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Earthquake Preparedness Lacking In Seattle's Densest Neighborhoods

Paula Wissel
Belltown is one of the neighborhoods with no designated gathering spot after an earthquake.

As part of earthquake preparedness, Seattle has identified community hubs where people can gather after a quake. On Saturday, the hubs will be activated for an exercise. But, there are no hubs in some of the city’s most popular neighborhoods, including Belltown, Downtown, the Central District and Capitol Hill. The city of Seattle has published a map of identified community hubs, where people are encouraged to go Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to noon for the earthquake exercise. 

Matt Auflick is in charge of outreach for Seattle’s Office of Emergency Management. He says when a big quake hits, designated community hubs will be vital. 

“As city departments are out there responding, it’s really going to be up to neighbors to figure out how they take care of themselves,” Auflick said.

These hubs, usually a community center or playfield, are places you can go to share information and resources at a time when things like cell service and electricity are likely to be out.

But, the hubs are completely organized by volunteers and apparently no one stepped forward to set them up on Capitol Hill, in Belltown, Downtown or in the Central District.

Longtime Capitol Hill resident Charlette LeFevre was shocked when she found this out.

“Capitol Hill is one of the most densely populated neighborhoods, as well as Belltown.” Lefevre says.

She remembers there used to be a disaster preparedness group on the hill, but as with a lot of all-volunteer organizations, it didn’t last. 

Matt Auflick acknowledges it's a problem, this lack of neighborhood preparedness in the heart of the city is a problem, and, he says, the city is working on it and looking for "outside the box" ideas to engage people. 

He says there are unique challenges in places like Capitol Hill.

“It’s a very transient population. It's a younger population and so people are moving in and out,” he said.

News that there wasn't a post earthquake gathering spot on Capitol Hill did spur one resident to take action. Charlette LeFevre has decided she’ll set up a table in the Cal Anderson Park shelter and invite people to at least come by and pick up an earthquake preparedness flyer.

She says she has faith in the people in her neighborhood even if they aren't organized .

“I do believe every person has a little part of themselves that they know in the times of emergency they, without a doubt, will be helping their neighbor," she said.

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