NEMCo Volunteers Practice Rapid Damage Assessments for Kenmore and Lake Forest Park


By Kevin Lowery, NEMCo Emergency Manager

As part of the most recent quarterly statewide 5th Saturday Communications exercise, the Northshore Emergency Management Coalition mobilized its volunteer corps to practice conducting a Rapid Damages Assessment (RDA) and to test their ability to communicate damage reports to the NEMCo Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and other county and state partners.

This RDA involved volunteers pairing up to drive pre-established routes throughout the Cities of Kenmore and Lake Forest Park, reporting any damage or emergency events they found along the way. Also known as windshield assessments, RDAs are intended to be a quick survey of the area so that decision makers in the EOC can have accurate and timely information about conditions throughout each city immediately following a disaster. This information is then correlated and combined with information coming in through traditional methods, such as 911 dispatch and local news, to give decision makers a better understanding of the situation despite the chaos that often takes place right after a major event.

Since disaster can strike at any time, training the NEMCo Volunteers on critical tasks such as this allows them to provide aid when traditional city staff or first responders are still coming from homes away from town or responding to more serious emergency needs. This helps the volunteers, most of whom live locally, act as an important stop gap and force multiplier when their communities need them most.

Once this information is processed through the NEMCo EOC, tools such as HAM radio, and its ability to transmit data, allow these damage reports to be passed to other partners. This includes things like bridge and roadway conditions that can be sent to the State Fusion Center and then forwarded to partners at the Department of Transportation. Once this initial assessment is completed, these tools also allow resource requests and other communications to still flow when cell phone networks and the internet may be down or significantly overloaded.

Since many organizations often take this time of year to say thank you to their volunteers, I hope that this helps you understand the important role your local NEMCo volunteer plays in make your community more resilient and ready to respond when the next disaster strikes. Please, the next time you see them around town or heading off to a meeting or training, take a moment to thank them for giving their time to serve our community.

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