CK gets first Red Cross disaster supply center in county

If another round of floods or the long-predicted monster earthquake should ever hit Kitsap County, the American Red Cross will have at least 650 people covered.

The Red Cross unveiled its new disaster relief supply center on the grounds of Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue (CKFR) Station 41 in East Bremerton Monday morning. The center is the first in the county.

“We know that it’s not a matter of if, but when (a disaster will hit) and this is just another piece of ... preparing the community,” CKFR Commissioner Mick McKinley said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The center is simple-looking — it consists of little more than wooden supply pallets in an aluminum storage shed — but Red Cross and CKFR officials are banking on it to help save lives.

“It is very difficult to get supplies to where you need when you need them,” said Larry Petry, CEO of the American Red Cross in King and Kitsap counties.

With that in mind, the center was built for speed and efficiency.

Its design mirrors the seven Red Cross supply centers in King County. Blankets, cots and other shelter and survival supplies are packed onto wooden pallets and stuffed into the center. Red Cross vehicles are able to access the pallets quickly, from three large garage doors.

A large and similarly packed trailer also is stored within the center and can be hitched up and towed off within a moment’s notice.

The center’s location was taken into account, as well, when planning its construction. At Station 41 on Old Military Road, the center is within minutes of both Highway 3 and Highway 303, keeping it connected to Central Kitsap’s two main arteries.

A center costs between $66,000 and $70,000 to build and supply from scratch and is paid for through donations and grants from Red Cross supporters.

Members of CKFR and the Red Cross credited each other with helping to bring the center to the station.

“One thing we’ve learned over the years ... is we do not do it alone,” Petry said, nodding to CKFR officials. “Partnerships are critical.”

CKFR was happy to have the Red Cross on site.

“It shows their commitment to the community and this partnership of working together,” CKFR Chief Ken Burdette said.

If all goes according to plan, it won’t be the only partnership in the county the Red Cross enters into. Three more centers are planned to go up in Kitsap and North Mason County, though the timeline for those isn’t yet clear.

The Red Cross is actively pursuing spaces at the Retsil Veterans Home and on city property on Bainbridge Island. A third center is planned for somewhere in North Kitsap.

The agency also is attempting to beef up their volunteer force in the area said Stephen Finley, emergency services manager for Kitsap and North Mason counties.

“On both fronts, we’re doing things to increase our capacity,” he said.

The center is available for use right now, but as Finley added, “hopefully, we’ll never, ever have to open one of those up.”

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