Emergency mission partners help community prepare together

State, municipal and military emergency support organizations gathered to help inform area residents May 13 at the Disaster Day: Preparing Together disaster preparedness event at Community Covenant Church in Eagle River.

About 100 people attended the first-ever event, said Ted Smith, the event organizer and the Emergency Preparedness manager with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

“We want to make sure the community has the awareness necessary to get the help they need during an event or disaster,” Smith said. “You need to be able to be independent and on your own for three to seven days.”

Smith said emergency response and government organizations are apt to be overwhelmed during an extreme crisis or a natural disaster and may not be able to help everyone in need of aid right away.

“The more prepared you are for you and your family, the better chance you have to make it through those three to seven days before emergency resources become available,” he said.

A natural disaster could cause resources such as natural gas distribution systems to go offline for an extensive period of time, making it imperative that individuals and families have the ability to meet their own needs until services are restored, said Senior Captain Mike Murphy with Anchorage Fire Department Station 11 in Eagle River.

“Any time an emergency happens, the best protocol is to take care of yourself,” Murphy said, explaining people must be prepared to provide their own food, water and power during a crisis. “You have to be self-sufficient and plan to be self-sufficient for a few days.”

Working together to prepare individuals and to support the community during a disaster is key for state and federal emergency responders, said Master Sgt. Kelly Rathbun, the Emergency Management Plans noncommissioned officer in charge with Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s 773d Civil Engineer Squadron.

“No one has it all. We need to complement each other,” Rathbun said, who worked with other 773d CES airmen to help event participants understand how to build emergency preparedness kits.

“We always tell people they should have three types of kits,” Rathbun said, explaining the first should be an extensive kit for the home that includes items such as food, water and medications and is capable of providing for the entire household for several days.

Smaller kits should also be created for family vehicles, she said, and ought to include things like jumper cables and flashlights, as well as some of the same provisions in a home kit.

The third kit is reserved for pet owners, Rathbun said, noting items such as pet medications, leashes and pet food may help ensure the needs of domestic animals are met during an emergency.

In addition to preparedness resources, Smith said the event featured interactive displays, to include an AFD fire truck, a LifeMed Alaska medical evacuation helicopter and an earthquake simulator from the State of Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Joyce Guest of Eagle River was one of many who braved the earthquake simulator, which allowed her to experience the impacts of a magnitude 5.5 quake.

“It’s really jolting and made me think that I need to secure some things and my bookcases,” Guest said. “It’s very realistic and gets you thinking.”

According to Smith, Disaster Day: Preparing Together will be an annual event to help the community become progressively more aware and better prepared in the event of an emergency or disaster.

Until then, Smith said additional disaster preparedness information and resources are available online at www.ready.alaska.gov, www.ready.gov, www.beready.af.mil and www.acsim.army.mil/readyarmy.


Flight nurse Brian Anderson guides a LifeMed Alaska medical evacuation helicopter as it lands behind the church May 13 at the Disaster Day: Preparing Together disaster preparedness event.

Senior Airman Cierra Andrews, an emergency manager with Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s 773d Civil Engineer Squadron, explains the necessity of creating emergency preparedness kits to Roy Daw of Eagle River.

Aimee Malnoske of Eagle River experiences what a magnitude 5.5 quake would feel like as Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Response Manager Claude Denver operates an earthquake simulator.