The 15 Oregon chapters of the American Red Cross want to help us think ahead

If an earthquake or flood suddenly strikes, do you have adequate emergency supplies on hand to meet the needs of your family? If a fire breaks out in the middle of the night, are you sure all members of your family know exactly where to rendezvous? If someone in your home breaks a leg or passes out, do you know what to do until emergency assistance arrives?

These are just some of the scenarios Oregonians may face at any time without warning. The events of Sept. 11 showed us that emergencies Ñ man-made or natural Ñ can occur without warning and can seriously disrupt the basic services we normally take for granted.

That's why all 15 chapters of the American Red Cross in Oregon are sponsoring a campaign called 'Prepare Oregon.' As the primary nongovernmental organization responsible for providing relief services when disasters occur, we see the devastating impact emergency situations can have on the lives of people and families. We also see that when people take a few basic steps ahead of time to prepare themselves in case of emergency, they are able to weather difficult situations.

Prepare Oregon has three basic goals for every household in the state:

1. To prepare a disaster supplies kit.

2. To establish a family emergency plan.

3. To have at least one family member trained in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

The long-range goal of this effort is to have Oregon lead the country by becoming the 'most prepared' state in the nation.

A recent baseline survey of households in the area revealed that only one in seven considers himself or herself to be 'fully prepared' for an emergency situation. More than half of those surveyed have no disaster supplies kit or family emergency plan. One-third are not trained in first aid or CPR, and nearly eight in 10 have not devised an earthquake plan.

Sometimes the actions you take before the arrival of police and fire representatives can be the difference between life and death for a friend or family member. And if an event such as a terrorist attack or earthquake occur, you may be forced to be self-reliant for up to several days. In those cases, a few minutes of preparation can prove invaluable.

To help get the word out about the importance of this campaign, we have enlisted the support of former Sen. Mark Hatfield as honorary chairman of Prepare Oregon. The effort also has the endorsement of Gov. John Kitzhaber, the Oregon Fire Chiefs Association, Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police and Oregon Emergency Management. We also are seeking to add a state preparedness 'benchmark' through the Oregon Progress Board.

The Oregon Trail Chapter of the Red Cross responded to 224 emergency situations last year. The majority of those were home and apartment fires, but our state also is susceptible to earthquakes, and major floods can occur, as we learned in 1996.

Our goal is not to frighten people, but to let them know they can take some basic, simple steps that will help protect their homes and families and give them greater peace of mind.

You can get more details on specific actions to take by visiting our Web site at I encourage every Oregon family to take the time to follow these suggestions and help make our state the best prepared in the nation.

Ð Sue Hildick of Northwest Portland is executive director of the Oregon Trail Chapter of the American Red Cross.

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