Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable during emergency situations. Emergency Management practices have shown that preparedness is critical for safety and comfort in days after an emergency when individuals may be on their own without heat, power, and water. Purchasing the necessary supplies can be out of reach for most low-income seniors living in subsidized housing, and women are especially impacted by economic hardship as they often receive less in their retirement than their male counterparts. Recognizing that the 51 residents of Tumwater Apartments is at an increased risk during disaster due to the high percentage of Frail (54.9% of the population) and At Risk (13.7% of population) elderly low-income seniors, the community sprang into action.
In the Spring of 2016, the Resident Services Coordinator (RSC), Jena Embry Loes, at Tumwater Apartments formed a committee with 7 women who are from the apartment community. The Emergency Preparedness interest Committee or “EPiC”, set out to address the Emergency Preparedness needs of the Tumwater Apartment community. The goals were to:
- Involve Community in Emergency Preparedness
- Educate residents about resources/issues
- Each resident has a kit for 72 hours
- Emergency activities take place
- Educate/involve committee members in community learning opportunities
The residents accomplished many of these goals, including participating in CPR training, traveling to an Emergency Preparedness Expo, helping to plan for and take leadership roles in our annual Fire Evacuation Drill and The Great Shakeout, a Statewide Earthquake Drill.
A critical goal was to ensure that each resident has items on hand to survive for at least 72 hours alone in the event of a disaster. To accomplish this, “EPiC” reached out to local organizations and businesses to humbly ask for help in providing these essential emergency items that can make all the difference during a disaster. A campaign was initiated to request donations for items to include in 72-hour Disaster Kits, and 50 buckets with necessary supplies were delivered to Residents the end of November 2016. Many local businesses, schools, government and non-profit organizations as well as the individual donors donated over $2,000.00 in supplies. The staff and residents of Tumwater Apartments want to acknowledge the generosity of the following individuals and organizations:
Tumwater Albertson’s, American Red Cross Mt. Rainier Chapter, Bill Lum, Tumwater Costco, Tumwater Home Depot, Corporate Center Lowes, Olympia Federal Savings, Pam Meridith, Tumwater Safeway, Thurston County Emergency Services, St. Michael’s School, Tumwater High School, Tumwater Walgreen’s, Tumwater Walmart, and the Tumwater Apartments Resident Club.
While broad support from the community provided the majority of items for the 72-Hour Disaster Kits, a key element was missing; Portable Battery Operated Radios. The ability to receive news from the outside world during a catastrophe such as an Earthquake or Winter Storm can provide comfort and hope along with critical information. A voice over the radio can also help alleviate fear and loneliness for homebound elders.
With a timely grant from the Zonta Club of Olympia, funding was provided to purchase 50 Portable Battery Operated Radios and batteries for the residents to include in their 72-Hour Disaster Kits. The check for $700.00 from the Zonta Club of Olympia was presented to Jena Embry Loes, Resident Services Coordinator with CHS at the Celebration of Giving, Zonta International Rose Day in late March 2017. The radios are a vital gift that was made possible by the considerable kindness of the Zonta Club of Olympia and now the vulnerable seniors of Tumwater Apartments have a completed 72-Hour Disaster kit to help them stay safe, comfortable and informed during the next storm or emergency.