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Emergency Preparedness a Common Language at Ellsworth House

The Senior Foundation of Mercer Island, local police and Rotary club members joined together Wednesday to support disaster planning — in Mandarin, Cantonese and English — for one of the community's most vulnerable populations.

In the event of a natural disaster on Mercer Island, are you prepared to go for up to a week without leaving your home?

Local non-profit organizations and officials from the joined forces Wednesday to ensure that residents of — the community's only low-income development for seniors — had at least the tools and knowledge necessary to survive a catastrophe long enough until help from the outside could arrive.

Organized by the and supported by a grant from the local , volunteers passed out emergency kits for residents, many of whom speak Mandarin Chinese or Cantonese as a first language.

To overcome the language barrier, Rotary Mercer Island members Jennifer Sik and Lan Wang translated some of Franklin's comments and the city's emergency planning program into Mandarin and Cantonese. Pamphlets with an emergency guide and contact numbers in Mandarin and Cantonese were also distributed at the event.

Mercer Island Rotary President David Bobanick said they faced the additional challenge of changing perceptions of Ellsworth residents, who depend in-part on public assistance for housing.

"We need to them to understand they need to take care of themselves, and, quite possibly, others in the building," he said.  "With these kits, we hope they will have enough supplies to get them through a few days."

MIPD Emergency Preparedness Officer Jennifer Franklin addressed the gathering of nearly all the 59 residents on the importance of planning for a natural disaster that could interrupt power, water, police and fire response and even cut Mercer Island off from the mainland if the I-90 bridges were damaged.

"Think about this," she asked, "If you didn't have any police or fire service responding to your calls, what would you do?"

Sitting directly over a major geologic fault line and connected (for most residents) only by bridges to the rest of the metro area, experts say Mercer Island is particularly vulnerable to a natural disaster such as an earthquake.

Senior Foundation member Patty Darling said the partnership with Rotary and City Hall produced 100 emergency kits. The remaining kits would be distributed to other local seniors who face a resource or language barrier.

"Hopefully, we'll have one-hundred more seniors prepared for tomorrow than they were at the start of today," she said.

The kits contained flashlights, batteries, basic first aid supplies and some nonperishable food. Franklin implored residents to store the emergency kits in a secure, accessible place in their home and to also prepare by storing several gallons of potable water and a week's supply of non-perishable food in their pantries.

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