Emergency workers practice for The Big One

PBEM joins Cascadia Rising practice earthquake training

Emergency workers with PBEM practiced their response to a 9.0 magnitude earthquake. June 8, 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Emergency workers across the northwest region and inside Portland’s Emergency Coordination Center were in a state of controlled chaos Wednesday as they simulated their response to a 9.0 magnitude earthquake as part of the Cascadia Rising training exercise.

The practice session is an effort to determine how prepared emergency workers are for The Big One, the massive earthquake scientists have been warning about.

The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM) uses an incident command system, a framework designed by the federal government that charts the communications between different response groups.

Each worker was classified as logistics, finance, planning, operations or command, which allows the city to properly assess the damage, find a solution and put a plan into action.

“We really hope to identify any training gaps and any deficiencies in our emergency plans,” said PBEM Director Carmen Merlo. “The work doesn’t stop tomorrow.”

Merlo told me KOIN 6 PBEM holds these simulations every year, but Wednesday’s was the biggest training exercise in nearly a decade. That could be because of Portland’s newfound earthquake awareness, which Merlo says has skyrocketed following an article on “The Big One” published in the New Yorker.

PBEM offers free 30-hour emergency training courses, which can fit 30 to 50 people per class. Merlo says the wait-list for the classes is up to 12,000 people.

While the idea of “The Big One” has only recently gained traction to the general public, it is not a new idea to emergency responders, who have been discussing the city’s response to an earthquake of that magnitude for 15 years.

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