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Kloshe Illahee Community: A Model for Emergency Preparedness

by Jacinda H.

Residents at Kloshe Illahee manufactured homes park are ready to take on disasters.

The folks are trained through the city's Community Emergency Response Team and are prepared for wind, snow, ice, power outages and earthquakes. Kloshe Illahee is a community of citizens ages 55 and up. Residents embarked on their neighborhood emergency plan in 2005. The plan was finalized in 2006. Now, the group is preparing a revision, with the goal of continuing self-sustainability in preparation for a disaster.

Kloshe Illahee is in unincorporated King County, off South 370th Street. If a disaster were to occur, residents are not likely to see quick assistance from the county.

"We're kind of isolated here," resident Ken Squier said. "We're going to be taking care of ourselves."

Many of the park's 266 members are involved in the emergency plan. They contribute knowledge in their area of expertise. Occupants with backgrounds in firefighting, civil engineering, air traffic control, law enforcement, architecture and hospital administration all reside in the manufactured homes park. They hold neighborhood meetings to discuss pressing emergency preparedness issues.

An emergency plan splits the park into several smaller neighborhoods. A block leader is responsible for the safety and well-being of residents within his or her neighborhood.

"In a disaster, we will be pounding on doors," resident and block leader Karen Morasch said.

The community has identified escape routes. In the case of an emergency, the park's clubhouse will transform into a triage center. Donated first aid and emergency medical equipment, such as an oxygen tank, are in a nearby storage shed.

Each resident within the park has access to a manual depicting the park's emergency plan. The manual also includes an "I'm okay" sign for the homeowner to display.

It lets block leaders know who needs help. Two-way radios can then be used to request residents stationed at the clubhouse send medical supplies from an on-site storage shed.

A loss of power will prove the most devastating disaster for the community, Squier said. Residents use wood to provide heating. The group is working to obtain a backup generator.

The plan is well established. But there is room for improvement — and an opportunity to get more residents excited and involved in emergency preparedness is needed, Squier said.

"We've got to talk about it without worrying about the sky falling," he said.

AmeriCorps volunteers helped Kloshe Illahee residents set up their three-year-old emergency plan. So did City of Federal Way and King County staff.

"(The plan) made all the folks in the park feel somebody's thinking about it, somebody's doing something," occupant Carole Buchard said.

The park residents are just one of several neighborhood emergency teams in or near Federal Way. The city encourages residents to create a plan to take care of themselves for at least three days during a disaster. The more neighborhoods that are prepared, the less they are reliant on the city's services, freeing up those services for residents in imminent danger.

"I was most impressed with the effort they made to use existing knowledge within their community," city spokeswoman Linda Farmer said of Kloshe Illahee residents. "It's a great recommendation for other communities, even for those without formal homeowners' associations."

The city's emergency management department provides Neighborhood Emergency Training. The course is designed to teach individuals how to be self-sustainable during a disaster and is ideal for neighborhood groups of 15 to 20. Participants pass their newfound knowledge on to the rest of the neighborhood. The city also helps the groups acquire some emergency supplies.

To learn more about emergency management visit, www.cityoffederalway.com/Page.aspx?page=278.

This post was adapted from an article in the Federal Way Mirror by reporter Jacinda Howard.

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