The art of being prepared | Editorial

San Juan County residents are passionate about disaster preparedness.

With just a little bit of foresight, we are much more likely to survive an extended period of isolation from the mainland.

The recent snow storm, while relatively brief, reminded many islanders of their preparedness, or lack thereof. Just before the storm hit, people flocked to the stores, filling jugs with water and buying food in large quantities.

Though the islands are safe from regular weather-related disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes, they are more susceptible to earthquakes and tsunamis. Many in our area are aware of the “big one,” a highly anticipated earthquake expected to surpass a 9.0 on the Richter Scale. A quake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone has the potential to affect everyone along the West Coast, from Orcas down to San Francisco.

A power outage caused by an earthquake could potentially last for several weeks. It is imperative for residents to have food, water and other necessities (including for pets) stockpiled to last for at least two weeks. It’s also important to have a 30-day supply of essential medications, a way to cook, a way to stay warm in an extended power outage and a disaster plan with neighbors.

San Juan Island Fire and Rescue has five stations across the island with station 31 in Friday Harbor being its headquarters. There’s also a station on Brown Island and a satellite station on Pearl Island. In the event of an emergency, the neighborhood fire station is intended to become station command.

The DEM has helpful materials online at and are very willing to send staff to talk to neighborhoods, businesses, churches, or any group of islanders looking for some direction and help with preparing.

Next month, the DEM and Economic Development Council are teaming up to present a training on disaster preparedness for small businesses. This concise class will provide basic information about the risks to the islands and will offer some simple tools and approaches to help businesses prepare. They will be held on Tuesday, March 26, 8:30-10:30 a.m., Heritage Bank, 535 Market St., Friday Harbor and 1:30-3:30 p.m. To participate, register online at

We applaud islanders for their interest in planning for the worst, and their willingness to look out for both themselves and others.

DEM Director Brendan Cowan once said, “If you’re not able to take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of your community.”