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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 18 January 2006

As Hurricane Katrina proved, modern technology pales in comparison to the power and fury of nature. In the blink of an eye, the work of generations can be washed away.

Are you prepared for a natural disaster, should one occur here in Portland? If things go wrong, do you have a plan?
The community will come together during the 20th annual The Skanner Foundation Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast on Jan. 16 to discuss how the city and individuals can start preparing for a disaster.

The theme for the breakfast is "Lessons from Katrina for King's Love of Community." Keynote speaker Jonathan Jui, M.D., director of emergency medical services for Multnomah County, will discuss steps that each family can take to prepare for natural disasters common to the Northwest, as well as for man-made radiological, chemical or biological emergencies.

The breakfast will run from 8:30 to 10 a.m. in the Oregon Convention Center, 777 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Reservations for the breakfast can be made through the Web site www.theskanner.com; by e-mailing Barbara Kowalski at [email protected]; or by calling 503-285-5555 ext. 508.

The cost for the breakfast is $15 per person or $750 for a table of 10. Those attending also are asked to bring two cans of food for the Oregon Food Bank.

The breakfast's major sponsors include Safeway Food & Drug, the Oregon Lottery, American Family Insurance, TriMet, Thomason Auto Group, Oregon Health & Sciences University, the Port of Portland, Providence Health Systems, Portland General Electric, Rick Hunt of Magic Electronics and the U.S. Navy Recruiting Command.

In the aftermath of Katrina, cities are spending more time considering how they should prepare for emergencies. While hurricanes may not hit Portland, scientists say an earthquake could happen any time.

"We need to plan for an earthquake, flood, wildland fire and a pandemic flu," said Jui. Despite efforts by city and county officials, Jui said, "We are in the middle of being prepared, but we're not there yet. A lot more needs to be done."

Jui also is professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Sciences University and the deputy commander of the Oregon Disaster Medical Assistance Team. The 100-member team, which worked in the makeshift hospital at the New Orleans Airport after Hurricane Katrina hit the city, is part of a national disaster network consisting of health care providers who voluntarily respond to disasters around the United States.

In addition to volunteering, the disaster team plans, trains and responds to provide services when local cities and counties are overwhelmed by a disaster.

Jui's message to those attending the breakfast will be that government needs to be more ethnically diversified and more sensitive to the needs of victims of disasters.

"A relationship between government emergency teams and local communities needs to be created before disaster strikes," Jui said. "It's clear in New Orleans that some people didn't believe the warnings. The message didn't reach the right people.

"The burden is on emergency medical services personnel to reach the people at most risk in the general population," he added.

If some of the top federal and state officials had been more sensitive to the victims' needs, the hurricane's devastation wouldn't have been as great, Jui said. "Clearly those people who have the skill sets to deal with the disaster have not gone through the ranks."

The breakfast has grown from 100 participants 20 years ago to over 1,000; it is the largest event in the Pacific Northwest to honor the Rev. King.

During the past 20 years, high school and college students have received more than $300,000 in scholarships from the foundation and its corporate and individual sponsors.

The Skanner Foundation also is accepting nominations for the Drum Major for Justice award and the John Jackson award. The honors are given to individuals or organizations that have worked throughout the year to fulfill the ideals the Rev. King stood for: equality, justice, racial harmony, civil rights and peace.

Nominations should include the name of the person making the nomination, the nominee's name and phone number and a short (50 words or less) statement about why the nominee should receive the award. The nominations can be e-mailed to [email protected], or mailed to Martin Luther King Jr. Awards; The Skanner; PO Box 5455; Portland, OR 97228-5455.