Kids from around the region learned how to suppress fire and move debris to be better prepared for disaster as part of a summer camp from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The agency, with help from Marysville officials, put on the first summer camp of it’s kind at Camp Killoqua in the Lake Goodwin region.
From Aug. 18 to 23 kids from Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Idaho all participated in the very first emergency preparedness camp that FEMA has put on.
“This is the first time we’re doing a youth camp like this on scale and scope,” said Scott Zaffram, federal preparedness coordinator for FEMA Region 10 (which includes the Pacific Northwest and Alaska).
Although FEMA has done teen training programs before, nothing had been done in a traditional summer camp setting or this lengthy, he said.
“Across the country we’re trying to build a culture of preparedness, and we want to find out how we can better engage youth,” he said.
Teenagers learned some of the best skills for disaster response such as fire suppression, basic first aid skills and cribbing, a method of moving heavy debris in the event of a house collapse.
“I think I’m going to take away a lot of the medical skills,” said Cassidy Miller, a 16-year-old from Stanwood who attended the camp. “I like how we’ve really mixed up our groups and we’ve gotten to work with a lot of different people."
Those abilities are important in the event of a disaster, said Diana Rose, emergency management manager for the city of Marysville.
“They should know how to take care of themselves, how to take care of their families, how to look out for their neighbors and how to provide light medical treatments,” she said.
Zaffram said that the kids will be able to have that knowledge of what to do now.
“It could be as simple as ‘this is how you go door-to-door and look for people that may need help,’” he said.
“We don’t want them going in and doing something that requires 20 years of experience. But if they’re right there and it’s a life-and-death situation we want them to be able to pull blocks or leverage wood to get someone out to safety,” he said.
Having that training is important in the event of a major disaster as emergency response may be tied up with the amount of calls they receive.
“In a big event the likelihood that our first responders are going to get to our citizens as soon as the earth stops shaking is very slim,” said Rose.
“It’s important for them to understand that they can call 911, but there’s a high likelihood they won’t be able to come,” she said.
While Washington state residents don’t have to worry about some disasters like hurricanes there are still threats that can do major damage to neighborhoods.
“In Washington state we live in one of the most disaster-prone parts of the country and we see things every year, whether that is floods or fires or earthquakes,” said Robert Ezelle, director of the Washington state Emergency Management Division. “So it is important for people to be prepared if something does happen to their community."
Marysville officials said that they were excited about the opportunity to work with kids from around the region and with FEMA officials.
“Marysville has been investing in our emergency management program and we work closely with our fire district. This is an opportunity to work with our partners at a state and national level,” said Connie Mennie, communications administrator with the city of Marysville.
FEMA helps with the CERT program which provides similar training at the city-level, but Rose said it’s good to see that training getting more federal push.
“I’m excited that FEMA is taking such an interest in this and pushing this program. We’ve been pushing it at the local level so it’s nice to see it coming from the federal level,” she said.