North Coast coordinators see evidence of better preparednessThe imminent arrival of fall and memories of the Aug. 14 blackout in Northeastern American has many wondering "if it happened here, would I be ready?"
Fortunately, people are more aware of disaster than ever before, said Julie Flues. She's the Clatsop Service Center Manager for the Oregon Trail Chapter of the American Red Cross. And that has spurred many to take steps to prepare themselves for blackouts and other disasters.
"The Red Cross took a poll after 9/11 and only one in seven Oregonians felt like they were prepared if a disaster happened," Flues said. "We wanted to raise that bar."
So Oregon Red Cross Chapters created "Prepare Oregon," a 5-step program that helps people prepare for a disaster. After only one year, 15 percent of Oregon households now indicate that they are prepared for a major disaster. The National Red Cross organization liked the idea so much, they adopted it as a national program called "Prepare for Life."
The program incorporates five steps:
1. Make an action plan.
2. Create or purchase disaster kits for your home, car and workplace.
3. Get trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first-aid measures.
5. Donate blood.
Although any type of disaster could happen at any time, the Pacific Northwest is more vulnerable to tsunamis, landslides, floods, hazardous materials accidents and airport or boating tragedies. A particular concern in Clatsop County is the many bridges that link communities.
"I think that, many times, people just don't want to think about these kind of things," said Gloria Linkey, chairwoman of the Seaside Public Commission on Safety. "We don't want to come off as doomsayers, but we do want people to be aware that we are in a situation that could, at some point in time, become tenuous."
Make a planThe most important step in disaster preparedness is to make a plan and share it with community or family members. Discuss meeting spots and shelter locations, and then post a copy of the plan where everyone may read it.
"We have an obligation to protect the lives of our communities and guests," said Cleve Rooper, Cannon Beach's Fire Chief and a member of the city's Emergency Preparedness Committee.
Show family members how to shut off utilities and use a fire extinguisher. Make copies of the emergency contact list for each member to carry with them.
One of the most important people on that list is an out-of-state contact.
"Sometimes during a disaster, local phone lines may be down or overloaded," Flues said. "But long distance lines may still work."
She also recommends that businesses have a disaster plan and that they discuss it with employees. She hopes supervisors will establish good relationships with workers, so that in the event of a disaster, people won't feel guilty if they cannot come to work. The Oregon Trail Red Cross Chapter also offers to educate employees and community organizations through the Community Disaster Education program, a free planning presentation. Call (503) 528-5689 for more information.
City emergency committees and public safety commissions, like Cannon Beach's also gives community presentations because "public education is a serious issue. You need to keep at it," Rooper said.
Disaster kitsThe Red Cross offers two kinds of disaster kits, one for a desk and one for the car, boat or dorm room. The desk kit includes a water pouch, dust mask, whistle, 12-hour light stick and fabric fasteners to stick under the desk. They are $5 at the Red Cross office in Astoria or $10 at the North Coast Fred Meyer in Warrenton. Car kits are also available for $12.95 at Red Cross offices.
A home kit may be the most important kit to have. Red Cross officials encourage people to make their own, with enough food, water and clothing for three days. Many people already have items on hand. Putting it all together in one place is the key, Flues said.
The 15 home survival kit basics
Water: one gallon per person, per day for three days
Flashlight with extra batteries
Bandages and a first-aid kit
Map of local area
Non-perishable, high-protein, high-calorie food for three days
Hand-operated can opener
Crescent wrench for utility shut-off
Extra cash and coins
Clothing, blankets, shoes and gloves
Emergency contact list
Duct tape, plastic sheeting or large plastic garbage bags
A copy of "Before Disaster Strikes" booklet, $5 at Red Cross offices and Fred Meyer.
Prescriptions and important documents. Comfort items like toys, stuffed animals and books also may be included.