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Emergency generators installed on Sauvie Island

Community leaders planning to establish an emergency shelter space near Sauvie Island Academy, grange and community church

PHOTO COURTESY OF SAUVIE ISLAND ACADEMY - Jeremy Suhrstedt, an IES Electric employee, Sauvie Island Academy Director Darla Meeuwsen and George Ray, Joyce Miller Owens Charitable Foundation board member, stand with one of the donated generators outside of SIA. The generator at the school was installed Friday, Sept. 30.In late September, three buildings on Sauvie Island had emergency generators donated and installed thanks to a grant from the Joyce Miller Owens Charitable Foundation, creating what could be a recognized shelter space in the event of an emergency.

The generators, which would supply backup electricity during an area-wide power outage, were installed at Sauvie Island Academy, the Sauive Island Grange and the Sauvie Island Community Church. The three donated generators are worth a total $150,000.

With those three resources closely located to one another, with rooms of open floor space just off Reeder Road, community leaders hope to be recognized by Multnomah County and the American Red Cross as an official disaster shelter location.

The idea to coordinate a potential shelter location evolved naturally, Russell Richardson, a church pastor and one of the shelter planners, explained.

Leaders at the Sauive Island Community Church had been discussing installation of an emergency generator for several years, but no concrete plans were made. At the school, others had done the same, and had even sought input from the American Red Cross and Multnomah County on what a potential shelter site would need to help residents during an emergency.

Each group worked separately on their own project, until one island resident approached the church with the opportunity to get funding for a project that would benefit the island. George Ray, a long-time island resident and board member for the Joyce Miller Owens Charitable Foundation, told Richardson the foundation was looking for projects to fund. He asked if the church had anything in mind.

From that point things clicked and the three groups joined forces to research emergency generators, how to get them, and what would be the best configuration for the space.

SIA Director Darla Meeuswsen, who was familiar with collecting project bids from businesses, sought out contractors to work on the project last fall. Last month, crews from IES Electric completed the project, laying ground wires and preparing the site, and finally installing the generators in shifts throughout September.

Rather than one generator for all three sites, each building, which is on a different transformer line, received its own generator. The school's 30-kilowatt generator is set to automatically turn on in the event of a power outage. The other two generators at the church are turned on by hand and can be used when necessary.

The grange also houses a 30-kilowatt generator, while the church has a 60-kilowatt generator.

It's unclear how many people could be housed at the church, grange and school in the event of an emergency, Richardson explained, but getting the generators is a major first step. He is working with Red Cross coordinators to have emergency supplies, like cots and blankets, stored in a moveable pod somewhere between the three properties.

In addition to being a resource in disaster situations, the generator can also be used to keep the school operational and sanitary when the building loses power, something that happens two to three times a year, Meeuwsen said.

In October 2014, the school was forced to send students home early due to a prolonged power outage after a transformer failed. With an emergency generator in place, those situations can be avoided.

“With the generator, we'd gain back all of those days,” Meeuwsen said.