Uptown Alliance talks disaster planning, KeyArena

“At some point in your life, you are going to be affected by a disaster.”

It’s just a fact of life, says Melanie Cole of Seattle’s Office of Emergency Management.

Preparing for that reality was the subject of Tuesday’s Uptown Alliance meeting, with an understandable focus on the potential for a major earthquake to hit the region.

The key takeaway?

“We want you to be self-sustainable,” Cole said, warning that first responders may not be able to reach residents for days in the aftermath of a disaster. 

That said, Cole walked the group of about 25 through three steps to take ahead of the inevitable: Make a plan, build a kit, and work together.

To the first point, communication is critical. Cole told those on hand to have important phone numbers written down and in their wallets or purses, to avoid relying on either electronic devices or their memory.

Meanwhile, an emergency kit should include at least one gallon of water per person per day, nonperishable food, warm clothing and sturdy shoes, and a safe light source.

There are some caveats, though. Cole suggests that the food on hand is food you would normally eat and takes dietary restrictions into account, and to avoid candles at all cost. Without fail, she said, in the hours after a natural disaster house fires break out because of mishaps with open flames.

“We don’t want you to have a double disaster,” she said.

And, it doesn’t matter how you put a kit together, whether everything is in one place, or spread out in multiple locations around a home or apartment.

“Whatever way you want to do it, just do it,” Cole said. “Just do whatever makes sense for you, what’s comfortable for you.”

Finally, whether the “Seattle Freeze” is real or not, preparedness officials would rather residents not meet the people next door for the first time on the day of a disaster. Cole encouraged attendees to bring together their neighbors to schedule a presentation from the Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare (SNAP) program as a starting point for broader planning. The city also supports community emergency hubs, which serve as central gathering places after disasters.

While the slow pace of progress in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria has made headlines, Cole cautioned that a major mainland event could leave people waiting for an extended period for even basic services to return to normal. Parts of New Orleans went months without power after Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s annoying for one evening,” she said. “But it’s really annoying for three months.”

Also discussed Tuesday was the status of KeyArena development talks, ahead of a Thursday meeting of the Select Committee on Civic Arenas (which would ultimately vote 5-0 to send the Memorandum of Understanding to the full council).

Deborah Frausto, chair of the Alliance’s KeyArena Subcommittee, touched on the letter sent to the city council at the end of October requesting additions and changes for the final MOU with the Oak View Group, and said thus far, not much of what was asked for made it into the amendments. 

Also to be determined is the scope of a community benefits agreement between OVG and the city, something to be hammered out after the MOU. 

"We have to figure out how we are going to approach that ourselves," Frausto said. 

Meanwhile, in the crowd was another long-time figure in arena discussions: former Sonics general manager turned SonicsArena investor Wally Walker.

Walker said the MOU is not a simple document to parse, but that an analysis pegged the direct public subsidies for the OVG proposal at close to $500 million, and the indirect another $400 million.

“It really is not an easy document to figure out what’s going on,” Walker said.

His group — which has proposed redeveloping the Key by dividing it into a 6,200-seat indoor concert venue on one side, and an outdoor covered amphitheater that could fit 3,000 on the other — remains committed to SODO as the best location for an NBA/NHL arena.

“We got into this because we think it’s the best site for a sports facility,” said Walker, who added that he believes getting 19,000 spectators in and out of Uptown will be a challenge no matter how much money is spent on transportation mitigation.

Those issues were also discussed in preparation of Saturday’s North Downtown Mobility Action Plan community workshop. That plan will identify and prioritize transportation improvements for Uptown, Belltown, and South Lake Union, with a draft list of ranked projects due out in February or March, and a final plan out over the summer. 

The next Uptown Alliance meeting is set for Jan. 9.

To comment on this story, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.