Neighbors preparing for future emergencies together

It's been 15 years since a massive earthquake shook Western Washington.The magnitude 6.8 Nisqually earthquake caused massive damage all around Puget Sound. Many say we're overdue for an even bigger earthquake, and that now is the time to make sure you're prepared.

Sharonn Meeks remembers being in downtown Seattle during the Nisqually quake 15 years ago.

“When it hit the building, the glass windows were actually shaking,” she says. “You could feel the rotation begin. Our building swayed 14 feet.”

The experience got her thinking about would happen in an even bigger disaster, and where she would go to get help.

“People need to realize that they're going to be on their own for a good bit of time.”

Emergency managers say it’s true. Right after a disaster, people might be stuck in their own neighborhoods for a while.

“Initially communications will go down, it'll be difficult to make a cell phone call quite likely,” says Barnaby Dow, with King County Emergency Management. “Bridges could be affected, transportation corridors of all types could be compromised for days or weeks.”

So just like neighborhood watch groups, Dow is advising people to form their own neighborhood emergency groups. That’s what Meeks and her friends have done.

“It’s all grass roots, it's all volunteer, neighbor to neighbor,” she says.

They’ve identified hubs or places where in an emergency, people can safely gather to share information and offer help.

“This is the area where this neighborhood would come, we'll have pop up tents, and we have some supplies on site.”

They’ve gathered radios and walkie-talkies and already done some drills. Meeks says it’s made her feel a little more prepared.

“We got to have a plan, everyone needs to make a plan.”

“Your greatest resource during a disaster may well be your neighbor,” adds Dow.  “So pay attention, get involved, and start a group in your neighborhood.”

For emergency resources or information on starting your own neighborhood group in Western Washington, go to Make It Through.