Oregon earthquake preparedness always ‘ongoing’

Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) program created in 1994

An earthquake spikes on a monitor at the USGS station in Vancouver, June 1, 2015 (KOIN)
An earthquake spikes on a monitor at the USGS station in Vancouver, June 1, 2015 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – After a string of earthquakes off the Oregon coast, residents are paying extra attention to municipal and school emergency plans in case the big one hits.

Portland city plans

The Hawthorne Bridge over the Willamette River in downtown Portland, June 2, 2015 (KOIN)
The Hawthorne Bridge over the Willamette River in downtown Portland, June 2, 2015 (KOIN)

The city created NET – the Neighborhood Emergency Team – in 1994 and has since trained more than 2,500 volunteers.

“It’s a way to get trained on the basic skills that you would need to check on your family and friends after a disaster,” Dan Douthit, a spokesperson with Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM) said.

After a major natural disaster, like a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, NET volunteers will conduct search and rescue operations, triage and treat injuries, and shut off compromised utilities until professionals arrive. Research shows that 90% of people are rescued by their neighbors in a disaster and not first responders.

Douthit said that people should strive for an emergency preparedness kit that would last for 2 weeks. He said people should inventory items they have in their homes right now that could be used in an emergency kit.

“A lot of Portlanders have camping supplies,” Douthit said. “That same gear you would use in the outdoors, you can use after an earthquake.”

He said emergency kits can be added to weekly by making small additions during weekly trips to the grocery store.

“There really isn’t a point in which we would say people are fully prepared,” Douthit said. “It’s an ongoing thing.”

Other cities and counties have similar programs set up. Most of those are known as CERT, or “Community Emergency Response Team.” People wanting more information should contact their local county office for emergency management.

In Portland, people can visit the PBEM website.

School emergency plans

PPS spokesperson Christine Miles, June 2, 2015 (KOIN)
PPS spokesperson Christine Miles, June 2, 2015 (KOIN)

The Portland Public School district is the only one in the state of Oregon with an emergency preparedness manager whose job it is to help schools develop plans for whatever may arise.

In the event of a big quake, the plan calls for students to remain with teachers. If the building is damaged, schools will set up designated reunification sites as close as possible to schools.

“If the bridges come down during an earthquake and (parents) can’t get to their child who can?,” said PPS spokesperson Christine Miles. “Who do they have they identified as a person who can go and pick up their students.”

Parents should update school lists of who a child can be released to, such as a grandparent, trusted neighbor or friend. After a quake hits cell phones and the Internet may be unusable.

If parents can make it to the school, Miles said, “there will be some type of communication there at the school — a person, some direction, to say here’s where you can find your student.”

Of the 47 buildings in the PPS district, 14 have been modernized to meet current earthquake standards. Another 8 are planned for a seismic upgrade this summer.

Those upgrades are paid for by the $482 million bond measure approved by voters in 2012. The schedule calls for all schools to be seismically upgraded within the next 5 years.

A series of earthquakes struck off the Oregon coast early Monday, but scientists said they weren't strong enough to trigger tsunamis. (KOIN 6 News)
A series of earthquakes struck off the Oregon coast early Monday, but scientists said they weren’t strong enough to trigger tsunamis. (KOIN 6 News)

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