Volunteer group encourages residents to work together in planning for a major earthquake

In the immediate aftermath of a major earthquake, Lake Oswego residents are going to be cut off from basic services and necessities such as food, water and electricity. That's why it’s critically important to stockpile supplies beforehand. But Rick Eilers and Jan Castle say there’s another thing people should do to prepare: get to know their neighbors.

“Have food and water for 30 days minimum, get your 72-hour packs built and get to know your neighbors,” says Eilers. “That’s such a big one, because those neighbors are going to be the ones to help you in an emergency.”

Castle and Eilers are the co-chairs of PrepLO, a volunteer organization that works with local neighborhood associations to encourage disaster preparedness and develop neighborhood-level plans for how to respond in the aftermath of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. The group, which was formed in 2014, meets during the first week of each month at the downtown fire station on B Avenue.

Eilers says he founded PrepLO after conducting a series of ad hoc disaster planning meetings throughout the city, beginning in 2011 in the Palisades neighborhood. The neighborhood association board wanted to create a new emergency preparedness committee, and Eilers offered to serve as the chairman. His team grew over the next two years, and other boards began to notice the group’s efforts.

“I was continually getting asked by other neighborhood associations, ‘How did you get this program started, and can you help get ours started?’” he says. “And I was finding that I was going to other NAs and spending more time there than I was with my own group. So I talked to (Fire Chief) Larry Goff about maybe getting some sort of citywide group started, and that’s where PrepLO began.”

Since then, PrepLO has been working with the City and various neighborhood associations to develop emergency plans, functioning as what Eilers describes as a “go-between” organization. Neighborhood associations can send representatives to PrepLO meetings, and then those representatives can bring information back to their association boards. According to Eilers, 14 of Lake Oswego’s 22 neighborhood associations have joined in so far.

Castle says PrepLO focuses on education about preparation topics such as sanitation and supply storage, and provides models for neighborhood organization. The group encourages residents to get together and make maps of their neighborhood to help develop their own plans. She says the meetings often turn into fun events despite the serious subject matter.

“People get together with their immediate neighbors and they make plans for what’s going to happen, how they’re going to account for each other,” says Castle. “But what they end up doing is getting to know each other better, getting to find out who’s got what kind of skills and equipment that would be helpful. But most of all, they just learn that they really enjoy getting to know their neighbors.”

Building PrepLO from an ad hoc group into a more official organization has allowed its members to take a more specialized approach to earthquake preparedness. Instead of repeatedly giving the same general speech, Eilers says, each member can take the time to become an expert on a specific topic. For Eilers, that topic is housing.

“I decided to work on keeping people in their homes — shelter in place,” he says. “So my big push is to make sure people are strapping their houses to their foundation.”

Eilers says the best place for people to stay after an earthquake is in their own homes. But quakes can cause houses to slide off their foundations, rendering them unlivable, he says, and so Eilers works with homeowners to check their connections and, if necessary, retrofit their houses.

“Any home built before 1975 did not have all the earthquake strapping,” he says. “That was kind of before we figured out we’re in an earthquake zone.”

At an organizational level, PrepLO is focusing on expanding its outreach to the rest of the city and taking on a more public role in emergency management. The organization will have a presence at the City’s upcoming Emergency Preparedness Fair.

“PrepLO has reached the point of organization that we are ready for people to know who we are,” Castle told The Review in an email.

The Fair will take place at the Parks & Recreation Department's Palisades building from 4-8 p.m. on April 21. PrepLO’s table will include demonstrations about how to store water and pack a 72-hour emergency kit, create portable toilets and become involved in neighborhood emergency plans.

“We really want to put people in touch with the efforts in their neighborhood associations to get prepared, because it really helps to have company and have other people’s inspiration,” says Castle. “So we want to put people in touch with each other. If they stop by our table, we can help them figure out which neighborhood association they’re in, and who the contact is for that neighborhood.”

Contact Anthony Macuk at 503-636-1281 ext. 108 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


What: Emergency Preparedness Fair

When: 4-8 p.m. on Thursday, April 21

Where: Parks & Recreation Department's Palisades building, 1500 Greentree Road

Cost: Free

Details: More than 20 booths will offer information on everything from water storage and emergency food options to retrofitting your home, living without power and more. Police and fire emergency vehicles will be there, as well as the LOPD’s K9 team.

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