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The echoes of Japan's monumental earthquake a few years ago continue to resound here

DAVID F. ASHTON - OHSU Family Medicine physician Dr. Daisuke Yamashita told of his experiences helping out in Japan, just days after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami there. A presentation by a Portland State University (PSU) group, entitled "Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami: Lessons Learned", highlighted a well-attended meeting of the Sellwood-Westmoreland, Eastmoreland, and Brooklyn Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET), on the evening of April 24 at SMILE Station in Sellwood.

"We believe there are many parallels between what happened in Japan, and what could potentially happen right here," said Deborah Otenburg, co-leader of the combined Sellwood-Westmoreland-Eastmoreland-Brooklyn NET. "The information provided tonight about lessons learned from the Japan earthquake on March 11, 2011, will help us know what we can do and how we can prepare for similar scenario here in Portland."

The Coordinator for the PSU Initiative for Community and Disaster Resilience Program, Josh Metzler, introduced the talk: "Our overall goal is to encourage dialogue and exchange of knowledge and experience around the topics of emergency management, and community and disaster resilience, that students acquired from their trip to Japan recently.

"It's easy to talk about infrastructure, and how the federal government responds to major disasters in earthquakes," Otenburg went on. "But it's never too early to start planning and realizing our own individual expertise, community resources, and assets, to create bonding and resilience."

PSU Department of Public Administration Chair Dr. Nasami Nishishiba Ph.D. reported that nine people had been on the expedition to Japan, including undergraduate and graduate students and emergency managers.

The students went over a list they'd compiled on the trip, of comparisons of Japan and the Pacific Northwest – pointing out similarities in the potential for a huge 9.0 magnitude temblor and annual plate movement, to the more than 60 people at the meeting.

On a list of "Major Challenges Faced", relevant items included:

· Limited extended-stay shelters; food and water shortages;

· Debris isolating towns and blocking roads;

· Total Communications failure; and,

· Lack of appropriate personal protective equipment.

OHSU's Dr. Daisuke Yamashita shared his own experience of providing care for the sick and wounded in a damaged Onagawa hospital in the aftermath of that devastating tsunami.

"I got to the scene about 10 days after it happened," Yamashita recalled. "What I learned there was the resilience of the people.

"Physicians are not useful, without having medical support," Yamashita continued. "And in a disaster zone, [responders] who go in without having sufficient logistical support can become another 'disaster in the zone' -- but, you who are involved in NET are ahead of the game, so to speak."

You can be one of those "ahead of the game" by becoming a member of your local NET group. Learn more online -- portlandprepares.org/net-teams/southeast/sellwood

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