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Slowly, slowly, the people of the Pacific Northwest are emerging from their denial and apathy about the “Big One” – the pending Cascadia earthquake. The last such subduction quake here had a magnitude of somewhere between 8.7 to 9.2, and took place January 26, 1700. Another quake of similar magnitude may already be overdue, according to geological records.

A sign of growing interest in taking some sort of action to prepare for such a natural disaster was evident recently, on February 25th at Kenilworth Presbyterian Church, at S.E. 34th and Gladstone Street, when some forty people turned out to hear three speakers addressing the practicalities of disaster preparedness. The meeting was hosted by the Creston-Kenilworth Neighborhood Association.

by: ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - Red Cross Americorps volunteer Ryan McGoldrick, at a recent neighborhood association meeting at Kenilworth Presbyterian Church, cautioned not to use candles in a post-earthquake power outage's - especially where there has been natural gas heating. Safe sources of light, such as flashlights or glow sticks, can be stored in an emergency backpack or kit.“It is hard to talk about this without sounding dour. But I don’t mind walking away as a sourpuss,” began Jeremy Van Keuren, Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) Coordinator for PBEM (the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management). He knows this is a subject many people find depressing, or just don’t want to think about, but his job is to help people prepare anyway.

“There is nothing more important than preparing at the level of individual households,” he continued. “It likely could be one week or more before first responders arrive.”

Van Keuren said NET is offering three levels of training: 17 videos online (a total of two hours); eight half-day sessions, or three “compressed” all-day sessions; and advanced training, including ham radio operation, CPR, and disaster psychology. Information about all of these trainings can be found online at: HYPERLINK "www.portlandoregon.gov/pbem" www.portlandoregon.gov/pbem.

The second speaker at the meeting was Americorps volunteer Ryan McGoldrick, who works with the Red Cross. He emphasized the importance of making a plan and assembling a kit, and/or backpack (do-it-yourself with help of a supply list available through the Red Cross), and becoming informed. He talked about the day he realized a few extra clothes are also important.

“My first week on the job, I went to a house where there had been a fire. The man was left with nothing but a pair of pants.” Putting extra clothes in a kit can be crucial, as well as extra cash in small denominations, since it is likely that ATM’s and banks will not be able to make transactions.

The Red Cross helps fire victims daily, but they also want to make sure people realize that after earthquakes, fires are common. The Red Cross booklet “Together We Prepare” gives instructions for turning off natural gas lines, and has suggestions for materials to store, and how to respond in various situations. See the booklet at: www.redcross.org/or/portland/preparedness/preparedness-toolkit.

An attendee also mentioned that an automatic gas shut-off valve is available for about $200 from some companies.

Liz Bryant, a Creston-Kenilworth neighbor and co-chair of the PREP (Planning for Emergency and Resiliency Preparedness) Steering Committee, was the third speaker. The PREP website (HYPERLINK "www.preporegon.org" www.preporegon.org) that she has contributed to is very comprehensive, and includes many videos, booklets, instructions for mapping your neighborhood, lists of places to buy supplies – as well as tips for seniors, children, pets, and much more.

All three speakers emphasized the need for neighbors to do a favor for themselves, their families, and their communities, by checking out one or all of the websites mentioned above, and taking some action.

As one woman commented during the presentation, “Some people will not take this seriously, and won’t prepare. In the event of a disaster, it will be up to us who do have containers of water and stocked food, etc., to help take care of them.” That spirit of generosity is admirable, but it can only go so far when a catastrophe creates a need that far exceeds available resources.

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