How to Prepare for a Disaster

By Nancy Tannler

As you are reading this article, somewhere in the Cascadia Subduction Zone a small tremor will take place. In the past month, there have been 67 quakes in Multnomah County. Although they were small, they continue to occur.

The last big earthquake was in 1700 and scientists predict they happen on an average of every 240 years. That is why it is a good idea to be prepared for the big one and/or any other disaster.

Ajeet Kaur regularly taught workshops on emergency preparedness before the pandemic. She had a few good tips on where to begin your preparation as well as a list of websites to download brochures on everything you will need to know. 

“The first thing to establish,” Kaur said, “is a plan for where to meet outside if there is an earthquake.” Once the immediate danger has passed, check your surroundings and make sure everything is safe. 

It is important to know where your gas and water shut off valves are (PGE has tips at bit.ly/PGEGasOff). If they require a special tool to close them down be sure to put it there now.

Next, Kaur advises to check in with others. Signs placed in the window saying HELP or OK are a good way to let your neighbors know your status. Printable versions are available at bit.ly/HelpOkSigns.

Most people aren’t aware that in the case of an earthquake there are 50 Basic Earthquake Emergency Communication Nodes (BEECNs), Kaur said. This is where you can get information and request emergency assistance when phones and computers aren’t working. 

Volunteers will staff them within 24-48 hours of an emergency. Find the BEECN nearest you at bit.ly/BEECN.

The general rule is to have at least three days worth of easy to prepare food and enough water for two weeks per person. 

A hot water tank can store 40-120 gallons of water and can be transformed into a water source. Just be sure to have a clean, flexible tube available (see bit.ly/AccessWaterFromHeater).

If you have lost power, it is best to find a place outside if you need to use a campstove to cook with. It is dangerous to use them indoors due to the fumes.

Other common sense ideas Kaur spoke of is to keep small- denomination bills around in case ATM and credit card machines quit working. 

Having a pair of shoes under your bed in case disaster strikes in the night and glass shatters is another. 

If you really want to be prepared, Kaur suggests you have a to go bag ready with a zip drive in it containing your important documents etc.

A battery operated or wind-up radio is a good item to own so you can find out what’s going on. KOPB 91.5 FM, KUPL 98.7 FM/970 AM, KXL 750 AM will all be broadcasting emergency information. You can sign up for an emergency broadcast alert on your cellphone or computer at portlandoregon.gov/pbem.

A brochure that details a budget friendly plan to build an emergency disaster kit is available at bit.ly/EmergencyKitInfo

It describes a 24-week plan to gather a few items per week in order to prepare your family for any emergency.

Since the pandemic, summer block parties have been put on hold. These were always an easy way to begin a communication tree on your block. Hopefully by this summer they will recommence, making it easier to gather your neighbors’ information. This shared information should include all pets.

“What’s most important to consider is how to take care of the basics,” Kaur said. 

We mainly think about food and water but what about a latrine? There are a couple of easy methods you can familiarize yourself with using either buckets or by digging a hole in the ground (more at bit.ly/LatrineHowTo).

Robert Quinn, Multnomah County Emergency Management, said they still accept general preparedness presentation and training requests. They have printed material available to the public for any emergency situation. Request a presentation to a group at bit.ly/MultCoRequest.

Large and small emergencies take place around us every day. Most of them are able to be handled with common sense but if/when something big occurs, it is always best to be prepared ahead of time.

How to Prepare for a Disaster

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