by: DAVID F. ASHTON - In a major disaster, grocery shelves may quickly empty - and it may be two weeks or more before help arrives, according to James Roddey.James Roddey of “Ready, Set, Prepare” came to speak with neighbors not long ago at a special evening meeting in Southeast Portland.

In the past, Roddey has served as the State of Oregon Earth Sciences Information Officer. “Now, this [sort of discussion] is my ‘day job’,” he told THE BEE.

“Working for the state, anytime there was a natural disaster, I was the guy to whom the media turned for the science behind a volcanic eruption, a flood, a tsunami warning, or an earthquake.”

Then, after serving as the communications director for the Oregon Chapters of American Red Cross, Roddey said he decided to “follow his passion”.

“My passion is really to help communities prepare for disasters. Fulltime now, I travel all over the United States – talking, giving workshops, and trying to help communities become more resilient.”

As he began his presentation, Roddey quickly disarmed those who were expecting a stern lecture about the horrors of unpreparedness. His humorous asides put the 93 audience members at ease, while he talked about serious subjects.

Pointing to a Costco-sized package on the video screen, he quipped, “‘She who controls the toilet paper, controls society’. I’m stocking up. And, if I need to sell some, I won’t be selling it by the roll – I’ll be selling it by the sheet!”

The terms “resilience” and “sustainability” are key words, Roddey said. “The fact is, when the expected major earthquake strikes the greater Portland area, help will not be quickly coming.”

Part of being a community member, he went on, means being prepared to take care of family and perhaps immediate neighbors. “More and more, we are seeing the government stepping away from a lot of its responsibilities, when it comes to preparing their citizens for disasters. It is up to us, as citizens, to do it ourselves.”

After working with grassroots organizations around the country, empowering communities and their citizens to get prepared, he said, “It really comes down to a neighborhood thing. You build from your neighborhood out into your community.”

Portland is doing a lot of things “right”, he commented. “They have [established] Neighborhood Response Teams and other programs to help people get prepared.”

His biggest take-away, Roddey emphasized, is to be prepared, because “the big one” is certainly on the way.

“You’re not crazy if you think it’s a good idea to get prepared,” Roddey said. “It doesn’t mean you should become some kind of a ‘nut-case prepper’. It just means that you’re concerned about the well-being of your family.”

The Pacific Northwest has been “lucky”, “because we haven’t had a lot of ‘big’ disasters. But, we do have the potential for an earthquake larger than California will ever experience.”

Overdue for an earthquake

An earthquake so big, Roddey said, “That it has the potential to be one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded on earth – right off the Pacific Northwest coast. “The last one was 313 years ago. The average recurrence interval is about once every 250 to 330 years!” It’s not an exaggeration to say it could happen tomorrow. And if you would like more information on it, go online for a 28-page detailed official government report that you can download as a PDF document at:

By being prepared for the “big one”, neighbors will also be prepared for any other kind of natural disaster, he observed. “That could be the power going out because of windstorm – or a massive snowfall, or a flood.”

What does “personal preparedness” look like?

Many people advocate making a “72-hour Kit” containing three days worth of food and supplies. “Because of the potential for a really big earthquake that may affect 10 million people all at the same time, people need to be prepared for much longer timeframe. Two weeks is probably the minimum you need to start being prepared for, in an event like that.”

Here’s your homework:

“These simple ideas will get you started on a disaster preparedness plan without you even knowing it! Do these over the next week, and I guarantee they will give you the confidence to start working on a plan,” Roddey said:


  • Set up an out of state contact who knows how to “text message” – that might be your only way to communicate after a major disaster.


  • Turn your cell phone into your most important safety tool – load it with emergency contact numbers and first aid/ CPR instructions; create lists of rally points, prescriptions, medicine, food and medical allergies.


  • Visit a website – If your house were burning, what would you take with you? This website is a good place to start a conversation with family members and friends: HYPERLINK ""


  • Read a book – Roddey recommends “The Unthinkable” by Amanda Ripley to “help shape your response when the chips are down”. Here’s a link to the author’s website:


  • Visit Roddey's website – You’ll find a wealth of common-sense information and resources at his ReadySetPrepare website. Go online to:

    As Roddey says, “Being prepared is not a sprint, but a marathon. Do a little every week, and you’ll be well on your way to having a safer and better-prepared home.”

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