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A town united around disaster

My World's on Fire
A town united around disaster
By Colleen Hagerty • Issue #3 • View online

Before I get into today’s newsletter, I want to take a moment to thank you all for inviting me into your inboxes. I understand news about disasters can feel a bit overwhelming (particularly these days), but my aim with this biweekly dispatch is to help you feel a little bit more at ease about our unpredictable world.
That said, let’s go to Joyce.
In early 2018, I flew from Washington DC to Washington state, tracing the perimeter of Olympic National Park in a rental car until I reached Joyce, the small, remote town Jim Buck calls home. It was a chilly, overcast day, which felt appropriate given the topic I was there to cover: the potential devastation of his beloved neighborhood.
Jim is the mastermind behind Joyce Emergency Planning and Preparation (JEPP), a group formed around the goal of creating a “disaster ready and resilient” town. It’s a particularly critical mission, considering their risk of being impacted by “the big one” – a potentially unprecedented earthquake experts warn could happen any day now in the Pacific Northwest.
As you can see in the video I produced for BBC News, Jim and JEPP have spent years working to make sure the people across their county have the tools, communication, and plans established to be ready for that worst-case scenario. That included building water filtration systems and having a shipping container stocked with enough necessities to support residents for weeks.
Watch: “The US town prepping for ‘devastating’ disaster”
The US town prepping for 'devastating' disaster - BBC News
The US town prepping for 'devastating' disaster - BBC News
So, when I saw those early reports of COVID-19 in Washington, I immediately thought of Joyce. I reached out to Jim via email and was happy to hear he’s healthy, and, unsurprisingly, quite busy.
Since I last visited, JEPP has acquired a second shipping container. They now have enough supplies to support 300 people for 30 days. The group’s working on building a metal garage, which will be home to their dedicated field kitchen, water purification trailer, and emergency generators.
But JEPP’s main focus in this moment is finding ways to use their resources to help those on the frontlines of the pandemic. Like many US municipalities, their local hospitals and first-responders have struggled to find adequate personal protective equipment, or “PPE.” JEPP has been able to quickly start pitching in, putting some of the supplies and skills they’ve spent years building up towards helping out during this crisis.
Per Jim:
“We are now helping coordinate a multi-county list of needed PPE… We pulled all medical and industrial PPE (dust masks, dental-orthodontic supplies, veterinary, construction masks, welding hoods) back to the county and sent them to health care facilities and a few 1st responders. Last week, JEPP loaned 500 masks from our stock to Forks Hospital because THEY WERE OUT. We are to the point where housebound seniors with sewing machines are making homemade improvised masks. My wife and I spent the morning creating a pattern to make hospital gowns out of Tyvek house wrap.”
What struck me about Joyce back in 2018 and again today from Jim’s response is how the town views their community connection as a resource. When mentioning essentials, Jim doesn’t just talk about PPE or other physical items tucked away in shipping containers – he includes JEPP’s ability to tackle issues as a collective. Even while observing social distancing, members are coordinating to sew masks and gowns. A pandemic isn’t the disaster they were preparing for, but in some ways, it doesn’t matter: the connections they created to face “the big one” have made them stronger for whatever comes their way.
Links to help you:
I’m always eager to hear any tips, story ideas, or suggestions you have – find me on your social network of choice (TwitterFacebookInstagram) or via email ([email protected]).
Thank you for becoming an early part of this new community, and special thanks to all who have shared this newsletter with their networks. Here’s a little something for reading to the end.
Colleen
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