PREPARING FOR DISASTER
Lake Oswego's annual Emergency Preparedness Fair returned last week, giving residents a chance to learn about the natural hazards facing the Pacific Northwest and the best techniques to prepare for them.
Inside one of the meetings rooms at the Parks & Recreation Department's Palisades building, Clackamas County Resilience Coordinator Jay Wilson led a highly attended presentation about earthquake safety, but he also touched on other disasters — including one that's been getting increased attention since last summer: wildland fires.
"One thing we've been seeing more of is wildland fire, both across the state and throughout the west," he said. "I'm guessing that's going to become more of a regular problem as we have these hot and arid summers."
In addition to home preparation measures for earthquakes, such as bolting houses down to their foundations, Wilson also discussed fire safety tips to ensure that residents' homes are "defensible" when threatened by nearby fires. Tips included using non-flammable materials when constructing houses and ensuring that there's a perimeter of cleared space around the house.
Wilson listed a host of other possible disasters, including snow storms, floods and even an eruption of Mount Hood (which, he reminded the audience, is "not dead, just lightly asleep").
Still, much of the presentation focused on ways to prepare for a major Cascadia-type earthquake. One of the biggest safeguards is building stronger structures in advance, Wilson said, but there are also smaller steps that can be taken, such as removing hazardous trees from around structures.
Wilson also reiterated that the best thing to do during an earthquake is to immediately take cover, because buildings can throw of dangerous debris.
"Thinking you need to run out of that building is what's going to get you killed," he said.
And of course, residents need to assume that first responders won't necessarily be able to reach them, Wilson said, and prepare supplies in order to survive for at least two weeks on their own.
Meanwhile, visitors to the Palisades gym were able to learn about emergency preparedness from information booths and tables representing a variety of organizations, including the Lake Oswego police and fire departments, the Lake Oswego School District, Prep LO and LO ARES, the city's network of volunteer HAM radio operators.
At the Prep LO table, Jim Newcomer offered information about how residents can reach out to their neighbors and coordinate networks of resources to help each other in the critical days following a disaster.
"(People should be asking themselves) who's in the neighborhood and who can help out," he said.
One of the new additions to the Preparedness Fair this year was a table focused on home insurance. According to Citizen Information Specialist Bonnie Hirshberger, the table was added because it's a topic people often overlook — and sometimes, she said, they don't realize that some natural disasters might not be covered by their home insurance policy.
"They just think, 'Oh, my insurance is going to cover everything,'" Hirshberger said.
At another table, Danny Kelley of the metro-area nonprofit Enhabit discussed how the group can help homeowners research the kind of work they might need to do to prepare their homes for disasters. Enhabit can then connect them with the right contractors to get things updated, he said.
Visitors were also able to pick up one-gallon soft-sided water bottles to add to their emergency kits to help them reach the target of storing one gallon of water per person per day.
Outside, visitors got to try out several kid-friendly activities, including a Bike Rodeo course and a firefighter obstacle course. Experts also offered training in filling sandbags and using them to build walls or berms to keep buildings safe from floodwaters.
The activity station included a guide to help residents plan for sandbag use in an emergency. A one-foot-tall, 10-foot-wide wall would require 50 sandbags, according to the document, but the required number increases exponentially with the height of the wall; a five-foot-high, 10-foot-wide wall would require 550 sandbags.
In an emergency, Lake Oswego sandbags will be available at Hazelia Field, although it's good to call ahead at 503-635-0280 to check for availability.