Think Out Loud

How Oregonians and state agencies are preparing for the next ‘Big One’

By Gemma DiCarlo (OPB)
Jan. 25, 2024 11:42 p.m. Updated: Feb. 2, 2024 11:11 p.m.

Broadcast: Friday, Jan. 26

A ghost forest of tree stumps emerges at low tide near Neskowin in Tillamook County. The trees are believed to be the remnants of forests growing before the last major earthquake and tsunami hit.

A ghost forest of tree stumps emerges at low tide near Neskowin in Tillamook County. The trees are believed to be the remnants of forests growing before the last major earthquake and tsunami hit.

Wolfram Burner/Flickr


Jan. 26 marks the 324th anniversary of the last Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. The 1700 quake caused the coastline to drop by several feet and sent a tsunami crashing into the Pacific Northwest coast. Pressure has been building in the Zone ever since, setting the region up for another potential magnitude-9.0 quake. Researchers estimate this kind of “megathrust” earthquake occurs roughly every 300-500 years. The Oregon Department of Emergency Management has been encouraging residents to prepare with initiatives like the Great Oregon Shakeout and Be 2 Weeks Ready.

Althea Rizzo is the geological hazards program coordinator at the Oregon Department of Emergency Management. Natasha Fox is the department’s inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility (IDEA) coordinator. Susan Penrod is the superintendent of the Seaside School District, which covers the coastal communities of Seaside, Cannon Beach and Gearhart. Shawn Looney is a member of the Linnton Neighborhood Emergency Team. They all join us to offer four different perspectives on earthquake risks and preparedness.

This transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.

Dave Miller: This is Think Out Loud on OPB. I’m Dave Miller. At about 9 pm, on this day 324 years ago, a huge length of the Juan de Fuca Plate slid and crunched under the North American Plate. The resulting magnitude nine or so earthquake violently shook the Pacific Northwest and created a tsunami that hit the coast of Japan. A Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) earthquake, the big one as we call it now, has not happened since then, but the historical record tells us that it will, on average, hit every 500 years or so. Sometimes there have been as few as 200 years between quakes. While Indigenous peoples in the Northwest have oral traditions that reference a great quake, geologists didn’t really piece this story together until about 40 years ago. And it’s only in more recent decades that elected leaders, emergency managers, homeowners, all of us have begun to reckon with what this really means.

We’re going to spend the hour today talking about our current level of CSZ preparedness, about where we’ve come from and where we still have to go. Althea Rizzo starts us off. She is a geologic hazards program coordinator at the Oregon Department of Emergency Management and she joins us once again. Welcome back to the show.

Althea Rizzo: Hey, thank you for having me on today.

Miller: Can you remind us what the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake is going to feel like and what it is going to do in terms of scope and damage?

Rizzo: Sure. So we can look to see what happened elsewhere. For instance, in 2011, the Japanese event is pretty much what we can expect to see here in the Pacific Northwest when Cascadia does go. The subduction zone runs from Northern California up to off of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. So the shaking would last two to four minutes depending on where you are. And the closer you are to the coastline, the stronger the shaking is going to be. Then after the shaking, we are going to see that very large tsunami come in anywhere from 15 minutes, depending on where you are. And then we will see aftershocks for quite a long time after the main shock. It takes centuries to build up the stress and it takes more than one earthquake to relieve that stress.

Miller: The two to four minutes is one of the things that gets me every time. What we’re talking about is potentially very violent shaking, not for 10 seconds, not for 20 seconds, but for minutes on end.

Rizzo: Yes. So when the subduction zone starts to rupture, it can start in the middle and work towards the end or it can start at one of the ends and work north or south and that’s just a long distance for that rupture to kind of unzip. So the shaking will last much longer than smaller crustal style earthquakes that we’re more familiar with from California.

Miller: You’ve been in charge of this geologic hazards program in Oregon for 15-plus years. What has changed over the course of that time in terms of awareness of the earthquake that we’re talking about?

Rizzo: I think the biggest change is the acceptance that Cascadia will happen and that there is a lot that we can do to prepare, and we have done quite a bit to prepare for this earthquake. When I first started, many years ago, it was often part of my process just to educate people that yes, this does happen here on the Oregon coast.

Miller: So you feel that that level of ignorance, not through any fault of the public, but just because this was relatively new information to the public, that’s no longer necessary. People at least know that it’s going to happen?

Rizzo: Well, for some people, it’s their first introduction to Cascadia, but it’s much less of a heavy lift to convince them that it will actually happen someday. There’s so much information out there through a lot of the work that OPB has done in the past, our school systems, our first responders. They’ve all been a part of this process of making Cascadia awareness much more widespread.

Miller: How much has awareness, though, translated to preparedness, to action?

Rizzo: Well, I think that it is kind of uneven over time. After there is a large event somewhere else in the world, we do see an uptick of activities around preparedness, but we also see upticks after large wildfires. People get more interested in preparedness. So any of the natural disasters or things that we’re dealing with here in the Pacific Northwest all help feed into that sort of culture of preparedness.

Miller: What are our biggest physical vulnerabilities right now?

Rizzo: Right now it’s our built environment, this is our roads, our utility systems, our manufacturing, our building stock, our homes, our apartment buildings, our office buildings, our schools. Much of our built environment was built before we had seismic codes in Oregon and a very large proportion of it was built before we even knew about plate tectonics, let alone the Cascadia Subduction Zone. So we have a lot of retrofitting and replacing to do. But we’ve seen examples around the world of other countries that have accomplished what we need to do here in Oregon. We can look to Japan, to Chile, to Mexico, to New Zealand for examples of great work that we can emulate here so that we are able to respond to and recover from a Cascadia earthquake much quicker.

Miller: Can you give us a sense though for the cost here? We live in a state [and] in some ways, we live in a country where deferred regular maintenance of our infrastructure is a kind of international embarrassment in the rich developed world. And we’re not just talking about making sure that bridges don’t crumble from regular use; we’re talking about retrofitting them for a major seismic event. What’s the gulf between how much money we regularly spend on regular upkeep and what it would take to make the infrastructure you’re talking about withstand the big one?

Rizzo: Yeah, so that’s an impossible number to figure because we can never be perfectly prepared. But instead of asking what the total cost is, we need to look at this sort of as a long-term project. So we don’t have to spend everything within five years. But if we look at it in the long term, say over a 50 year period, like what ODOT has done with the transportation system, we can spread that cost out over 50 years. And if you replace 2% each year, then in 50 years, you will have replaced or retrofitted 100%. So looking at this as a long-term project makes it much easier to look for funding sources. But in all honesty, this is a very large ticket item and it is in the billions of dollars for the cost over time.

Miller: But in other words, the main point you’re making there, if I hear you correctly, is that every time we work on any kind of project–a road, a bridge, a hospital, a school, firehouse–we should be thinking about seismic resilience.

Rizzo: Yeah, that’s a great way to put it because we’re constantly remodeling and refitting. When you look at, even for instance, a single family home, if you are going to be redoing your kitchen, you’re probably going to spend more on that granite countertop than you would on seismically retrofitting that home so it doesn’t fall down during Cascadia.

Miller: Bolting it to its foundation?

Rizzo: Right and bolting the roof to the walls. If you have a masonry chimney, make sure that that won’t fall down and cause damage. So when you’re looking at cost, if you’re fixing something for another purpose, if you have to re-roof a school, for instance, it’s not that much more expensive to do the seismic retrofits when you’re already doing that work. But the flip side of that is that it is something you’re not going to have to pay completely for replacing after Cascadia. So do you spend a little bit now or a lot later? We kind of need to shift our mentality around how we think about what our culture does over a long term.

Miller: We asked our listeners a couple of days ago how they had been thinking about personal readiness. We’re going to hear some voices over the course of this hour. Let’s listen to Margarita from Tualatin.

Margarita [voicemail]: I am preparing an earthquake kit. I am still missing 28 gallons of water and I don’t know how to get that and store that. So I would love to hear other people’s ideas of how they’re doing that. I also need to get my doctor to give me more medication for the kit and convince them to give me two weeks worth of prescription just to store. So I would love to hear what other people are doing. Thank you.

Miller: Althea, what are the basics of what people should have in their earthquake kits? And I can maybe call it more broadly, emergency readiness kits.

Rizzo: Yes, because we kind of look at it as if you’re ready for Cascadia, you’re pretty much ready for everything here. It kind of goes back to what you need for being self-sufficient for two to three weeks after something like this but it comes down to food, water, shelter medication if you have them. How do you stay warm? How do you stay dry? How do you feed yourself?

She mentioned the fact of how do you store 28 gallons of water? Well, maybe you don’t have room to store 28 gallons of water, but you can plan ways to make clean water if necessary. You can buy filtration systems, you can buy purification tablets. So there’s a number of ways that you can make clean water if you can get access to it afterwards. You don’t have to store hundreds of gallons, but having multiple ways to solve that problem is going to be one of the keys.

When we’re looking at food, if you have your stores of freeze dried stuff–you can go to Costco for instance and buy a bucket of emergency food, well, that’s good–but think about other ways that you can add things to that like gardening if you have the space, looking at canning your own food. There’s a lot of different ways to solve the same kinds of problems and so we want folks who can prepare.

Miller: Let’s listen to another voicemail. This is Janet from Cedar Hills.

Janet [voicemail]: What I’ve done to prepare for the big one. First of all, get earthquake insurance on my house and I have purchased certain supplies to make it easier for me to cook and see when we lose power. I’ve got a lantern and a propane-powered stove for cooking food. I think the next thing I’ll purchase will be a small generator that will be powered by either gasoline or propane so that I can charge my phone and possibly some lights. Finally, I think people may not realize that whatever happens will last for many, many weeks and possibly months. If you think about what happened during the recent ice storm with folks out of power for a week and no internet or no water, this will be much, much worse. I do hope people start paying attention and making plans.

Miller: Althea, Janet is one of a couple people who, when they called in, referenced last week’s ice storm. If that storm was as bad as it was and it was deadly and very disruptive to a lot of people, it’s nothing like the devastation that you and other experts are telling us is going to happen when the big one hits. It was a tiny quiz in some ways and it was even announced ahead of time and we didn’t know exactly which trees would get ice and which would fall, but we were told there is likely going to be ice. It’s nothing like the earthquake which will just hit us when we have no warning. If we think of the ice storm as a kind of a test, how do you think we did?

Rizzo: I think that we do better each time. I think that ice storms do give you warning. But I think that the way we kind of look at it is when we’re doing our preparedness activities, what can we sort of put in that tool kit that we can use now? For instance, you mentioned having a way to cook using propane. Well, a lot of Oregonians are campers and hikers. So you have a lot of the equipment already if you camp or hike that you would need after Cascadia. So how do we make preparedness integrated into the way we live rather than making this sort of sacred altar in our garage that just sits there and hopefully we never have to use.

Miller: In other words, for example, if people are campers [and] they do have a propane stove or car camping, say, the suggestion is to just have that in a place where it could be doubled up. It could be part of your go kit or it could just be waiting there for you to go camping?

Rizzo: Absolutely. And that kind of goes back to your caller about the 28 gallons. We do go camping fairly often in the summertime so we just kind of cycle through our water that way when we go camping, we take water from our supply, but when we get done camping, then we replace it. So it’s just a part of the way we live our life today. We just sort of built in some systems that if a bad day happens, we will have those supplies. And this is for people who can and have the resources for that.

There’s a large number of people that don’t have the resources and that’s why we really encourage people who do have the resources to do the preparedness and be able to be self-sustaining for two to three weeks after Cascadia because there’s going to be a lot of people that don’t have that ability today to do that. And I think that that will be discussed later on in the show.

Miller: Yeah, we’re going to talk about those equity issues in just a bit with somebody else who’s at your office in the Department of Emergency Management. But I want to turn back to the question - I said we’re not going to have any warning about this and that actually remains a little bit of an open question to me because a couple of years ago, three years ago, we did talk about the ShakeAlert system going live in Oregon. How much warning is that going to give us?

Rizzo: So, the ShakeAlert system quickly identifies when an earthquake has started and then sends out an alert and you can get that on your phone. It can go to automated systems like shutting off water valves in your community’s water supply. But that’s tens of seconds of warning. That gives you enough time to duck, cover and hold on before the shaking starts. There is no way currently to predict when earthquakes happen. The science is simply not there yet.

The ShakeAlert system is a great system. Everyone should have their phones enabled to receive that and just take these opportunities like during the ice storms and those kinds of things to practice what you would do if Cascadia happened.

Miller: Althea Rizzo, thank you very much for starting us off today. I appreciate it.

Rizzo: Always happy to be here with you.

Miller: That’s Althea Rizzo, geologic hazards program coordinator at the Oregon Department of Emergency Management.

We turn now to another official at the Oregon Department of Emergency Management. Natasha Fox is the inclusion, diversity, equity and access accessibility (IDEA) coordinator there. They join me now. Welcome to Think Out Loud.

Natasha Fox: Thank you so much for having me, Dave. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Miller: It’s great to have you on. How did this IDEA coordinator, your position, come to be a part of the emergency management department?

Fox: Well, that’s an interesting question. I’ll preface my answer with some background that I, myself, am very new to the position. I joined the agency in October of 2023 so I’m just learning about the background and history of the position right now. But I will say that my understanding is that as a result in part, at least of the 2020 Labor Day wildfires that we experienced here, that a kind of ad hoc inclusion and diversity and equity coordinator position arose from that experience and from the identification of a number of equity issues that came to the fore during that experience. And my colleague, Althea, probably has more background on the specifics there, but that is how I understand the position’s history.

Miller: I can imagine somebody thinking about a huge earthquake as a kind of both literal and metaphorical leveling event, something that the earth shakes and rolls and everybody is hit with the same geologic fact. The very existence of your position suggests that that’s an inaccurate way to think about it. Why is that idea wrong?

Fox: Yeah, that’s a really good point. We often think about in the news media and elsewhere that disasters are sort of equalizing events, that everyone experiences them in the same way, that they kind of level the playing field in some way because we’re all exposed to them at the same time and kind of in the same place, often. But yeah, like you said, disasters really are the result of a trigger event like an earthquake or other hazard event and whatever exists in the society where that event strikes prior to that trigger event. So if there are social barriers and inequities and challenges that are there already, the disaster or the hazard trigger event itself really exposes those and exacerbates them.

Miller: What are examples that come to mind that really show this?

Fox: Well, I think in the US, probably one of the most well known examples would be Hurricane Katrina and and the very heartbreaking visuals that we saw coming in the following days after that event of people in the Superdome - overwhelming representation of Black communities there who were literally and figuratively left out of the planning process. And the result of that was the really unspeakable human suffering that we saw.

My background is in experiences of the 2011 disasters in Japan. And that topic has come up in this interview already, but there’s some good research showing how communities were differentially impacted in that particular disaster as well. I did my PhD research in 2018 with LGBT communities in the Tohoku where that disaster hit and learned about the types of challenges people faced accessing, for example, evacuation shelters, bathing facilities and just some of the barriers that people encountered because of the existing inequities that that community faces every day.

Miller: What’s one of the barriers that you identified that you studied?

Fox: Well, my community research partners were kind enough to educate me about the fact that, for example, bathing facilities were set up according to male and female genders, which is typical in Japanese culture. But when you have an emergency where everyone needs a bath, everyone needs to use the bathroom, everyone needs to access those basic needs, setting up the facilities in that way really alienated some folks - for example, transgender people who didn’t strongly identify with either category. So that created a lot of unnecessary barriers for people in that community.

Miller: So when you translate those versions of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans or the Japanese earthquake and tsunami here, what are examples of the ways in which you think a Cascadia earthquake could play out differently among, say, marginalized communities in Oregon?

Fox: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think the key to understanding how those particular examples really played out is the fact that the voices of people who those impacts were disproportionately placed on simply weren’t present in the planning process. So one of the key factors in preparing for this particular Cascadia event is we have to ask ourselves whose voices are missing when we’re making these plans. And really develop, from the very beginning, the mechanisms for people from diverse communities across our state to provide their input, to provide their expertise. [And] to educate us so-called experts on what their needs are and what their contributions can be to making our state more resilient across communities.

Miller: So you’re talking about pre-disaster planning right now. How might that affect the response itself?

Fox: Well, the response really is only as good as what you’ve already got in place. Key to really building a strong and robust and resilient response is having those relationships and networks and mechanisms for collaboration and community support in place. And that means putting time and effort and energy and resources into building those networks now, so that we don’t have to catch ourselves flat-footed on our worst day.

Miller: Let’s listen to another voicemail. This is Veronica who called in from Gaston.

Veronica [voicemail]: I have go-bags in both cars. Well, I have emergency equipment in both cars and we have go bags in the garage and we have our RV set up with emergency equipment and clothes. We have blankets. One thing I don’t have is water. We had some problems with the sun damage to our water bottles and so I keep pestering my husband to put water in them, so that I am working on. He keeps saying we’ve got plenty on the RV. And we’ve got a water heater and a bathtub. We can fill up before any water problems happen. So I hope that works. And yes, I think it’s important to do this.

Miller: Veronica there was talking about go bags in their cars and in their RV. How do you think about emergency response and emergency planning for people who cannot get around easily, people with disabilities or mobility issues?

Fox: That’s a really important question. One of the strategies that we’re working on now at the Department of Emergency Management is, again, in order to bring those experiences and levels of community expertise to the planning conversations, we have to first create the ways in which those people in those communities can actually provide that expertise and that lived experience. And one of the ways that we do that is through collaboration with groups such as the Disability Emergency Management Advisory Committee, which is an interagency advising committee on just that. What will people’s needs be in the access and functional needs community across the state? How do we incorporate that knowledge and expertise into the ways in which we plan?

Oftentimes, disaster planning has been a kind of let’s do the best, for the most part, casting a very, very broad net and just hoping we can kind of include as many people as possible by having this one-size-fits-all approach. But that approach is really changing now. And we’re learning more through research and engagement in communities that we really need to start with a targeted approach and build out from there. So our collaborations for access and functional needs communities across Oregon in another program is the Community Emergency Response Training curriculum (CERT) that we are also co-developing with the Oregon Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services on providing CERT training curriculum to folks in American Sign Language (ASL) communities. The entire course we’re working on developing to be taught in ASL. There are a number of different ways to incorporate that knowledge into planning in a way that is targeted so that we can then build out to address other communities’ needs as well.

Miller: Let’s listen to another voicemail.

Bruce [voicemail]: This is Bruce who called in from Beaverton. My housemates tease me because I’m a bit of a prepper. We’re really happy. We had an indoor propane heater and a camp stove when our power went out. Recently also, we live in an apartment and we are not allowed to store enough water for three people for six to eight weeks, which is what geographers and researchers say we might need. So I just wanted to put that out there. I’m gonna work to get that changed on, I don’t know, a legislative level or whatever.

Miller: Bruce there is, among other things, talking about apartment space. He mentioned six to eight weeks. We should say that the amount of time that we’ve heard much more often is two to three weeks in terms of thinking about self sufficiency, but thinking about medicine, food, water. But in any case, apartment space is one big issue he brings up.


Another, which we heard a little bit from Althea Rizzo, is just poverty and food insecurity. We cannot, as a society, expect people who are struggling today to put food on the table, to have the resources to store enough nonperishable food that they could eat for two or three weeks. Who is thinking systemically about the implications of that?

Fox: That’s such an important question and I think that is a great example of how we have to kind of shift the lens of preparedness to begin again with people whose everyday lives are impacted by different types of vulnerability. And you talked about people who are economically disadvantaged. Of course, we can’t expect that someone struggling to put food on their kids table tonight is going to be able to stockpile two weeks of food. That’s not reasonable. So, we are thinking about this and this is something on the very, very top of our agenda.

I’m actually collaborating with some folks at the Oregon Food Bank to come up with some strategies for how those types of resources that are designed to alleviate everyday vulnerability and barriers to resilience can also support the type of resilience to an acute natural hazard like we’re talking about. If that means potentially allowing SNAP benefit recipients to have a special go bag category of food that they’re able to then collect over time, whether that means, working with the Oregon Food Bank to potentially set aside a certain amount of resources for people so that they can help prepare. It’s really about those partnerships and working with the networks and agencies and community-based organizations that we have in order to bring more voices to those discussions.

Miller: Natasha Fox, thanks very much.

Fox: Thank you.

Miller: Natasha Fox is the inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility coordinator at the Oregon Department of Emergency Management.

We head to the coast now. Susan Penrod is the superintendent of the Seaside School District that includes Seaside, Cannon Beach and Gearhart. Two and a half years ago, after voters eventually approved a construction bond, the district opened a new campus for middle and high schoolers. Unlike the old schools, this one is above the tsunami inundation zone. Susan Penrod, thanks very much for coming in.

Susan Penrod: Thanks for having me.

Miller: Can you tell us about that new campus?

Penrod: Yes. This whole process started 30-plus years ago and it was definitely a priority for us to get all of our students out of the zone, as you said. So in 2013, a bond went to our community to do that. It unfortunately did not pass. We went back in 2016 and it was passed and the work began.

Miller: What is the higher ground school like?

Penrod: Well, it’s not only that it’s a very beautiful school with a great view, but it is really state of the art in everything, from its resiliency to its air filtration system and everything in between.

Miller: Air filtration. Meaning, when we haven’t talked much about wildfires yet today, but it’s one more example of the disasters that you’re planning for?

Penrod: Correct.

Miller: When you rebuilt - or I shouldn’t say rebuilt, built anew those schools - what was the vision for how they might be used during an earthquake or a tsunami?

Penrod: Well, we knew our buildings needed to be safe. We knew that they needed to be an area for all of our community to come to as well so thinking of it beyond the safety of it, we also wanted our bill to be really energy efficient. So our middle school and our high school have some shared spaces. Those large spaces also give us an opportunity to house people in our community in case of a disaster.

Miller: It’s not just a gathering place, but this is one of the high-ground emergency shelters for the city?

Penrod: We work really closely with the city of Seaside Fire and Rescue Providence Hospital, which is [the] property [that] butts right up to ours and we are a relocation for them in case their property is damaged.

Miller: So if the earthquake messes up or destroys, say, a hospital wing, they would bring patients to the school?

Penrod: They would have one of our gyms designated for that. And we’ve talked all about the details of how to get folks there.

Miller: How much have you been spreading the word to the community, saying “come here in an emergency”? Do people in Seaside know that?

Penrod: Well, there are several locations throughout Seaside which are relocation areas. The benefit of ours is we have collaborated with the city to make a water reservoir because we all know that if this happens, water will probably not be drinkable. So we have up to five days of water for the community and that’s been one example of our collaboration.

Miller: Let’s play another voicemail. This is Stevie Ray who called in from Portland.

Stevie Ray [voicemail]: As a person in the Pacific Northwest, a lot of us have basic camping equipment. So just right off the bat, you probably already have most of what you need, but there’s always an opportunity to upgrade. So this year and the last couple of years I really got into ham radio and there’s a really great local ham radio community here in the Portland area and also an important upgrade. The one that I am currently saving up for is the MSR water filtration. And so that would be the one upgrade other than obviously getting into radio because radio is rad.

Miller: Susan Penrod, how are you at the district level planning to communicate, given the fact that the massive earthquake is likely to take out lots of cell towers, maybe internet lines as well?

Penrod: For a number of years, all of our administrators in the district have been trained on ham radio. We have a weekly drill on that. So that includes our staff and local community members. In addition to that, we have a radio system with Providence that’s a little bit of an even higher level one to be able to communicate with them.

Miller: Underlying everything you’re talking about here is that we’re not talking about ensuring that sixth graders are reading and doing math. Not that that’s not important, but what the implication here is that your school district is one of the the central nodes of community-wide-emergency response, right?  That’s why you’re training people and how to use a ham radio. That’s why you have weeks worth of water up above the school. That’s not about education, that’s about the community. Is that a fair way to put it?

Penrod: That is. One thing I’ve learned through this process is emergency management and preparedness is all in the details. And you really have to think a lot about what will happen because if the event happens, you want to have so much in place so you don’t have to invent that when it’s happening. I can give you an example. We have been working to have Conex storage boxes throughout our property and we went and toured those in the city of Cannon Beach. They’re really ahead of the time on that.

Miller: For those of us, including me who don’t know what a Conex storage box is. What is it?

Penrod: It’s like a big storage box that sometimes you see on ships, sometimes people are building houses out of them because they’re kind of vogue right now, but they are secure storage boxes that you can put on your property. They’re still movable, but they’re great for storing emergency supplies.

Miller: A kind of small shipping container?

Penrod: Exactly.

Miller: And you’re using them in Seaside to store supplies for the big ones?

Penrod: We’re in the process of doing that. We’re writing some grants for that and thinking about all of the implements we need–tents, food, both canned food and freeze dried food because you have to prepare that for the first couple of days, water might not be available to rehydrate that food.

Miller: I want to go back to something you mentioned earlier that the school board–and my understanding is this is before you became superintendent but I also assume that you’re relatively familiar with this history.

Penrod: Correct.

Miller: It took two tries for the community to approve a bond, even knowing that their kids were going to school in the inundation zone. What does that tell you about just our societal approach to preparing for the dual hazards on the coast of both the tsunami and the earthquake?

Penrod: Yeah. Like I said, it’s all in the details. Our community is so supportive. The feedback that our district received after the bond didn’t pass in 2013 was really that we needed to secure a piece of property and we needed to lower the dollar amount.

Miller: One of the things you got rid of is a performing arts space, is that right?

Penrod: Yeah. Unfortunately, we’re hoping to be able to raise funds for that, but Weyerhaeuser donated 80 acres on the ground that we are on. And so that made it all possible.

Miller: Let’s listen to another voicemail. This is Marilyn who called in from Portland.

Marilyn [voicemail]: I have an earthquake preparedness business here in town. And the number one thing that I hear from my customers, basically every customer, is that they have felt overwhelmed by the process of preparing for two weeks, and I’m here to offer some words of encouragement for those of you who are motivated to prepare. Just take things one step at a time and something is better than nothing. My recommendations are to start with two things: getting your water set aside. The recommendation is 14 gallons per person. But hey, a couple of gallons is better than nothing after an emergency. So just start and you’ll get there eventually. The second thing is to create an emergency plan for you and your loved ones so that you will know how you’re going to reunite and communicate after a large-scale emergency. And you’ll also have important information at your fingertips. You can do this.

Miller: So, Susan, that was advice for individuals largely. But I’m curious what advice you would give to other local leaders, school leaders, who are less further along than you are in terms of seismic preparedness?

Penrod: Well, she gave good advice: take one thing at a time. And I think that can be applied here as well. There’s a lot of really good plans out there. FEMA, for example. You don’t have to start from scratch. So being able to just assign your staff to specific duties, train them well, collaborate with your police department, your fire and rescue, your local partners with hospitals and other areas. We have a great collaboration in Seaside. So those are the kind of details and then learn from others. Get to know your folks around you, your county folks, and being able to work together.

Miller: Susan Penrod, thanks very much.

Penrod: Thank you.

Miller: Susan Penrod is a superintendent of the Seaside School District.

We end our show today in the Portland neighborhood of Linnton along the Willamette River. Shawn Looney is a member of the NET or Neighborhood Emergency Team there. She joins me now. It’s good to have you on the show.

Shawn Looney: Thank you.

Miller: So, for listeners who may not know, can you give us a sense for where the Linnton neighborhood is?

Looney: Yeah, we stretch from about the Sauvie Island Bridge, across the river from us, to Kittridge, which is in the industrial area of Northwest Portland.

Miller: Let’s listen to another voicemail that came in that is very much about your neighbor. This is from Jay from Portland, who is a local emergency manager and former chair of the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission.

Jay [voicemail]: An area I feel like we’re still lacking on a really big scale is the critical energy infrastructure hub, even though the Department of Environmental Quality is working on the seismic risk assessments with the oil companies. My concern is we’re not leveraging the seismic risk with climate change and environmental justice. These are all silos that we have in local government and state government that are at many times competing against each other. And we need to leverage what we’re trying to accomplish for the seismic risk to bring it to bear for where we ultimately want to be in the long run and look at this in a multi-generational approach. I hope we can put a big grand 2050 vision on the CEI Hub that aligns with many more things that we need to accomplish.

Miller: What unique challenges will Linnton face during the big one?

Looney: Well, Linnton is in a particularly at-risk area because we have the CEI Hub in front of us, which includes over 500 fuel tanks, 300 million gallons of fuel. And we know that the vast majority of those tanks have absolutely no safety standards. So in Linnton, we have the CEI Hub in front of us, most of us have Forest Park behind us and we have a large St. Helens Highway and the Willamette River in front of the CEI Hub. So we are kind of caught in an area where we don’t have good egress. We don’t know what to expect in terms of how many of those tanks are going to explode and create a fire hazard. It’s a challenging place to live.

Miller: We have talked about the CEI Hub in the past. This is a hugely important issue and in a lot of ways, a policy and political one, which I know that you and many other people are working hard to address. But I’m curious now, and [in] the time we have left, just to zero in more on what you’re doing at the neighborhood-level as a member of the neighborhood emergency team. You don’t have direct control over seismically retrofitting a gigantic, metal container of some kind of noxious fuel or gas. What can you do with your neighbors?

Looney: We have a good bi-monthly newsletter, Linnton Neighborhood Association, and we also have a NET news email that we send out. We just kind of give people reminders about food and water storage, about how to turn off their gas and their hot water heater if they need to, how to shelter in place, what to put in your go-bag, how to function when you don’t have a working toilet, all of those things that we want to kind of help people remember that we’re going to face. It’s something we do a lot and we speak about it in our neighborhood association meetings.

One of the things we’ve learned is that 95% of people who are rescued after a disaster are rescued by their neighbors. And that’s been particularly learned from the Japanese tsunami and the earthquake. So we, here in Linnton, encourage one another to get to know your neighbors, have social events, have community summer picnics, particularly find out what you and your neighbors need and what you and your neighbors already have and can share with one another.

Miller: It is a fascinating way to think about it, that at a community picnic when folks are just hanging out listening to music, grilling hot dogs, that that is actually both a social event and a component of seismic readiness of emergency readiness.

Looney: It is. And usually with those picnics that we’ve had several of through the years, we have brochures from Portland Fire and Rescue about Firewise. We have brochures. Should anybody want to pick them up about NET and what the NET community can provide for us. We have many stashes of supplies throughout our community and we remind one another by the way, the nearest stash to you is in so-and-so’s backyard, and so forth. So, yeah, they’re fun events but they also are very definitely educational.

Miller: How did your neighborhood do in the ice storm last week?

Looney: Well, most of us did pretty well because most of us retained our power. Up above us in Skyline, they had a lot of power outages. One of the things that Linnton also does is that we coordinate with our NET neighbors in Sauvie Island and up on the Skyline Ridge and we can train together and help one another.

Miller: How are you thinking these days about helping the most vulnerable members of your community? This is something that we talked about with Natasha Fox at the statewide-level. But at the neighborhood level, what are you doing?

Looney: It goes back to helping people [you] know, like maybe Mrs. Johnson in the house near you is in her eighties and uses a walker and in the event of the earthquake, if you’re OK and you’re ready to exit your home, go to her house next. See if she’s OK. See what you can do to help.

Miller: We’ve heard a fair amount today about water supplies or the ability to create safe drinking water about food. Someone mentioned medicine earlier. What’s something that you think people don’t pay enough attention to in terms of go bags or emergency supplies?

Looney: Well, I do think that there is that group of any neighborhood that says, I know what I need to do and I will one of these days. I’ll get to the store and get a couple more gallons of water. I will do that. But they haven’t yet. I do encourage people to have filter straws as Althea or Natasha said, I can’t remember which one of them, but you’ll need water. We will need water and we need to remind each other and help one another. And if I, for example, have a stash of filter straws in my garage, I can share those with my neighbor who may not be ready and may not have enough water.

Miller: Shawn Looney, thanks very much for joining us.

Looney: Thank you.

Miller: Shawn Looney is a member of the Neighborhood Emergency Team for the Northwest Portland neighborhood of Linnton.

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