It's filled with hundreds of energetic children during the day, but the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula's Carroll C. Kendall Unit in Sequim could be home to dozens of families in the event of an earthquake, wildfire or tsunami.
American Red Cross Olympic Peninsula chapter executive director Phyllis Darling and the clubs' executive director Bob Schilling have designated the club's Fir Street building as a potential shelter in case of a widespread emergency.
According to Darling, the facility is ideal for a Red Cross emergency refuge because it has plenty of room to set up cots and temporary living areas and has cooking and dining capabilities. The building also is centrally located, she added, far enough from the waterfront in case of flooding or tsunami.
"The club is really a beautiful facility for us, an ideal potential shelter," Darling said. "The Red Cross is quite grateful."
For Schilling, agreeing to the partnership was a no-brainer - children often are the most emotionally affected in times of crisis, he said, and he wants them to feel that the club they feel safe in during good times also can protect them during hard times.
"If we had a disaster, the schools likely wouldn't be open, children would be with their families," Schilling said. "Chances are this facility would just be sitting here."
Darling stressed that in case of an emergency, displaced residents should not automatically head to the Boys & Girls Club - although the American Red Cross designates several sites as potential shelters, each site must be thoroughly checked after a disaster to make sure it is safe.
"We never know what shelters might be usable," Darling said. "For example, an earthquake might have affected a particular shelter so it's not safe."
After a disaster, Darling said the American Red Cross works closely with the Emergency Operating Center, which is based in the Clallam County Courthouse, the Port Angeles Fire Department and Forks City Hall, whose employees and volunteers check all shelters for safety. She encourages residents not to call the Red Cross after a disaster but to listen to local radio stations or call the EOC to learn where to go.
According to ARC chapter volunteer coordinator Diane Holdren, the club is the 25th designated safe haven in Clallam County. According to Darling, 21 of those are in Sequim and Port Angeles.
Schilling said the club staff and volunteers are happy that they might provide a home to residents in case of trouble.
"It'll be better for our kids, for their families and to our community," Schilling said.
The Sequim Gazette is located at 147 W. Washington Street in Sequim.
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