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Preparing to survive the coming earthquake

UPCOMING PUBLIC TALKS WILL HELP
by: Photo courtesy of EERI Jay Wilson (here shown standing in an earthquake/tsunami damaged area during a recent trip to Japan), believes that knowledge about earthquake damage and information about retrofitting their houses can help neighbors better prepare for the inevitable huge earthquake here.

Sellwood resident Jay Wilson was shaken, both literally and emotionally, on a recent damage inspection visit to Tohoku, Japan.

As Hazard Mitigation Coordinator for Clackamas County Department of Emergency Management, Wilson spent one week with a team of people from around the United States who belong to the nonprofit EERI (Earthquake Engineering Research Institute).

In their trip they gathered information about the damage caused by the March 11th quake and tsunami that killed 23,000 people on the Japanese island of Honshu.

'On June 25th, I felt two very strong aftershocks on the 16th floor of the hotel where I was staying,' recounts Jay. 'The hangers in the closet and the lamps in the room were swinging, the curtains were swaying. That lasted ten seconds, and then the building shook for another twenty seconds.'

Besides being physically shaken, Wilson was deeply disturbed by what he learned in Japan. He knows all too well that the Pacific Northwest faces inevitably a similar huge earthquake.

'Japan is the best mirror for us, in terms of magnitude and how a very modern society is affected,' he says.

What worries Wilson is that in spite of the modern industrial similarities between the two countries, our own buildings and infrastructure - bridges, water and sewage pipes, fiber optic cables, railways, and highways - are not nearly as strong or prepared as those in Japan.

'A huge earthquake happens so rarely here, things aren't designed for bending like a paper clip for four or five minutes,' Jay frets. The last magnitude 9 earthquake in Oregon was in 1700. Geological history shows that such subduction earthquakes happen regularly on 300-500 year cycles here. We are eleven years into the average occurrence window for a Big One.

Wilson says he returned from Japan with a 'new-found sense of purpose' to help Pacific Northwest communities prepare and plan for the risks and recovery of earthquake and tsunami.

'I have been doing this kind of work for fifteen years, and until now, I've tried to leave my work at the office. Now I'd like to share what I know with the neighborhoods.' In Sellwood in August, Wilson will give presentations about what he learned in Japan and how that can help us prepare.

He will also explain his own personal DIY (Do It Yourself) experience of 'seismic retrofitting' on his 1906 Sellwood home. Several years ago Wilson anchored his house to its foundation, for the sake of his family's security and for his peace of mind.

'I am not a carpenter. I went online and got retrofitting instructions, and also asked a few questions of people I knew in the business. I did a lot of measuring, had the plywood panels pre-cut to size and then rented the tools. It took several weekends.'

At the time Wilson did the retrofitting, the City of Portland did not require a permit or inspection. 'Now the city requires a permit, and [that is good, because] you want to have a record of retrofitting. It can increase the value of your home.'

This past April, Portland's Bureau of Development Services announced its new Residential Seismic Strengthening Program. At the inaugural ceremony at John's Landing across the river on S.W. Macadam Avenue, Wilson shared his retrofitting experience in a ten-minute PowerPoint presentation.

Now, on Wednesday, August 24, at SMILE Station, 8210 S.E. 13th Avenue at Tenino Street - at 7 pm - Wilson will share with you what he learned in Japan.

And again on Wednesday, August 31st, 7 pm at SMILE Station, he will talk about how to mitigate local earthquake damage, and also give his DIY seismic retrofit PowerPoint presentation. People from all neighborhoods are welcome to attend both of these at no charge.

To learn more about Portland's Residential Seismic Strengthening Program, go online to: http://tinyurl.com/4x7sdcp . And, to learn about upcoming Neighborhood Emergency Team trainings, and the new NET steering committee, go online to: www.portlandonline.com/oem .