most young boys and girls at some time in their young lives have tied a towel around their necks, and with arms outstretched have run around as if we could take flight and single-handedly capture the bad guys and save the day.

Even in the world of comics, there are Super Hero Crime Fighting Teams working together to catch the bad guy.  From Justice League, Avengers, Watchmen, and even the PowerPuff Girls, teams have worked together to save the day.

Our Crime-Fighting Team Begins With You 

Truth be told, even in the real world, it takes a team working together to fight crime and making sure our little corner on this planet is safe.  Most may think that team begins with dispatchers or first responders, but actually that crime fighting team begins with you... when you call 9-1-1!

You become our eyes and ears, to what is happening, and ensuring 9-1-1 Dispatch sends the right people to assist.   As part of this crime fighting team, we need you to use your special skills and keep calm, to be able to answer the questions asked.  Dispatch Staff may seem stern and rude at times, but in fact they are there to guide you through the information they truly need.  In a crisis situation, as humans, we have a tendency to start to ramble.  The Dispatcher is there to keep you to the facts, to get the right help to you as soon as possible.  Please understand they are trained "Super-Hero's"  doing their part, just as you, to support that crime-fighting team.

We've included a couple fun links for you to think about your inner Crime-Fighter.  Take the Super Hero Quiz we found to see what kind of Super-Hero you would be.  If  you are like me and have thought about creating your own Super-Hero... We found this site for you.  Click Here.  Lastly,we have also included some fun reading about Super Hero Crime-Fighting Teams.

Bonus points: if you read this to the end and took the quiz... Be sure to share with us via Facebook or Twitter what Super Hero you are!!