City official focuses on worst-case scenarios
Would you be ready if a disaster like the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake hit?
That kind of colossal earthquake would result in a massive blow to the region — severely impacting transportation, communication, and local water systems. Without proper preparation, Gresham and its residents would struggle to recover in the wake of the quake.
These are the kind of issues Kelle Landavazo, Gresham's emergency management coordinator, spends her days working on.
Landavazo began working for the city of Gresham as an administrative analyst for the city manager, and it wasn't until she took on a part-time role helming an Emergency Preparedness Project that she discovered her passion.
"I fell in love with emergency preparedness and community management," she said. "I liked working with the neighborhood associations and the public."
In her current role, Landavazo works to make sure Gresham is able to respond to any disasters, with extreme weather being the most common occurrence.
"We have at some level 1 weather event almost every year," she said. "So that is what we plan for on a routine basis."
In addition to weather incidents, the city has begun to look at plans for a cyber security attack or school shooting/mass casualty event.
"All of us in this business are having to think of our role moving into recovery following those events," Landavazo said. "We are having more conversations on how to deal with those scenarios."
Part of the plan is for the city to identify key functions and figure out how to get them back online after a massive disaster. Those services include first responders, water access, communication services and roadways for transportation.
At best, after the Cascadia earthquake it would take seven to 10 days for the city to receive outside assistance.
"We have to see where the gaps are and how to mitigate those hazards," Landavazo said. "It is critical to move the community into recovery quickly, because otherwise you will start to lose businesses and see people move away."
The city recently finished seismically retrofitting the local fire stations and reservoir to mitigate potential damage and allow them to continue running. A current focus for the city is maintaining fuel supplies after a disaster like the Cascadia earthquake. Studies show there are not enough fuel supplies in the region that could withstand such an event.
Another important task for Landavazo is communicating with all residents of Gresham.
"We treat disaster preparedness like we did for the green movement," she said. "We want good practices to become our way of life."
Residents should have a supply of water on hand. The rule of thumb is 1 gallon per person, per day, but Landavazo said any extra supply is better than nothing. She recommends storing a few cases under a bed.
The other thing community members can do is talk with family members about what to do if something happens. During a disaster, lines of communication within the city will most likely be disrupted, though people should still be able to make calls outside of the region. So having a family member or friend who can relay messages to everyone affected by the disaster is important. Families should also devise plans on where to go after a disaster.
"My goal is for everyone to feel empowered to do something to prepare for a disaster," Landavazo said. "We want everyone to understand what to expect."