I'm excited to see this topic getting discussed. I hope that the example of the floods, tragic but fairly contained in terms of area and population, will be contrasted with the Cascadia earthquake/tsunami potential and other large-scale disasters;ones that have the ability to completely eclipse local government and the Red Cross' ability to respond quickly. Maybe Bill Sullivan can give listeners some idea of the vast difference in scale.
The real solution, in our region and around the globe, is personal and community preparedness. Here in Portland, we can expect 3/4 of those helped in the first days after a big earthquake to get that assistance from their neighbors, not the fire bureau or other paid emergency services. It is the same everywhere in the world, no community can pay to have enough staff and equipment sitting around waiting for that once in 300 years event . . . so we end up on our own, and helping each other, for some period. I suspect it's always been that way, historically, which in 2008 is kinda frightening and beautiful at the same time. The people in Pompei and New Orleans had more warning than we're likely to get. Get your 72hr kit together, and get your city or county's free NET/CERT training if you can.
If you live in Portland it would also help to lobby Sam Adams so we have a budget for more than one guy coordinating the recruitment, training and oversight needed to field teams for 95 neighborhoods.
Did I mention the training is free?
Is it possible to amend the rules so that "earthquake" and "flood" insurance actually covers all the damage incurred? Most insurance policies have heaps of tiny print which describes what is [b]NOT[/b] covered. The devil is in the details.
Insurance companies should be required to provide to customers plain-language policies which clearly state, "If your property is damaged by a flood or earthquake we will pay for the repair or replacement of the property in full." Of course the property's value has to be accurately assessed and appropriately covered, etceteras, etceteras.
My concern is that insurance consumers will not be treated fairly if a region suffers a Katrina, San Andreas, Cascadia, or Godzilla versus New York type of catastrophe.
Consider that several insurance companies have invested insurance premiums in the stock market. You might want to check your insurance company's financial ratings and news. Take the ratings with a grain of salt because they probably refer to statutory minimums, not stress-tested real-life ability to respond to severe losses.
Standard and Poor's Insurance Company Ratings link:
If the Northwest were struck by the Big One, would insurance companies be able to fulfil their policy obligations? A Cascadia earthquake might cause several trillion in damages in the Northwest.
I think people need to understand that building on slopes or cliffs, in forests, or on flood plains (even 100-year flood plains) is simply not an intelligent thing to do. If your need to be close to nature is so strong that you would both despoil the environment and put yourself at greater risk for a natural event that may wreck your property, then you need to be willing to pay the exorbitant insurance costs and expect that government resources are better spent on those who choose to live in areas that offer better protection, i.e., closer to town, etc.
Obviously, this does not apply to cases like Vernonia, but it certainly covers those lovely houses along the Oregon coast or in old growth forest that are at risk for tsunami and fire. FEMA money should not go to anyone who clear-cuts a hillside and is then surprised when the house slides down the hill, for example.
I've lived in flood prone areas and the path of regular hurricanes, but it was back in the days when you couldn't expect the government or the insurance companies to rebuild in the same place with the same structure. How did we cope? Folks just weren?t fool enough to rebuild where there was too high an exposure unless they accepted that they might have to accept the loss. For example, lovely places didn?t automatically become building sites for anyone with a yearning to see the water, because they could have a reasonable expectation that what goes up might well come down without anyone else to replace their folly for them.
I understand that the first flood experienced might be a wake-up call, but don't we want to encourage smarter rebuilding? Vernonia may have never had a flood there... (no, I have not spent the time to research it, sorry); but they have now. If it's the only ground you can afford, I do sympathize, but build your replacement on stilts (like they do in many flood prone areas of the world) to get you above the likely high water. Of course, that presumes that you can't move your structure to higher ground and avoid the whole risk in the future.
The big wave and the earthquake are not so easy to forecast. As a former homeowner, however, I know that at least the latter can be covered completely IF you pay the premium for the proper rider (we did). I'm afraid I have little sympathy for the folks who expect that kind of thing to be automatically fixed if they were not willing to include it in the cost of their coverage in the first place.
I guess I just have to ask if we aren't pandering with many of our disaster response ideas. The poorer folk should be cared for, but moving them out of future harm's way should be an accepted part of that care. Those who are wealthy enough to choose the risk shouldn't expect a bailout when the odds have gone against them. Of course, I said the same thing for Wall Street...
Some thoughts to consider for your program:
The Great Gale really devastated some coastal communities, leaving them isolated and helpless for days - it really shows the vulnerability we've created as our society becomes more sophisticated and technologically dependent.
A Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) earthquake (the really big one) will be larger than anything California will ever experience and we're within the window right now for this to occur. This event will directly affect 10 million people from northern California to southern British Columbia and will impact the economies of the USA and Canada for decades.
An earthquake like a CSZ EQ is the absolute worst case scenario. Get prepared for it and you're prepared for just about anything.
Native Americans who lived at the coast dealt with these earthquakes and tsunamis for thousands of years, yet their oral traditions show that they looked upon these events as natural hazards, not natural disasters, thus their society was much more resilient than ours today.
Many communities take preparedness very seriously, especially at the coast, where they are vulnerable to both a CSZ earthquake and the subsequent tsunami (think Indian Ocean and 250,000 people dead from the tsunami), but for the most part, Oregon is woefully under-prepared.
We've really only known that we have this massive threat (CSZ) sitting off our coast for about the last 20 years and the state and local communities have only been working on preparing for the eventual magnitude 9+ earthquake and tsunami for about the last 10 years.
Preparedness is not a short term fix, but a long term project, whether you're a family or a state. For example, Oregon hopes to have all vulnerable schools seismically strengthened by 2032.
Ultimately, preparedness is a personal responsibility. When we get the big one, nobody is riding in on a white horse to save you, in fact 80% of all rescues in an earthquake are done by your neighbors.
Great topic - you guys could do lots of spin-offs from this...
Earth Sciences Information Officer
Oregon Department of Geology
Braibish is correct that individuals need to prepare, but saying that govt is ready, that the Nat Guard is prepared, etc gives people the opposite message. People in authority seem adverse to really disclosing their limitations.
BTW, San Francisco has an amazing website which can guide you through the process of building a 72hr kit, 72hrs.org
Our local Red Cross chapter has a great booklet which has step by step instructions, called "Together We Prepare Oregon".
Don't forget to talk about aftershocks. People were living on the streets in tents for months after the recent Sechuan quake because local aftershocks can be more powerful than the actual subduction earthquake, and people are justifiably frightened to live in their homes.
I know that this is off topic but today I read the most concise statement and best question I have seen in a very long time. From:
At the end of post:
gary December 3, 2008 at 2:23 pm
?? I mean; as a society, our only useful product is us! Why do we not know how to produce the best product possible?
I believe Tony Hyde mischaracterized the frequency of 100-year floods. He said that they have a 1 in 100 chance of occuring each day, which would mean that they are likely to occur about once each winter. They actually have a 1 in 100 chance of occuring in any given year. However, there's no reason why a 100-year flood won't occur twice in a decade, or in two consecutive years, or even twice in a year. Also, the prediction is usually based on data that has been collected for less than 100 years, meaning that it is highly inaccurate. It also doesn't necessarily take into consideration recent climate and land use changes that may influence flood frequency.
Simple bit 'o preparedness : Is there ever empty space in your freezer ? You know there is ! Fill it with plastic containers of water . Remember to leave space for the water to freeze , and don't seal the cap until it is . I use 2-liter pop bottles . Something stackable would be even better . Helps save refridgeables during powerout . Makes fridge operate more efficiently / easier to defrost . Come armeggedon , throw those puppies in the kit bag .
Are there programs out there that help low income families get emergency preparedness kits?
We're well tsunami proofed behind the Cascades here in Bend but if one of our very local volcanoes cracks off you might as well bring barbecue sauce when you come looking for us because we're going be what cannibals call cooked "long pig".
I would first of all like to thank OPB for bringing this discussion on the air today.
As the Emergency Management Coordinator for the City of Gresham, I would echo the many comments that have been made about the need for indivduals and families to be prepared. During times of disaster, our emergency services may be overwhelmed, so it is vital that people prepare their families, pets, and neighborhoods for those times.
Most of the Cities and Counties provide preparedness training, such as C.E.R.T. and "Are You Ready?", and as one person commented, most of this training is free. Another great program is "Map Your Neighborhood, which teaches neighbors how to identify the resources they already have in their communities, and how to coordinate and "map" those resources.
Below are links to many of the Emergency Management departements in the Portland Metro area. I would encourage everyone to visit the site appropriate for your area, and to learn more about being prepared.
City of Gresham http://www.greshamoregon.gov/city/city-departments/governance-and-management/emergency-management (Click on Individual and Family Preparedness)
City of Portland http://www.portlandonline.com/oem/
City of Beaverton http://www.beavertonoregon.gov/departments/emergency/
Clark County http://www.cresa911.org/demprepare.htm
Multnomah County http://www2.co.multnomah.or.us/Public/EntryPoint?ch=5a6c7845ebd96010VgnVCM1000003bc614acRCRD/
Gresham Emergency Management Coordinator
January 26th is the anniversary of the last Cascadia Earthquake, it would sure be great to mark the day with another hour of discussion.
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