County honors Auburn organizations for emergency preparedness, response

King County Executive Dow Constantine honored the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and Wesley Homes Lea Hill of Auburn with the 2012 Executive
King County Executive Dow Constantine honored the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and Wesley Homes Lea Hill of Auburn with the 2012 Executive's Awards for Community Preparedness on Wednesday. From left: King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer; Muckleshoot Indian Tribal Council Vice Chair Mike Jerry Sr.; Wesley Homes Campus Administrator Scott Hulet; Valley Regional Fire Authority's Kelly McDonald; VRFA's Kelly Williams; Heather Kitchen with Auburn Emergency Management; Constantine; and Auburn City Council member Rich Wagner.
— image credit: Courtesy photo/King County

King County leaders honored the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and the Wesley Homes Lea Hill senior housing community for their commitment to emergency preparedness and response.

King County Executive Dow Constantine praised the two organizations at a ceremony Wednesday in Auburn.

The Executive’s Award for Community Preparedness is given each September during National Preparedness Month in recognition of outstanding efforts made by volunteer organizations to prepare for and respond to emergencies and to promote safer communities.

"When a disastrous ice and snow storm knocked out power and blocked roads last January, the staff and volunteers of the Muckleshoot Tribe jumped into action to open warming shelters and transport elders and others in need, keeping their residents safe and secure," Constantine said.

"I was also deeply impressed by the level of commitment shown by the residents and staff at Wesley Homes Lea Hill to strengthen the resiliency of their community," Constantine said. "In both cases, I am especially proud to honor the spirit of self-reliance shown by the hardworking volunteers and to hold them up as a model for others to follow."

The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe was chosen for its quick action after last winter's devastating storm coated roads with ice and fallen debris, knocked down power lines, and left many tribal residents in the dark and without heat for many days.

Tribal emergency operations professionals activated their response plan, opening shelters and dispersing dozens of volunteers to go door-to-door to assess residents' needs. More than 150 elders and other vulnerable citizens were taken to shelters, provided hot meals and a place to sleep until heat and power were restored several days later.

"The impressive work done by the Muckleshoot Tribe and their volunteers during those freezing, dark days went above and beyond the norm," Constantine said.

Wesley Homes, others solidify CERT efforts

The senior housing community of Wesley Homes Lea Hill in Auburn also was honored. The 230-resident campus has formed a close partnership with local emergency responders, including the Valley Regional Fire Authority and City of Auburn's Emergency Preparedness Office, which helped create and train a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) at the community.

Staff and volunteers have conducted earthquake/search-and-rescue drills, have learned techniques to transport residents down stairs during an evacuation, formed a local HAM radio group, completed Incident Command training, and are working on developing preparedness kits for each resident and for each "neighborhood" within the senior community.

"Through the planning and training efforts led by this group of engaged citizens, everyone is now better prepared to take action when crisis strikes," Constantine said.

"The dedicated volunteers in the Wesley Homes Lea Hill community and at the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe are huge assets to their communities, and each deserves this honor," added Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer, who represents Auburn, the Muckleshoot Reservation and other South King County communities which were hard hit during last January's federally declared disaster. "Each provides an excellent model of ongoing community coordination that will have a positive influence throughout the region."

"We have 21 residents who graduated from Auburn's Community Emergency Response Team training, including a 92-year-old," said Scott Hulet, administrator at Wesley Homes Lea Hill. "Our CERT members received outstanding training, and I am confident that when a disaster happens, our residents can count on our staff and each other to respond quickly and effectively."

"As we head into another winter storm season it is more important than ever for communities to be prepared," Constantine said. "We encourage everyone to follow the examples that we honor today, and to prepare themselves, their families, and their neighborhoods for the next emergency."

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