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Citizen's View: In Olympic-size race against quakes, Public Safety Fair is a good first step

Oregon State University’s latest data tell us that there is now a 40-percent chance of at least a partial rip of the Cascadia Subduction Zone within 50 years. But are our government agencies sitting on their duffs pretending a major earthquake isn’t going to happen? No! They’re in deep training and have been since the threat was well understood.

Ladies and gentlemen, mesdames et messieurs, this is an “Up Close and Personal” look at their training regimen — and make no mistake: They’re training for a decathlon. Can Oregon equal Japan’s level of resiliency within 50 years? That’s the goal, that’s the gold! Will we make it?

It’s a group sport: All levels of government, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the state, county and cities, have now standardized their communications so they’re all using the same terms. No more “10-4,” which means something different to each police department; they use real words now! And everyone’s trained on the same terms and protocols, from top officials to your child’s teacher and your neighborhood CERT trainees. We’re all rowing with the same oars!

Drills are the best way to gain muscle, and we’ve got ‘em: The Cascadia Rising drill this spring helped jurisdictions throughout the earthquake zone test their communications and protocols for disaster response. Lake Oswego police, fire and City officials have periodic “tabletop” drills of their own, and routinely send staff for training at FEMA’s training facility outside of Washington, D.C.

Recently, the Lake Oswego School District collaborated with the police and fire departments to conduct a tabletop exercise at Westridge Elementary School (“Bracing for The Big One,” Aug. 11) to develop an Emergency Operations Plan for how to respond to an earthquake that happens during school hours. LOSD also purchased radios that enable each building to communicate directly with emergency responders during a disaster.

The bond that the district plans to put before voters will allow them to start to turn our school buildings into neighborhood emergency shelters and distribution centers for supplies and services following an earthquake or other disaster. Go team!

And what about individual citizens — are we just splashing around in the shallow end while our responders are swimming an 800-meter medley? No! Because of damage to roads and bridges, first responders may not be able to get to us for at least 72 hours after a major disaster, so we are stocking up on our own supplies, bolting our houses to their foundations and securing objects that can fall on us. We’re holding Map Your Neighborhood parties with our immediate neighbors, too, to plan how we’ll make sure everyone is accounted for and assisted when the earthquake hits. Yes! There’s a medal for something you’re already skilled at! Party on!

To find yourself on the podium, attend the upcoming Public Safety Fair, which will take place during the summer concert at Westlake Park on Aug. 24, starting at 6 p.m. Learn about water filtration, sanitation and seismic retrofitting; meet the LOPD’s K9 team, tackle the Junior Firefighter course, see a HAM radio demonstration, learn CPR and much more.

Unlike the Olympics, this is not a once-every-four-years event we’re training for here. It’s a marathon, and if we each do our part, we all win! Earthquakes have the element of surprise on their side, but we have each other. Which will be the first to the finish line?

I can hear the chants now: Or-e-gon! Or-e-gon! Or-e-gon!

Jan Castle is chair of the McVey-South Shore Neighborhood Association, co-chair of PrepLO and a co-founder of the Lake Oswego Sustainability Network.