SALEM — State leaders came together this week to run through an emergency response scenario as part of a larger effort to build preparation capacities statewide in the event of a disaster.
More than 100 people representing 33 state agencies participated in the exercise, which focused on a situation where the greater Portland area’s fault line ruptures, resulting in a 6.8M earthquake. This type of event would result in devastating consequences, including the breakage of sewage pipes and water lines, buckled roads, damaged bridges and tremendous pressure on cell phone towers. With more than 10,000 state employees living in the greater Portland area, an event like this would impact about ¼ of state government’s workforce.
“We know it’s going to happen, we don’t know when — and we need to be prepared,” said Governor Kate Brown, addressing state leadership during the exercise.
The participating state agency directors make up the Governor’s Disaster Cabinet, a group that provides recommendations regarding statewide priorities and the allocation of state emergency resources to help Oregon effectively respond to and recover from disasters.
The cabinet was created through Executive Order 16-07, and annually holds scenario exercises like this one to strengthen statewide capacity and identify gaps in response capabilities. Immediate state response to emergencies falls under the coordination of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), but the Governor can activate the cabinet at any time during a response to an emergency.
“In a disaster, time becomes our most important resource and when it’s gone we won’t get it back. So it is important we take advantage of our ‘blue sky’ days to work through our plans and processes to ensure we can respond to and recover from emergencies and disasters,” said Andrew Phelps, OEM Director.
This includes encouraging all Oregonians to be 2-Weeks Ready, or being prepared to be on their own and self-sufficient for a minimum of two weeks. This lessens the strain on emergency responders who need to focus limited resources on injured and other vulnerable populations immediately following a disaster.
In addressing state agency directors, Governor Brown focused on ensuring all state employees were 2-Weeks Ready.
“Just as we are asking Oregonians to be prepared for emergencies and disasters, it is important that state agencies and leadership take steps to ensure we are ready to respond to and recover from whatever bad day may lie ahead,” said Andrew Phelps.