The major earthquake that caused so much devastation in Japan last week and sent high waves onto the Oregon coast - also transmitted across the Pacific Ocean a sorrowful reminder that the same type of catastrophic event could occur here in the Northwest.

In the quake's aftermath, our first thoughts go out to the tens of thousands of people in Japan who've been displaced, injured or killed by the magnitude 9.0 quake and accompanying tsunamis. The scenes of destruction in that country are mind-boggling. Even in a nation as modern and well prepared as Japan, a powerful earthquake still can be both deadly and highly disruptive.

Also of concern are the continuing updates about the extensive damage to several of Japan's nuclear reactors. As more and more people are asked to move further and further away or told to bunker down inside their homes and turn off ventilation, it's clear that a third whammy (first the earthquake, then the tsunami and now radiation) is at work here.

The cross-Pacific tsunamis generated considerable damage along the American West Coast, ranging from Santa Monica, Calif., in the south all the way up to Brookings and Depoe Bay in Oregon.

The quake is of high local interest for another reason, too: It was a subduction zone quake, similar to the type of earthquake that could occur off the Oregon Coast. On Friday, state Geologist Vicki McConnell discussed the geologic similarities between the Pacific Northwest and Japan. And she warned that the next big quake is due, telling news reporters, 'They usually happen every 300 years and the last one was in the 1700s.'

As we continue to watch this horrific story unfold, many of us are wondering what we can do to help. The truth is, like the devastating Haiti earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, Americans can and will do plenty. As a nation, we are sending direct assistance to Japan in a variety of forms. As individuals, we can choose to do any of the following:

American Red Cross - The Red Cross is assisting with emergency relief, food and shelter. To donate, visit the website, Send checks to P.O. Box 4002018, Des Moines, Iowa, 50340-2018. Donors also can call 800-RED-CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

International Medical Corps - The agency is assisting with medical needs. To donate, visit the website, www.internationalmedical or text MED8088 to make a $10 donation. Contribute by telephone by calling 800-481-4462. Donations also can be mailed to: Development Department, International Medical Corps, 1919 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 400, Santa Monica, CA 90404.

AmeriCares - The agency provides emergency relief. To donate, go to the website, or mail donations to 88 Hamilton Ave., Stamford, CT 06902.

Save The Children - This organization helps children by providing emergency relief. Donate to the agency's 'Japan Earthquake Tsunami Children in Emergency Fund' via the website, www.savethechil or by calling 800-728-3843. You can also text 'JAPAN' to 20222 to donate $10. Or mail a check to Save the Children, 54 Wilton Road, Westport, CT 06880.

Mercy Corps - This Portland-based agency is working through its Japanese partner, Peace Winds, with building emergency shelters. Visit the website at or send a check to P.O. Box 2669, Dept W, Portland, OR 97208-2669. People also can phone 888-256-1900.

Medical Teams International - Formerly called Northwest Medical Teams, this local agency can receive contributions at its worldwide disasters preparedness fund at or send to P.O. Box 10, Portland, OR 97207. People also can phone 800-959-4325.

Subduction zone quakes, which can have magnitudes of 9.0 and above, are among the largest potential disasters on Earth. Knowing of this potential, Oregonians should support government requirements that buildings, bridges and other facilities be constructed - or in many cases, updated - to be safer during earthquakes. Oregon residents also should take personal responsibility for having emergency supplies in the homes and for understanding what they should do during an earthquake. (The Oregon Red Cross has extensive advice on this topic, and you can find it online at

No amount of preparedness can render a massive earthquake harmless. Japan is better prepared than Oregon and Washington for quakes and tsunamis, and the damage is still immense. But the right combination of public policies and individual initiative can help to limit the losses - both human and otherwise.

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