Whenever we hear about a natural disaster, weather emergency or mass casualty event, the news is full of stories of the community coming together to help people and get life back to normal as quickly as possible. What we don’t often hear about are the community partnerships, planning and preparation that take place before something goes wrong.
Since 2007, the Puget Sound Energy Foundation has been awarding public safety and emergency preparedness grants to organizations who are customers of Puget Sound Energy. On July 5, the South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) Foundation was notified that they would receive a grant to purchase emergency supplies for the campus. On August 3, Christine Hoffmann presented a $10,000 check to the SPSCC Foundation. Hoffmann, PSE’s Outreach Coordinator for Thurston and Lewis Counties, said, “Grants like these help our customers become better equipped to help themselves in the short term during an emergency.”
Other recent local recipients of PSE Foundation grants include City Gates Ministries, the Washington State Search and Rescue Advisory Council, South Puget Sound Mobile Search and Rescue, Thurston County Sherriff’s Jeep Patrol, Senior Services for South Sound, YWCA – The Other Bank and Thurston County EMS. While the bulk of the grants awarded are for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, there have been some awards given in the categories of Human Services, Education and Workforce Development, and Arts and Culture.
The $10,000 grant will serve the SPSCC campus and community in various ways. New emergency radios will provide a means of communication if power to cell towers fail or phone service is knocked out for any reason. A large number of warming blankets will be purchased for use in a weather emergency, if people were unable to leave campus because of snow or ice, heavy winds or a mass casualty event. The funds will also be used to purchase mass casualty first aid kids which are more robust and costlier that typical first aid kits.
Rob, Director of Safety and Security at SPSCC, listed many benefits of receiving this grant. “It has a good impact, number one, from a cooperative standpoint with the community.” The additional supplies and preparation could prove to be valuable resources both those on the SPSCC campus and to the neighbors surrounding campus. “Number two, in the case of weather closures, this will help us to be better prepared to keep people safe,” said Rob. “Most important, though, is how quickly we are able to return to normal operations and open the college back up.”
After 4 years at SPSCC, Rob is impressed with the local community. “I’ve been very pleased to see the cooperation with local businesses and the Thurston County Emergency Management Council,” he said. “Preparation requires a lot of cooperation and communication, and it is essential to our planning for public safety.”
Rob also expressed appreciation for SPSCC executives for their cooperation with him and his department. “The college’s executive leadership has really gotten behind the emergency preparedness aspect, not only in preparing for emergencies, but in recovering from them quickly as well.”
SPSCC Foundation Development Director Anne Larsen agrees. “We partner with the Red Cross, Thurston County Emergency Management, all local law enforcement and now PSE to be prepared and equipped to deal with critical safety incidents,” she said.
While SPSCC fortunately hasn’t had to deal with any mass casualty incidents, Rob recounts stories of two recent weather emergencies. A February snowstorm caused campus to close early before road conditions became too severe for people to get home. The recent May wind storm knocked a large treetop onto a power line that was hanging precariously over a pedestrian walkway on campus. With safety being the top priority, PSE was on site within 30 minutes along with vendors who could safely remove the tree and run new power lines to restore power to the campus.
Planning, preparation and partnerships with local businesses and first responders, along with support from the PSE Foundation, have put SPSCC in the position to be a great resource for the safety and security of our community and an example to look to in the event that we are faced with the unthinkable.