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Unprepared: Will We Be Ready For The Megaquake In Oregon?

Here's What 4 Families Learned When They Tried To Live Off Their Emergency Supplies


Experts warn that it could be 72 hours or more before help arrives after the megaquake hits Oregon. Four families learned first hand just how prepared they were — and what they still need to do to get ready.

The four households were: Lincoln City residents Patrick Alexander, Krista Eddy and their son, Quinn; Portland couple Ed and Sara Johnson; Troutdale resident Brook Gowin; and North Portland residents John and Megan Stephens, and their children, Shea and Sadie.

Here’s a quick wrap-up of the weekend and a few lessons the households learned.

FRIDAY, MAY 15

6 P.M.

Participants eat one last “normal” meal before starting the post-earthquake scenario. However, the Johnsons threw themselves into the challenge immediately by shutting down their power and turning on their flashlights.

Sara and Ed Johnson shine a flashlight in their pantry to see what they can make for their first "Living Off Your Quake Kit" dinner. The Johnsons have a flashlight in each room of their house.

Sara and Ed Johnson shine a flashlight in their pantry to see what they can make for their first "Living Off Your Quake Kit" dinner. The Johnsons have a flashlight in each room of their house.

John Rosman/OPB

 

7 P.M.

After dinner, families entered their addresses into Aftershock to find their personalized earthquake story. Some were more shocked than others, but all families started talking about how they would face the 9.0 earthquake.

“We could be looking at a house that is uninhabitable,” said Patrick Alexander, after seeing what an 8.0 or 9.0 earthquake could do to his family’s home in Lincoln City.

“I think I’d realize that it’s an earthquake. I don’t usually panic in those types of situations,” said Troutdale resident Brook Gowin. “If you panic in situations like this, then you’ll be dead.”

SATURDAY, MAY 16

7:30 A.M.

Families get the announcement that the “fake quake” has hit and are tested on what they would do when the shaking starts. Some drop, cover and hold on. That’s what experts recommend you do during an earthquake. Others learn their instinct to go outside during the shaking is incorrect and could be dangerous.

After the imagined shaking stops, the households learn the importance of having a plan and an evacuation kit. The families start gathering resources, taking a look at potential dangers and prepping their next meal with what they have. 

9 A.M.

Jay Wilson, chairman of the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission, answered questions from OPB’s audience about a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. Many questions from the audience focus on what Oregon’s infrastructure will look like after the quake, how intense the shaking and tsunami might be, and what a disaster like this would mean for different parts of the state.

Saturday Morning

Later in the morning families investigate what potential hazards they could have in their own home, and what they have that could help prepare them for the hazards.

Saturday Afternoon

OPB producers in the field ask families if they have a plan in place to find family and loved-ones after a major natural disaster.

“I think we need one,” said Patrick Alexander. “It’s going to be a difficult enough situation to deal with when you’re at your best, trying to find loved ones.”

“I have two really close friends right here – one person fairly close in Gresham and another friend right up on the bluff above the Sandy River,” said Brook Gowin. “I definitely would be very distraught not being able to get a hold of them.”

OPB also asked if families knew how to turn off their gas in case of a disaster. Some families found it more easily than others. Find out how to turn off your utilities in a disaster.

Saturday Evening

Families wrap up the day with dinner.

Dirty dishes are starting to pile up. With water scarce, it’s a problem.

“We don’t want to waste water on dirty dishes but now our sink is completely full with dirty dishes from this morning and this afternoon and we don’t need all of them, so I could potentially put them all in a box in the back yard,” said Krista Eddy, of Lincoln City.

Ed and Sara Johnson are concerned about washing their hands and keeping their kitchen sanitary. “I’m used to constantly washing my hands as I’m cooking,” said Ed Johnson.

SUNDAY, MAY 17

Sunday Morning

After 24 hours of living off the supplies on hand, families are starting to learn what they need more of for their kit.

11 A.M.

Carmen Merlo, director of the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management since 2007, answers questions on reddit  about what Oregonians should be doing now to prepare and what a big quake might mean for rescue efforts across the region.

Sunday Afternoon

Another OPB challenge for families! If you only had 10 minutes to pack and leave your home, what would you bring? Each household tossed different items into a pile, but some similarities included: clothes, toiletries, nonperishable food and a bag to hold it all.

Find out more!

Find a complete rundown of the event on Facebook and a timeline of each family on twitter – the Johnsons, the Alexanders, the Stephens and Brook Gowin – or check out the hashtag #UnpreparedNW.  

Over the course of one weekend, four Oregon families lived off their emergency kits.

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