Building a Culture of Preparedness in Oregon


SALEM—As the Director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM), I see how passionate the OEM team and our partner emergency management organizations are about helping Oregonians prepare for emergencies and disasters. Recently, Governor Kate Brown unveiled a plan to improve Oregon’s readiness for a Cascadia Earthquake and Tsunami by 2025.

As part of that effort, my office has been tasked with developing a plan, in coordination with county emergency management, non-profits, and the American Red Cross, to ensure that 250,000 homes in the Cascadia Subduction Zone region have 2-weeks of emergency supplies by 2021.

For many years, we’ve been talking about the importance of being prepared for 72-hours. While this is a good start, it does not reflect the reality of the impacts from a large earthquake and tsunami, which will leave much of our infrastructure, including transportation routes, communications networks, and water and energy services unusable.

Oregonians will have to count on each other and their communities to be safe until responders can arrive. This is why OEM is focused on efforts to establish a culture of preparedness, where Oregonians have a shared set of beliefs relating to our need to be ready to take care of ourselves, our families, and our community during emergencies or disasters.

OEM Video Outlines How to Prepare

We encourage Oregonians to be prepared for a minimum of 2-weeks as part of our “2 Weeks Ready” initiative. When more individuals, families and communities are prepared, our emergency responders can better focus their resources on injured and other vulnerable populations immediately following a disaster.

So what does being ready for two weeks mean? It means having the skills and the stuff to take care of yourself and those in your household for at least two weeks following an emergency or disaster. Learning first aid and CPR can go a long way towards individual and family preparedness, as can ensuring your residence is properly insured, you know where utility shut-offs are located, how to communicate and evacuate, and where to get emergency information.

There is no “one-size” way to put together two weeks’ worth of supplies since everyone has individual dietary and medical needs. If your family includes children, seniors or pets, you will have additional needs. Everyone’s kit will look different but for a basic starting point, you can visit our 2 Weeks Ready page, which suggests activities or items to include in your preparedness kit.

You probably have many 2-Weeks Ready items around the house and may be more prepared than you think! Being prepared to be self-sufficient for 2-weeks is an achievable goal. Many of the standard preparedness kit items, such as flashlights, gloves, hand-crank radios, trash bags and a first-aid kit are already in a 72-hour kit if you have one.

We are asking Oregonians to think about emergency preparedness and talk about it. Have a meaningful conversation with the members of your household.

Discuss the Following

  • Do you have backup transportation methods and routes?
  • Who will care for the kids, grandparents and pets if you are unable to get to them for several hours?
  • Who in your neighborhood has medical skills, a generator, a chainsaw, or other important tools or resources?
  • Do you have an out of state contact? Designate one person to be the main contact for your group of friends or family.

Experience has shown that in the aftermath of large disasters (consider the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan or hurricanes in Southeast U.S. and Caribbean), it may take weeks before help can arrive. While first responders are at the ready to assist wherever, whenever needed, OEM and our partners are encouraging you to create preparedness kits and build emergency skills to maintain self-sufficiency.

The devastation on display in the Florida Panhandle following Hurricane Michael as survivors sought clean water, food, fuel and medical care is another example of the challenge we still face getting more people to take preparedness seriously. As an emergency manager, it’s incredibly frustrating to see these events unfold when you know there are actions and steps people can take to be better prepared.

This is why we are asking you to be ready for a minimum of 2-weeks, with both stuff and skills. Do it a little bit at a time, you don’t have to get there all at once. OEM, local emergency managers, and partners like Red Cross and FEMA have a host of publications, videos and other resources to help you get 2-Weeks Ready.

Until the Cascadia earthquake and tsunami happen, we don’t know exactly how our infrastructure and our environment are going to respond, so it’s important we heed these warnings. Let’s use the available science and forecasts and look at how we prepare as a community for all hazards, and start building a culture of preparedness into our everyday lives.

Want to read more about Oregon living? Check out our ‘Living‘ section.

About Author

Andrew Phelps is the Director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, which coordinates and maintains a statewide emergency services system for emergency and disaster communications. OEM is made up of four Sections: Director’s Office, Technology and Response, Operations and Preparedness, and Mitigation and Recovery Services.

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