City steps up efforts to prepare for disasters

New measures will increase communication efficiency, community safety

October 24, 2019 - by Mia Steben, Mayor's Office

Consistent with Bellingham's Legacies and Strategic Commitments for a “Safe and Prepared Community,” the City is stepping up its disaster preparedness.

To better increase community readiness, the City is taking steps to enhance current preparation for disasters, including extreme weather. New actions include supplying a generator at City Hall, providing support for amateur radio (ham) operators, increasing access to life-safety information for non-English speakers and updating tsunami models for the public.

City Hall does not have a reliable back-up source of electricity if commercial power is lost. Next year, the Public Works Department will soon install a generator at City Hall to provide emergency backup power to the building and allow the City's telecommunications to remain operational.

Amateur radio can provide backup communications in emergency situations when normal communication channels are compromised. Amateur radio volunteers have been involved with the City of Bellingham for over 10 years, putting together a backup radio infrastructure with the Bellingham Fire Department. In early 2019, the City's Office of Emergency Management formed the Bellingham Auxiliary Communications Service (BACS), a group of local radio amateurs dedicated to supporting City communications in an emergency. Radio facilities have been established at three Bellingham fire stations. BACS is also working with City to place an amateur radio repeater at the new Sehome Hill communications tower to improve amateur/emergency ra​dio coverage in the Bellingham area.

The City's Office of Emergency Management has also developed a Limited English Proficiency Communications Plan that aims to increase accessibility of life-safety information for all residents in the City of Bellingham, specifically focusing on non-English speakers.

All City employees are automatically registered into the City/County emergency alert and warning notification system. Employees will receive alerts and warnings via cell phones, landlines, and email addresses in cases of disaster, large emergency, and severe weather. At the end of the year, a new component will be added that will provide authorities with an even broader range of message options.

The U.S. Department Homeland Security requires all jurisdiction personnel to complete National Incident Management System training in order to receive federal funding, grants, training and reimbursement of disaster recovery costs. City employees must attend training based on their Incident Command System role. All City employees may be called on to become emergency workers in a disaster.

In collaboration with the State of Washington, the City of Bellingham has obtained updated tsunami inundation modeling videos and developed a pedestrian evacuation map. Bellingham residents will now be able to see simulated models of how large tsunami waves are likely to impact our community. These simulations also show how tsunami waves will continue to affect Washington communities for several hours after the earthquake.

Disaster preparedness and business continuity ​​workshop on Nov. 4.

The City of Bellingham encourages the community to be prepared for potential disasters. The Port of Bellingham's Economic Development team and Washington State Emergency Management Division will host a Disaster Preparedness and Business Continuity Planning Workshop from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 4 at the Squalicum Boathouse 2600 North Harbor Loop Dr. This free and public workshop is offered for the local business community and will include step-by-step instruction on continuity planning.  Attendees will be able to sign up for the recently developed state business re-entry program. For more information about this event or to register, visit this web​site.

Media Contact

​Vanessa Blackburn, Communications Director
Mayor's Office
(360) 778-8115

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