Reality check: disaster preparedness

March 17, 2011 · by pcriadmin · PCRI

The following post has been re-published from Multnomah County Chair Jeff CogenAt PCRI, our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Japan.  The destruction from the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami is heartwrenching, but it is also a reality check, reminding us to be prepared for a potential disaster here at home.

March 17, 2011

When the earthquake and resulting tsunami ravaged Japan last week, the devastation and destruction was enough to catch all our attention. Japan and its residents long have been prepared for the havoc brought on by an earthquake, and it’s clear that preparation saved many lives. I’d like to take this moment to remind everyone that being prepared for a disaster is critical in our community.

It’s no secret that Oregon is vulnerable to the same kind of catastrophic events like those that hit Japan. What’s the risk to us? The Cascadia Subduction Zone fault off Oregon’s coast last had a major earthquake in 1700. Geologists expect that a quake could happen again in our area. If this happens, its effects will reach far inland. Shaking will be strongest on the coast but also will be felt in the Willamette Valley. Prolonged shaking can cause structure collapse, landslides and disruption of lifeline services.

If such a quake happens here, assume that emergency response agencies will be overwhelmed. That’s where you come in. Get prepared. Talk to your family and your neighbors. Make sure you have a plan that will help keep everyone safe if a quake hits. As Japan’s experience has so tragically shown us, the more prepared you are, the higher your chance of survival.

Without question, all Multnomah County residents should:

1. Get an emergency kit for your home

  • Have an emergency kit with enough food and water for every household member and pet for at least 72 hours.
  • Kits should include medications, first-aid supplies, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, flashlights, batteries, a whistle and tools to turn off utilities.
  • Other helpful items include phone chargers, local maps and cash.
  • A larger kit kept at home can help you shelter-in-place. If you need to evacuate quickly, prepare a smaller “Go-Kit” for each family member, including pets.

2. Make a Plan

  • Identify an out-of-town contact to communicate among separated family members.
  • Make sure family members have access to a list of emergency contacts and have a cell phone, coins or prepaid phone cards to make emergency calls.
  • Develop a plan for what you will do if you are in your home, at work, or are separated from each other and practice your plans.
  • Talk to your neighbors and make sure they have plans.

3. Prepare Your Home

  • Fasten shelves and bookcases to walls, placing heavier items on the lower shelves and storing breakable items in closed cabinets with latches.
  • Hang heavy pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches and anywhere people might sit.
  • Secure your water heater by strapping it to the wall studs and bolting it to the floor.
  • Store any hazardous fluids or materials in secure cabinets.
  • Identify safe places indoors and outdoors that are away from where broken glass or heavy items could fall.
  • Be prepared with tools that can turn off water, gas and electricity at your home.

For more information, go to the Multnomah County website at and look at the Emergency Preparedness section. Also, visit for information about putting together family emergency and communications plans.

There is no way to predict when a natural disaster will strike or to prevent one from happening. However, being prepared can be the difference between life and death. Thanks for doing your part.
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Jeff Cogen

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