Before disaster strikes
March 2, 2012
By Christina Lords
Newcastle resident encourages emergency preparedness in homes, neighborhoods
For Newcastle resident Paula Spence, there is no such thing as too prepared.
Spence compiles and sells emergency preparedness kits as a home-based business. Taking the time to ensure you have the necessary supplies to endure something as small as a brief power outage or as big as long-term damage from an earthquake can mean all the difference for a family’s safety during a disaster, she said.
“I know some people don’t like to think about it, but I just feel a peace of mind is important to know that you have the supplies on hand that will ensure your safety,” she said.
After her now-grown sons began to attend St. Monica Catholic School on Mercer Island, Spence said she quickly began to realize how important emergency preparedness was. About 40 percent of the students lived off the island, and if a natural disaster were to occur, she said she wanted the school to be prepared in case parents were unable to pick up their kids due to an emergency.
“Paula’s passion for emergency preparedness grew out of her love for her children,” said Pam Raleigh of Mercer Island. “Our children went to a school on an island. In an emergency, Paula knew it might take some time before she would be able to reunite with her children. She wanted to insure her children had a plan for safety.”
She began to take emergency preparedness and first aid classes, and worked with the school to have the necessary supplies on hand to be prepared. She also took on a volunteer position with the Seattle-based Red Cross, where she responded to emergencies first hand.
That’s when she started to compile the Emergency-Pac, a red backpack with a three-day supply of food and materials that could help a person respond and get through any emergency.
“What I like about these things is that you can get them and just forget about them,” Spence said. “You put them wherever you need to be and forget about them until you need it.”
A one-person, three-day Emergency Pac backpack contains items such as a blanket, poncho, ice pack, flashlight, multifunction knife, light stick and first-aid materials, as well as water and food rations. Two-person Pacs with similar supplies are also available.
“It’s a good starter kit, and I always tell people to put emergency supplies in your car,” she said. “Your car is almost always where you are. You can always grab it and go.”
Residents can request custom-made Pacs with more supplies for families, Spence said. Anyone with a pet should also consider including emergency supplies such as food, water and toys for the animal, she said.
“My husband, daughter and I took a road trip in our motor home,” said Issaquah resident Jane Brown. “We travelled from Washington across Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota. I was relieved that we had our Emergency-Pac, and it was readily available if needed. There is peace of mind knowing that we always have it travelling as well as in our vehicles.”
People should remember to always customize their emergency supplies with items like extra eyewear for people who wear glasses or contacts, any necessary medications and activities or toys that don’t require electricity for children.
Always keep cash, especially small bills, handy in an emergency kit, Spence said. If the power goes out, ATMs, banks and stores may not be able to take a debit or credit card to purchase needed items.
Spence also began a Map Your Neighborhood project in Newcastle. The MYN program, created by the state’s Emergency Management Division, is designed to help neighborhoods prepare for disasters by creating neighborhood contact lists, and evaluating skills and the equipment neighborhoods have to respond to a disaster, and promoting timely and organized response efforts during an emergency.
“You can take care of yourself and your family … and then you can start to branch out to your neighbors,” Spence said.
Learn more about emergency preparedness and Spence’s Emergency-Pac kits by going to her website at www.emergency-pac.com. Start a MYN project by going to www.emd.wa.gov/myn/index.shtml.