Citylab: How Portland’s Earthquake Preppers Are Planning for the Worst

While the decision to survive is a personal one, your ability to survive is exponentially enhanced by having a community which has decided to survive. In this article from Citylab, one neighborhood in Portland discusses how and why they formed and what they are doing to be prepared. Have you met your neighbors and mapped your neighborhood? Meet people, build trust, and grow community. It will help you survive – not just in disasters.

…“One of the main elements of disaster preparedness is knowing your neighbors,” Michael Hall says as the meeting begins. He’s the bell-ringer and leader of Alameda’s self-titled “Council of Blockheads,” which represents a two-block, 25-household area. For the last four years, the residents of this leafy neighborhood have convened twice annually over a lofty goal: ensuring the survival of everyone on the block in case of a disaster.

For the next 30 minutes, the group talks about whether to order more stackable emergency water containers and how much extra food to stock up on (the new advice: enough for two weeks). They listen to earthquake survival tips from a guest speaker, Marilyn Bishop, who sells pre-made emergency prep kits full of freeze-dried rations. Four years ago, these neighbors hardly knew each other. But after seven meetings and counting, they now see each other as their lifelines.
Hall is one of the many residents of the Pacific Northwest reckoning with the terrifying potential of the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake that many experts believe will strike in the next 50 years. The overdue super-quake could trigger devastating coastal tsunamis—waves up to 85 feet high—and deliver potentially massive damage to homes, highways, and water and power infrastructure. Galvanized by Kathryn Schulz’s 2015 New Yorker story “The Really Big One,” Hall was eager to do something. So he gathered a few neighbors at his house over beers to brainstorm. The result was their first disaster-awareness block party, where nearly every household had a representative. The block parties became the way to make catastrophe preparation less overwhelming.

They started holding twice-yearly informational meetups with guest speakers and workshops that covered how to create a family emergency plan, human waste storage systems, and water and food storage. They made a bulk order of water bricks. And they created and continue to update a comprehensive inventory of neighborhood contact information, emergency supplies (such as generators, tools, and camping equipment), and skills (e.g., first-aid, carpentry, childcare). Some neighbors even gained additional training as Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) volunteers—city-trained residents who deploy in a large-scale emergency…

Click here to read the entire article at Citylab.

Citylab: Vashon Island Community Prepares for Disasters

The Vashon Island community has spent years working to be prepared for an emergency/disaster situation, going as far as forming a non-profit organization – VashonBePrepared – to coordinate the disaster preparedness organizations on the island. From Citylab.com, here is an excerpt from Preparing for ‘The Big One’ in an Isolated Island Town.

…[T]he island community has been building up its emergency preparedness efforts for nearly two decades. The work was initially kicked off when Joseph Ulatoski, a retired brigadier general and island resident, started asking who was responsible if a disaster struck. His questions led to a small group of locals meeting monthly to figure out exactly how they would handle such a situation, Wallace says.

“As time went on, it became clear that we needed to be more organized, structured, and also that we would be in a form that could be recognized by people,” he says.

The result was VashonBePrepared. Today it’s a non-profit, FEMA-sanctioned coalition of the island’s disaster preparedness organizations, including CERT and Voice of Vashon. Its purpose is exclusively to prepare the island for an emergency by helping to coordinate these organizations; it doesn’t actually play a role in real-time response efforts.

“It is a coalition to organize these partner groups to be efficient, avoid redundancy and duplication of effort, and inspire each other to move forward with all these different programs that each of us are running,” says Wallace, who is also the vice president of VashonBePrepared’s executive committee.

One of these key partner organizations is the Neighborhood Emergency Response Organization. Similar, in a sense, to neighborhood watch groups, its leaders have organized hundreds of households into neighborhood groups so they can get to know each other and thus be more likely to help one another if an emergency hits…

Ham radio operators in the emergency operations center radio room. (Courtesy of Rick Wallace)

Click here to read the entire story at CityLab.