Earthquake researcher: ‘Survival alone is not enough’

The report is titled, "Big Steps Before the Big One: How the Portland area can bounce back after a major earthquake."

COURTESY ILLUSTRATION - A map shows the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the coasts of Oregon, Washington and Norhern California.
COURTESY ILLUSTRATION - A map shows the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the coasts of Oregon, Washington and Norhern California.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Earthquake Resilience Research Committee report from Portland’s City Club released on Wednesday shows the city isn’t quite ready for when the Big One will strike, officials say.

The report is titled, “Big Steps Before the Big One: How the Portland area can bounce back after a major earthquake.”

The committee came to the conclusion that Portland should focus on preserving social and physical infrastructure in preparation for the Cascadia earthquake predicted to strike the Pacific Northwest sometime in the next 50 years. That, “combined with immediate and ongoing investment,” will help the region bounce back after a major earthquake, according to the report.

Great Subduction Zone earthquakes are the largest earthquakes in the world. (PNSN)
Great Subduction Zone earthquakes are the largest earthquakes in the world. (PNSN)

“Portland-area communities are built atop tectonic forces beyond anyone’s control, but the region is not helpless,” the report states. “The Portland area is not yet prepared, but leaders and the public are learning what must be done to reduce damage and recover quickly from the earthquake’s impacts.”

The Earthquake Resilience Research Committee called on public and private leaders to improve building and transportation system standards with new code requirements and incentive-based policies. It also called for expanding public awareness about earthquake-related topics by creating “inclusive community networks.”

One proposal is to support a state senate bill that would require homeowners to disclose whether a home has been bolted to its foundation. But that can be very costly for homeowners, running up a bill of several thousand dollars.

“If they slide off the foundation, it doesn’t help that they’re still standing but can’t be occupied. [That’s] not good for a major investment,” said Teri Martin with the Portland City Club.

“When a major earthquake hits the Portland area, survival alone is not enough,” Committee Chair Teri Martin said. “We must invest in the social and physical infrastructure that will allow our unique culture and strong economy to thrive after a major earthquake.”

A diagram of the Cascadia Subduction Zone provided by the Oregon Historical Society.
A diagram of the Cascadia Subduction Zone provided by the Oregon Historical Society.

The report was prepared over 9 months with around 90 witness interviews. The committee also studied options to prepare for a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and identified 5 linchpins of resilience: fuel, buildings, lifelines, people and coordinated planning.

While officials said the immediate survival of Portland-area residents is the most critical, focusing on the above-named linchpin areas will help create a path for long-term prosperity beyond any earthquake that hits.

The City Club of Portland will devote its February 24 Friday Forum at the Sentinel Hotel to discussing this earthquake report and its recommendations. Seats are available.