The Stephens family practices earthquake drills at their home in North Portland. Experts say during an earthquake you should drop, cover, and hold on until the shaking stops.

The Stephens family practices earthquake drills at their home in North Portland. Experts say during an earthquake you should drop, cover, and hold on until the shaking stops.

Nate Sjol/OPB

Brook Gowin knows she could be isolated and unable to reach her friends or family in the event of a major disaster, like an earthquake.

She lives alone in apartment complex, and has a hard time getting around because of physical limitations.

“Climbing over things is very difficult for me. I have to kind of hang onto my leg and help it up and down a lot,” she said. “If I were climbing over debris trying to get out of the house … I’m in trouble.”

Disaster relief organizations like the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency recommend everyone has a plan in place to reach loved ones after a disaster.

“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,” Brook said. “I definitely would be very distraught not being able to get a hold of them.”

Brook hopes her friend in the neighboring city of Gresham will come and find her.

“Without a car, I can’t really go anywhere to meet people,” she said. “[My friend has] talked about if the power goes out she’ll come get me. If she can’t get a hold of me on the phone, she’ll just come over. So, I think I would probably be one of the first people on her mind to come and get.”

FEMA experts say redundancy planning ahead of time can pay dividends in a disaster.

After a major earthquake, phone and Internet lines of communication could be down or limited. A person should have a plan in place for anywhere they regularly spend time, such as work, school, faith organizations, sporting events or commuting.

FEMA recommends having a contact who lives outside of the disaster area who could let other friends and family know you are OK. The agency also says you should know neighborhood meet-up places and understand disaster plans for work and school. In the event of a disaster, you should should try texting your loved ones, rather than making phone calls on a crowded network. 

Parents should drill disaster scenarios with their children too, so kids know what to do and where to go if they can’t reach their parents.

The Johnsons, one of four families who lived off their emergency supplies, faced several challenges over the weekend.

“We used to have a deal that we would try to make it back to the house,” said Krista Eddy.

She and her her husband, Patrick Alexander, have a toddler, and they live in the coast town of Lincoln City. Because the area could be susceptible to a tsunami, they have started to feel their meet-up plan is lacking.

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

Krista’s mom, Donna, also lives in Lincoln City in the tsunami zone, and wouldn’t be able to get to a shelter on her own.  

When Krista talked about how she’d reach her, she took a deep breath.

“I would wait until everything settles down, and then make my way to her house to see — to just see, I guess,” she said in a soft voice.