Resilient Communities: working together after disaster

These last few years have been full of surprises, devastation, and emergencies.  Beyond the ongoing pandemic, the weather of Fall 2021 has been incredibly destructive.  While many King County residents have had power disruptions, our neighbors in Northwest Washington have been hit with severe flooding and brace for even more atmospheric rivers in the next few days.  The damages are immense.

In the midst of disaster and chaos, communities with strong social networks recover more quickly. A 2017 article by Daniel Aldrich of Northeastern University articulates the power of people looking out for one another and coming together to find solutions. In his study of the aftermath of the 2011 Japan disasters:

We found that municipalities which had higher levels of trust and interaction had lower mortality levels after we controlled for all of those confounding factors.

We believe that communities with more ties, interaction and shared norms worked effectively to provide help to kin, family and neighbors. In many cases only 40 minutes separated the earthquake and the arrival of the tsunami. During that time, residents literally picked up and carried many elderly people out of vulnerable, low-lying areas. In high-trust neighborhoods, people knocked on doors of those who needed help and escorted them out of harm’s way.

While physical infrastructure is important for mitigating disaster, communities should also invest time and effort in building social ties.

What can that mean for Washington residents?

A wall with openings to a construction area.  Spray painted on the wall are the words "Thank you Volunteers. We love you"

Everyone can take a step to get to know their neighbors – especially in this upcoming holiday season – and create practices of communication with the people close to them.  As the rains come, take a few minutes to check on those nearby or reach out if help is needed. Social ties can help during a crisis and just be fun on the day to day!

At King County, employees have the unique benefit of using paid time off for volunteering!  Each calendar year, eligible employees may use up to three sick/vacation days for volunteering with an EGP organization or school.  Details are in the Volunteer Time Off section of this page. It’s a great benefit, that many employees are using, for helping communities bounce back.

If looking for a way to support those in Whatcom and surrounding communities, these are some of the EGP nonprofits responding to the flood needs. Please consider volunteering or making a donation.

EGP # OrganizationSummary
9574Community Action of SkagitCommunity Action is responding to the flood by giving clothes, boots, shoes, coats, sweaters, scarves, tents, towels, tarps, sleeping bags, gloves and other items for people who lost everything in the flood.
Community Action runs the hub for the majority of food going out through all Skagit food banks and meal programs, a total of 19 food banks in three counties.
10970North Olympic Land TrustThe work of North Olympic Land Trust centers on the mission: to conserve lands that sustain the communities of the North Olympic Peninsula. They work to conserve open spaces, local food, local resources, healthy watersheds and recreational opportunities.
9476Project SeaWolfThey have deployed rescue hovercraft along the I5 corridor in the Burlington/Sedro Woolley area for use by local first responders for either animal rescue or for human rescue support. Volunteers have kept the vessel trailered, on the move, and will continue to conduct nightly patrols in the area.
9343Red Cross NorthwestRunning three shelters. Shelter guests are receiving food, clothing and mental health services, as well as care and shelter for their pets. They are passing out free cleaning kits.
9430Washington State Animal Response TeamWASART is an all-volunteer nonprofit dedicated to helping animals and their owners in emergencies. They rescue livestock & companion animals and operate emergency animal shelters.

King County employees may refer additional nonprofits not already in the Employee Giving Program for inclusion in 2022.