Volunteers lead Safe & Well drill on San Juan Islands

Rick Wigre, Lopez Island Red Cross

By Michael Hansen

On the San Juan Islands we know that an emergency may disrupt power and communications, and we will have a difficult time contacting our friends and family by phone, email, or internet connections. Our San Juan Island unit of the American Red Cross, led by Bill Severson, knows this as well. That is why the unit organized a Safe & Well drill on Saturday, November 16, 2019.  The drill went well, and established that we could communicate with our loved ones through this American Red Cross emergency website.

On the afternoon of November 16th, Bill Severson set up a Safe & Well registration site at the downtown fire station, much as would be done in the event of a real emergency.  Local unit members provided the names and contact information for themselves and family and friends. The information (names, addresses and primary phone numbers) was entered onto a computerized spread sheet along with a message that all were “safe and well.” 

Bill then took this information to Jim Hooper, a member of the San Juan County Amateur Radio Club, who downloaded the information onto a short wave radio system linked to the American Red Cross, and transmitted the information to the Safe & Well web site.  Thereafter, local unit members and their friends and family contacted the Safe & Well web site, registered and obtained the messages left for them. 

Bill Severson entering data for the Red Cross Safe and Well Drill in Friday Harbor.

The system worked as planned. More than 150 persons were involved in this test on San Juan Island and Lopez Island. The week before, the local unit of the American Red Cross on Lopez ran a similar drill. This exercise worked as well. Once these exercises were completed all the personal data collected and transmitted to the American Red Cross was completely deleted.

So now we know there is a means of communication where we can all find out where our loved ones are and whether they are safe. As Bill Severson reported, it is one thing to know a system such as Safe & Well exists. It is another to confirm that it works and it can be accessed by everyone on the San Juan Islands. Bill also thanked the fire department and the local ham operators for their continued cooperation and coordination with our local unit of the American Red Cross. 

Bill also said that anyone who is interested should consider visiting the Safe and Well Web Site at www.redcross.org/safeandwell. Individuals and groups can register, and can contact friends and family should an emergency occur. Here on the San Juan Islands, the local island units of the Red Cross will provide places for people to register and leave messages in case of emergency. 

The local American Red Cross has been in continual existence on the San Juan Islands for over 100 years, since it was first chartered by the national American Red Cross in 1918.   The local units have continually engaged in serving the islands, the state and nation by deploying to meet local, regional, and national emergency situations, and by providing services to individuals and families facing personal crises, such as home fires. 

In doing this, the local island units have worked with other local emergency services, such as the fire department. Many members of local units are experienced with mass sheltering and feeding, as well as providing support and assistance to individuals and families in times of emergency so they can access local resources and move forward with recovery. 

Should anyone consider joining the American Red Cross as a volunteer, contact the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org.

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