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Firefighter putting out a fire
By Lisa Loving | The Skanner News
Published: 21 November 2013

It’s easy for Pacific Northwest residents to look at the extreme storms ravaging the Midwest states and think: That isn’t going to happen here. 

But if you think our region is immune to disasters, think again.

In February of this year, with its Oregon Resilience Plan, the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission gave a report to state lawmakers predicting a 100 percent chance of a major earthquake and tsunami.

It’s not a question of if, but when.

Last month, more than 270,000 people around the state participated in the Great Oregon ShakeOut, an earthquake drill designed to help people prepare – to the degree that it’s possible – for the real thing.

An annual event, the ShakeOut is held across the U.S. to practice what to do when the ground starts shaking.

What do you do? Immediately drop, cover and hold on. And once the shaking stops, immediately exit the building if you’re indoors.

The last major quake in Oregon happened in 1700. It was an estimated 9.0 magnitude earthquake similar to the one experienced by Japan in 2011, and shook the Cascadia subduction zone off the OregonCoast.

While some people might be too overwhelmed to plan ahead, there are a laundry list of tasks that are not only helpful to prepare for a quake, but also can serve you, your family and your neighborhood in the event of a winter storm, flood, fire or other hazard.

Make a Plan

--Make an emergency plan for your family and your business. Who will communicate with whom in an emergency? Where will you meet to stay together?

--Build a kit with one week or more of food, water and other essential supplies. Also keep kits at work and in your vehicle.

--Stay informed of the hazards in Portland, and educate your friends and neighbors. --Also know how to get to the closest Basic Earthquake Emergency Communication Node or BEECN in your neighborhood – www.PublicAlerts.org/earthquake. Within 24 hours of a major quake, each BEECN will be a place to get information and ask for emergency assistance.

--Get trained as a member of Portland’s Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) program and learn how to provide disaster assistance to your friends and neighbors by signing up online through the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management – the next trainings are in the spring of 2014.

--Schedule a basic emergency preparedness class through the American Red Cross. These trainings happen regularly, or can be offered directly to schools, faith-based organizations, business and other community groups.

--Visit www.PublicAlerts.org and sign up to be notified by landline phone, cell phone or email if an emergency happens in your area and you need to take immediate safety action.

Dire Warning

The Oregon Resilience Plan is dire in its prediction of statewide damage under current conditions.

Its key finding: “Oregon is far from resilient to the impacts of a great Cascadia earthquake and tsunami today.

“Available studies estimate fatalities ranging from 1,250 to more than 10,000 due to the combined effects of earthquake and tsunami, tens of thousands of buildings destroyed or damaged so extensively that they will require months to years of repair, tens of thousands of displaced households, more than $30 billion in direct and indirect economic losses (close to one

fifth of Oregon’s gross state product), and more than one million dump truck loads of debris,” the report says.

“Resilience gaps of this magnitude reveal a harsh truth: a policy of business as usual implies a post-earthquake future that could consist of decades of economic and population decline –in effect, a ‘lost generation’ that will devastate our state and ripple beyond Oregon to affect the regional and national economy.”

More information about preparedness and signing up for the NET trainings is available from the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management at www.portlandoregon.gov/pbem.

Read the Oregon Resiliency Plan at www.oregon.gov/OEM and follow the left-hand links to Oregon Resilience Task Force.

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