Recent earthquakes around the Pacific Rim have created what Joann Jacobs of Seattle’s SNAP program calls “a teachable moment.” We have remembered that our last magnitude 9 earthquake along the Oregon coast occurred 311 years ago, and that they have occurred in the past about every 240 years. So our Waluga Neighborhood Association (WNA) has formed a team to start preparing for emergencies in general with a focus, for now at least, on earthquake response. See an OregonLive article on our situation here.
The WNA Emergency Preparedness team has created the following goals:
- Create an emergency response network on each street/area in our neighborhood and through this network prepare to respond to any disaster such as a heavy winter storm or an earthquake.
- Prepare neighbors for individual and household survival in the event of an emergency or disaster
- Bring neighbors together with a shared common goal of helping one another during a catastrophic event and even in daily life.
- Maintain a neighborhood website that will improve and enhance communications and increase our ability to share information with one another as well as about the Waluga Neighborhood Association, its Emergency Preparedness Plan, local fire, police and other State, City and County Services.
We have chosen to begin with the single family homes that make up about a third of the neighborhood, and the manager of our local supermarket has also participated. We would welcome participation by others, especially the multi-family units, both apartments and condos, and our local businesses – when they are ready to join in. So far, with the helpful support of the City of LO in the form of a Neighborhood Development Grant, we have chosen coordinators for each block, met several times to educate ourselves about the consequences of earthquake in other places such as Banda Aceh on the Indian Ocean, Tohoku, Japan, Christ Church, New Zealand, and the coast of Chile. We have worked, with help from the Portland PREP group and others, to discover how people in those regions fared and what they have to teach us about how they survived and what they might do if they could do it over. An expert engineer who works in our neighborhood, Allyson Pyrch of Shannon and Wilson, Geotechnical Engineers, described the damage done in those places and the issues people had to overcome to go on with their lives.
Our block coordinators have surveyed their neighbors to collect information on how to reach one another in an emergency, what tools and skills would be available for coping in the aftermath, and what family members to look out for in case they are not at home when a disaster strikes. Several of the block units have held meetings to learn about what to expect, discuss responses, exchange information, and choose a meeting place to gather in the aftermath and form teams to help everyone connect with family and begin the process of surviving and recovering in the possible absence of emergency responses from police and fire squads. Other block units are still forming and planning their first meetings. At the meetings, we have had refreshments and conversations as well as instruction and decision-making.
This is the beginning. Earthquakes are the most survivable of the potential disasters that can hit a community, and the real benefit of preparing for them as a community may turn out to be the fun and connections that we form as we hold these meetings.