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​Wednesday's Weekly What If

Every Wednesday we will release a new scenario that you may face and instructions on what to do. Each scenario is used to make you think about preparedness and how to take care of yourself and others. These scenarios will help you get ready for any situation.

May 18, 2022

WHAT IF you needed to shut off your utilities in an emergency?

After a disaster it is likely that a utility pipe could break and start leaking. This could lead to flooding or fires. It is extremely important for you to know how to shut off each of your utilities, the tools required, and where your shut off is located.

Water: Most homes have a shut-off valve inside, typically in a basement or garage. If you don't have one, it's recommended to install. But in an emergency, and in case your underground water pipe breaks, you should know how to turn off your water at the water meter safely.how_to_shut_off_water_main1.jpg

Locate your water meter and shut off valve:
Water meters are usually located in a small meter box in the ground near the street or edge of the property. The water meter and shut-off valve are both located inside the meter box.
To shut off your water at the meter:
  1. Grab your tools. An adjustable wrench and screwdriver work well. You can also purchase a meter valve key from local hardware stores.
  2. Carefully lift the meter box lid.
  3. Locate the meter shut off valve (you may need to dig around dirt - used for insulation).
  4. Carefully turn the valve CLOCKWISE 90 degrees.
Natural gas leaks and explosions are responsible for a significant number of fires following any major earthquake. Here are some steps to shut off the natural gas: Screenshot 2022-05-12 135625.jpg
  1. Locate the shut-off valve (make sure this valve will turn. To shut off the gas, turn the valve 90 degrees or 1/4 turn, so that it crosses the pipe). 
  2. If your valve is rusted open, do NOT put WD-40™ lubricant on it. It may corrode the O-rings that allow the valve to turn. 
  3. Attach a wrench to the meter or to the wall directly behind the meter. 
  4. Choose a crescent wrench that is at least 12-inches long. 
  5. Adjust it to fit your valve before hanging it behind the meter in case it rusts. Turn gas off after an earthquake 
Shut off the gas immediately only if you: 
  • Smell the odor of gas (rotten eggs). 
  • Hear a hissing sound. 
  • The meter dials spin more rapidly than normal. 
Do not use matches, lighters, open flame appliances or operate any electrical switches until you are sure no gas leaks exist. Sparks from electrical switches could ignite the gas. If you smell natural gas, immediately get everyone out of and away from the house. Open the windows and doors to provide ventilation. Shut off the gas at the meter. 

Propane Have your home’s propane tank properly installed by a qualified professional and serviced on a regular basis. Propane tanks are extremely flammable.Securing propane tank.jpg
  • Do NOT store tanks in a building, garage, or enclosure. 
  • When not connected for use, keep tank valve turned OFF. 
  • Never store a spare tank beneath a grill. 
  • Always store tanks upright. 
  • Never store a tank in temperatures of 125 F degrees or more. 
  • Never use or store a propane tank indoors. 
  • Do not try to repair a damaged tank or tank valve. 
  • Do not use portable propane heaters, stoves, or lanterns in tents, campers, truck caps, RVs, or other unventilated enclosures, especially while sleeping.

Electricity: Electrical sparks have the potential of igniting natural gas if it is leaking. Preparing to shut off electricity: Actions_Turn Off Power.png
  • Locate your electricity circuit box 
  • Teach all responsible household members how to shut off the electricity to the entire house. 
  • Check the cords of appliances in your home as well as the plugs and connectors. Make sure they are not frayed, cracked or damaged or placed under rugs or carpets, resting on furniture, or located in high traffic areas.  
  • Do not nail or staple cords to walls, floor, or any other objects • Inspect all outdoor connections, appliances and tools for frayed cords, broken plugs and cracked or broken housings.

May 11, 2022

WHAT IF you were isolated in your home for 2 weeks?

A home kit is the largest kit you should create. This should sustain your family for ATLEAST 2 weeks. As an island community we could be isolated for awhile before help arrives. This week we want you to start your home kit.

Items to include in your kit:

  • Water (1 gallon per person per day)2 weeks ready kit.png
  • Non perishable food
  • Medical equipment and medications
  • First aid kit
  • Sturdy shoes, extra clothes, and toiletries
  • Extra batteries
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Important documents
  • Cash
  • Pet Supplies
  • Tools (utility shut off)
  • Flashlights and lanterns
  • NOAA weather radio for alerts
  • Can opener 
  • Comfort Items
Your list will require different items based off of your family needs. You can use our Island Ready mobile app to build a list based on your family needs. Apple Download here. Android Download here.

Not only do you need to build a kit but you need to maintain it. Here are our tips:

  • Keep canned food in a cool, dry place
  • Store boxed food in tightly closed containers
  • Replace expired items as needed, we recommend going through your supplies on Daylight Savings to rotate and restock.
  • Update your kit as your family needs change
  • Add one can of food to your cart every time you go to the store.

May 4, 2022

WHAT IF communications were down following a disaster and you couldn't reach your family?

Following a disaster phone lines might be down or overwhelmed, this will leave you unable to make a phone call. How will you contact your loved ones to find out if they are ok?

This is why creating a family communications plan is important! 

Use this template to create your plan.

Remember when creating a plan to:

  • Involve the whole family
  • Choose an out of area contact: Ask an out-of-area friend or relative to be your contact person. This person should live at least 100 miles away from you. They can send messages to your family in the affected area and then reply back to you. An out-of-area contact is the key piece of a great communications plan to let family know about each other being safe — especially if the internet and cell phone signals are sparse following a major event, such as a big earthquake. 
  • Text instead of call - bandwidth of a text is far less than that of a call, keep these messages short.
  • Carry an emergency contact card in your wallet (grab a few in DEM):  It may be difficult to think during the stress of a disaster because normal routines have been disrupted.
  • Use the Web: make sure to let your family know that these websites are available so they know to check for each other there. 
    • The American Red Cross has a website that lets you search for loved ones and register yourself as “safe and well.” ARC Safe and Well
    • Facebook has a “safety check” that can be implemented after a disaster. Facebook Safety Check 
  • Know how officials will communicate with you. Island County has their own local alert system, the state of Washington will use the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts. This will come across all forms of media, TV, radio and smart phones. Sign up for your local emergency alerts at Alert Sense

April 27, 2022

WHAT IF a disaster struck and you needed to leave quickly?

We don't expect to be in a situation where we need to quickly leave, but it can happen and we need to be ready. Imagine you are sitting at home when an evacuation order hits, maybe there is a fire close by or a storm that forces us to leave our home. You would need to be ready to leave within minutes. This is a situation where you should have a go bag ready.

A go bag is a pre-packed bag with things you need to stay comfortable in case you need to evacuate immediately. Your go bag should be easy to carry and accessible. Every go bag is different, your go bag has to be packed with your needs in mind. Here is a general checklist of items:

  • Food- non perishable
  • Water- bottles or a filtration method
  • Toiletries- toothbrush, deodorant, wipes, soap, medication
  • Extra clothing
  • Lighting
  • Tape
  • Radio
  • Power cords and power banks
  • Documents- ID, birth certificate, insurance, prescriptions
  • Comfort Items- blanket, pillow, entertainment
  • Cash
  • Utility shut off tool
  • First aid kit
Your needs may require more items. You should also have a go bag ready for every member of your home as well as pets. Typically you want to pack for 3 days away from home. You can check out our checklist here: Go-Bag Checklist.pdf . You can also find more info here: PIY Go Bag.pdf

April 20, 2022

WHAT IF a disaster happened and you couldn't contact your children?

This can be a scary thought for parents... an earthquake just occurred, your kids might be at school or daycare. Phone lines would be tied up and you might not be able to reach them. This is why you need to prepare with your kids ahead of time. Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes, so it is important to know which types of disasters could affect your area. Don’t forget to think about specific needs in your family. Your family’s needs change over time, so update your plan regularly. 

Here's how you can plan:

  • Who Will We Contact?
    • Pick the same person for each family member to contact. Pick someone out of town—they may be easier to reach in a disaster.
    • Text, don’t talk. In an emergency, phone lines may be tied up. It may be easier to text and this leaves phone lines open for emergency workers.
  • Where Will We Meet?
    • Decide on safe, familiar, accessible places where your family can go for protection or to reunite. If you have pets or service animals, think about animal-friendly locations.
    • Consider places in your house, in your neighborhood, and outside of your city or town so you’re prepared for any situation.

  • Practice, Practice, Practice!
    • On your own list or using the resources below, write down your contacts and plans. Make sure everyone in the family has copies and keeps them in a safe space, like in a backpack, wallet, or taped in a notebook. Put them in your cell phone if you have one.
    • Hold regular household meetings to review and practice your plan.
Here are some of our tips:
  • Text instead of call during a disaster.
  • Automatically head to your meeting place if possible.
  • Write out contact cards for each family member to carry with them.
  • Make sure your child carries an extra snack and water in their bag.
  • Choose an emergency contact to help if you aren't able to.
  • Discuss hazards for your area (earthquakes, tsunamis, winter weather, etc.)
  • Find out the emergency plan for your kids school or daycare.
  • Visit our Kids Corner page for games and print outs!

April 13, 2022

WHAT IF a disaster happened and you couldn't get home to your pets?

After a disaster, roads may be damaged or blocked. This might prevent you from getting home. It is time to make a plan for your pets in the case of a disaster. If you are unable to get home to your pets:

  • Develop a buddy system beforehand. Plan with neighbors, friends or relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so.
  • Place a decal on your front door or window so first responders know to expect pets inside. You can get free decals HERE.
  • Keep ID tags on your animals in case they get out.
  • You may find yourself in an accident, carry a card in your wallet or on your keychain that alerts responders that you have pets at home in need of care.
  • Keep emergency care and feeding instructions in your home in case family or friends are able to help out.

Here are a few additional things to plan:

  • Have an evacuation plan for your pet. Many public shelters and hotels do not allow pets inside. Know a safe place where you can take your pets before disasters and emergencies happen.
  • Have your pet microchipped. Make sure to keep your address and phone number up-to-date and include contact information for an emergency contact outside of your immediate area.

Just like we create emergency supplies for ourselves, you want to create one for your pet. Here are some items to include:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Medicine
  • First aid kit
  • collar with ID tag and leash or crate/carrier
  • Grooming items
  • Sanitation items
  • Photo of you and your pet together (in case you become separated or need to document ownership)
  • Familiar items or toys

April 6, 2022

WHAT IF the power went out while you are at work or home?

Power outages are fairly common in Island County. We experience high wind and severe storms often. In fact, just this week we had high winds that took out power to most of Whidbey and Camano. A power outage can last for a few minutes or a few weeks depending on the damage. Power outages may disrupt communications, water, transport, stores, and banks. They may also cause food spoilage, water contamination, or prevent the use of medical equipment. We recommend making sure you have necessary items with you for these situations.

Work/Office kits:

  • Light:  flashlights, headlamps, or lanterns
  • Food and Water:  snacks with long shelf life, bottled water
  • Warmth:  blankets, extra clothes, stocking cap
When at work and the power goes off employees should: 
  • Unplug or turn off all electrical equipment to prevent damage from electrical surges or spikes until power is restored.
  • Follow instructions from your Supervisor and/or Emergency Warden.
  • When power is restored, turns on essential items first.
  • Wait 10-15 minutes before reconnecting non-essential equipment, to avoid overloading the electrical system
Home kits:
  • Flashlight, lanterns, or headlamps (any lighting source)
  • Blankets or warm clothes
  • Food that doesn't require electricity to cook
  • Comfort items (games, books, toys for kids)
  • Extra batteries and power sources
Other helpful tips:
  • Keep freezers and refrigerators closed.
  • Use a generator, but ONLY outdoors and away from windows.
  • Do not use a gas stove or oven to heat your home.
  • Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges.
  • Have alternate plans for refrigerating medicines or using power-dependent medical devices.
  • Check with local officials about heating and cooling locations open near you.
  • When in doubt, throw it out! Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40 degrees or higher for two hours or more, or that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
  • If the power is out for more than a day, discard any medication that should be refrigerated, unless the drug’s label says otherwise. Consult your doctor or pharmacist immediately for a new supply.
My personal tip to test how warm your freezer became is to put a penny on top of a cup filled with ice in your freezer. As the freezer gets warmer, the ice melts and the penny sinks. Based on where the penny is you will know how warm your freezer got. This will help you to make a decision on whether or not your food is still safe to eat.
download (2).jpg

March 30, 2022

WHAT IF you received an alert on your phone?  Do you know the difference between watch, warning, and advisory?


  • Winter Storm
    • Watch: Conditions are favorable for a winter event.
    • Advisory: Issued for one or more of the following: snow, sleet, or freezing rain.
    • Warning: Heavy snow of 6" in 12 hours.
  • Tsunami
    • Watch: Tsunami is possible. Be prepared to take action.
    • Advisory: Strong currents and dangerous waves near coastal water. Stay out of water and away from shore.
    • Warning: Tsunami imminent, flooding and powerful currents, wave heights > 3ft. Get to high ground or inland immediately.

Notice how a watch lets you know that the conditions are favorable to an event while a warning lets you know that the event is now expected. These alerts can pertain to all sorts of hazards such as: tsunamis, winter storms, high winds, etc.

What to do when you receive it: Follow the instructions in the alert. Typically at the end of the alert there will be advice on what to do. For a watch you want to be aware that conditions may worsen. For an advisory you want to start thinking about your plan for the situation. For a warning you want to take action (evacuate, shelter in place, etc.).

March 23, 2022

WHAT IF: you are in the vicinity of an active shooter?

Being in an area where an active shooter is located can be terrifying. When we panic our brains tend to freeze. It is important for you to know the signs beforehand, this will minimize the amount of time you spend panicking. During a situation you have 3 options: Run, Hide, Fight. Those are all detailed below.

Prepare Beforehand:
  • Stay alert. Always be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.
  • If you see something, say something to local authorities. That includes suspicious packages, people behaving strangely or someone using strange communications.
  • Observe warning signs. Signs might include unusual or violent communications, substance abuse, expressed anger or intent to cause harm. These warning signs may increase over time.
  • Have an exit plan. Identify exits and areas to hide wherever you go, including work, school and special events.
  • Learn lifesaving skills. Take trainings such as You Are the Help Until Help Arrives and first aid to assist the wounded before help arrives.
Survive During: Run, Hide, Fight
  • Run to Safety
    • Seek safety. Getting away from the attacker is the top priority.
    • Leave your belongings behind and get away.
    • Call 9-1-1 when you are safe and describe the attacker, location and weapons.
  • Hide and Cover
    • Cover and hide if you can’t evacuate. Find a place to hide out of view of the attacker and put a solid barrier between yourself and the threat if possible.
    • Lock and block doors, close blinds and turn off lights.
    • Keep silent. Silence your phone.
  • Fight, Defend, Disrupt
    • Fight only as a last resort. When you can’t run or cover, attempt to disrupt the attack or disable the attacker.
    • Be aggressive and commit to your actions.
    • Recruit others to ambush the attacker with makeshift weapons such as chairs, fire extinguishers, scissors, books, etc.
    • Be prepared to cause severe or lethal injury to the attacker.
    • Help the Wounded
    • Take care of yourself first and then, if you are able, help the wounded get to safety and provide immediate care. Call 9-1-1 when it is safe for you to do so.
After an Attack:
  • When Law Enforcement Arrives
    • Remain calm and follow instructions.
    • Keep hands visible and empty.
    • Report to designated areas to provide information and get help.
    • Follow law enforcement’s instructions and evacuate in the direction they tell you to go. Listen to law enforcement for information about the situation. Share updates as you can with family and friends.

March 16, 2022

WHAT IF: you receive a suspicious package in the mail? 

The likelihood of receiving a life threatening package is remote. Unfortunately, however, a small number of life threatening packages have been discovered over the years, and they can result in death, injury and/or destruction of property

What can you do to help prevent an incident? First, consider whether you or your organization could be a target. Motives for bombings often are revenge, extortion, terrorism, business disputes or political/sociological change.

Keep in mind that an explosive, or other life threatening items (razorblades, anthrax) can be enclosed in either a parcel or an envelope, and its outward appearance is limited only by the imagination of the sender. However, suspicious packages have exhibited some unique characteristics which might assist you. To apply these factors, it is important to know the type of mail normally received by your department.

Things to look for in a suspicious letter or package may include inappropriate or unusual labeling, such asUSPS_Suspicious_Package_4.jpg.crdownload

  • Excessive postage
  • No return address or strange return address
  • Unusual or inaccurate addressing, such as the use of incorrect titles or titles with no name
  • Restrictive markings, such as “personal,” "private," “confidential,” or “do not x-ray.” This is important particularly if the addressee does not normally receive personal mail at the office.

Other indicators include an unusual or inappropriate appearance, including

  • Suspicious packages might have powdery substances felt through or appearing on the item.
  • Suspicious packages may have oil stains or discolorations on the exterior, or strange odors
  • There may be excessive packaging material, like tape or string.
  • Letter bombs may have a bulky envelopes or boxes or they may feel rigid or appear lopsided.
  • They may have buzzing/ticking sounds, sloshing, protruding wires, or exposed aluminum foil.

If you find a suspicious item (letter or package)

  • Remain calm.
  • DO NOT open or shake it! Immediately stop handling it.
  • DO NOT carry it or show it to others. Leave the item where it is or gently place it on the nearest flat surface.
  • DO NOT bring it to the Sheriff's or Police Department.
  • DO NOT sniff, touch, or taste.
  • DO alert others in the area.
  • Leave the area, close doors and prevent other from entering. If possible, shut off any fans or equipment that may circulate suspicious material
  • Notify your Supervisor.
    • Supervisor or Designee will CALL 911 and provides exact location of incident and description of package.
    • Supervisor or Designee alerts others nearby to relocate to an area away from site of suspicious item
  • If Supervisor or designee is unavailable, EMPLOYEE CALLS 911 and alerts others to relocate
  • Takes essential belongings, like cell phone, keys, purse, etc. with you in case return to your work area is delayed
  • To prevent spreading of any powder or hazardous substance, keeps hands away from face and washes your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Minimizes physical contact with anything else.
  • Waits for further direction from appropriate authority.

March 9, 2022

WHAT IF: you get a message on your phone, radio, or loudspeaker to shelter-in-place due to a chemical spill?

Sometimes the safest thing to do during an emergency is to just stay put and shelter in place.  Where and how you do this depends on the kind of emergency. It may be due to a chemical release, such as in this scenario, or due to a release of biological or radiological contaminants. It may also be due to other hazards such as earthquakes, flooding, high winds, storms, or an active shooter. 

For this chemical spill scenario, specific procedures for shelter-in-place at your workplace or home may include the following:

  • If at work, immediately close the office. Inform and take care of any customers in the building by asking them to not leave. Do not go outside.
  • Call your emergency contact to let them know where you are and that you are safe.
  • If possible, forward calls or turn on an answering system to indicate that offices are temporarily closed and staff and visitors are remaining in the building until they are clear to leave.
  • Lock exterior doors and close all windows. Seal doors, windows, and vents. Turn off, seal, and/or disable all systems that exchange inside and outside air. If you are told there is danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds, or curtains.
  • Gather essential disaster supplies, such as nonperishable food, bottled water, battery-powered radios, first-aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, duct tape, plastic sheeting, and plastic garbage bags and go to an interior room to shelter. Do not drink tap water as it may be contaminated.
    • The interior room(s) should be above the ground floor and have with the fewest windowsshelter in place.jpg or vents. There should be adequate space for everyone to sit. Avoid overcrowding by selecting several rooms if necessary. Large storage closets, utility rooms, pantries, copy and conference rooms without exterior windows will work well. Avoid selecting a room with mechanical equipment like ventilation blowers or pipes, because this equipment may not be able to be sealed from the outdoors. Seal all windows, doors, and vents with plastic sheeting and duct tape (or anything you have on hand).
    • As an added preparedness step, consider precutting plastic sheeting (heavier than food wrap) to seal windows, doors, and air vents. Each piece should be several inches larger than the space you want to cover so that it lies flat against the wall. Label each piece with the location of where it fits.
    • If you are sheltering with pets ensure they have a spot to poop and pee while inside the shelter. You will need plenty of plastic bags, newspapers, containers, and cleaning supplies to deal with the pet waste
  • It is ideal to have a hard-wired telephone in the room(s) you select. Call emergency contacts and have the phone available if you need to report a life-threatening condition. Cellular telephone service may be overwhelmed or damaged during an emergency. Text messages or more likely to wok than voice calls.
  • If at work, write down the names of everyone in the room, and call your business' designated emergency contact to report who is in the room with you, and their affiliation with your business (employee, visitor, client, customer).
  • Listen to the radio, watch television, or use the Internet for further instructions until you are told all is safe or to evacuate. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in the community.

For more information on sheltering-in-place you can click here to view the FEMA  "Shelter-in-Place pictograph.  

 PIY Shelter In Place.pdf

March 2, 2022:

WHAT IF: you are sitting at work or home and all of a sudden an explosion happens? What would you do?

If an explosion occurs: 

  • Immediately get under a sturdy table of desk if things are falling around you. 
  •  Heavy smoke and poisonous gases collect first along the ceiling. Stay below the smoke at all times. 

If trapped in debris: 

  •  If you have a flashlight, use it to help rescuers locate you. 
  • Stay in your area so that you don't kick up dust. 
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing. 
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so that rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort - shouting can cause a person to inhale dangerous amounts of dust. 

If there is a fire: 

  • Stay low to the floor and exit the building as quickly and calmly as possible. 
  • Cover your mouth with a wet cloth, if possible. 
  •  Test closed doors for heat with the palm of your hand and forearm on the lower and upper portions of the door. If it is not hot, brace yourself against the door and open it slowly. If it is hot or warm to the touch do not open the door. Seek an alternate escape route. 

If there is a building collapse: 

  • Learn emergency evacuation procedures. 
  • Learn where the fire exits are located and be able to find them in the dark. 
  • Keep fire extinguishers in working order. 
  • Know where they are located and how to use them. 
  • Learn first aid and CPR. 
  • You should keep and maintain a disaster supply kit.