A local volunteer organization will host a pair of disaster-preparation events at the city's high schools in the next couple of weeks, both designed to help individuals and neighborhood groups plan for survival in the aftermath of a major earthquake.
"I'll be going over all of the new things that have happened to improve the infrastructure around us, just in the past couple of years," says PrepLO co-chair Jan Castle. "And then the other part of it is the 'how to prepare' side."
Since it was formed in 2014, PrepLO has been active at various city events, such as the Emergency Preparedness Fair, but Castle says the two upcoming sessions mark the start of a new phase in PrepLO's community outreach: neighborhood-level organization.
"What we find in all of these disasters that we've witnessed around the country and the world is that the people who know their neighbors and work with them recover much faster than those who don't," she says. "So it's really vital to form those bonds."
One of the biggest challenges in earthquake preparation is the scale of the problem. When confronted with the massive damage that an earthquake could inflict and the many steps that need to be taken to prepare, Castle says too many people become overwhelmed and unsure of how to start.
So for this round of presentations, PrepLO has worked to develop ways of breaking the preparation down into bite-size instructions. Each of the preparation steps — food, water, bolting down the house — will be accompanied by handout cards that outline simple steps for preparation.
"We'll be talking about foods — the right combination of foods to look for," Castle says. "We'll be telling you where to get different kinds of containers to store water in, and how to get those set up. And then we'll of course be talking about the ever-popular portable toilets. And we'll have handouts for each of those different areas."
Each event will feature tables where visitors can pick up information cards, view example emergency supplies and talk with community members who have already made their own preparations.
The presentations will also discuss the resiliency of Lake Oswego's infrastructure. The good news, Castle says, is that the city may soon have earthquake-resistant school buildings. An "immediate occupancy" rating for new buildings will be one of the features included in a series of upcoming LOSD bond measures over the next decade, and Castle says the meetings will focus on educating residents about the benefits of having schools built to that standard.
"Think how valuable it would be if there was a place in your neighborhood where you could go to get services or supplies," she says, "a place that might even have its own electricity, heat, the ability to boil water and a place to charge your electronics."
The other major focus of the events will be to start a process of neighborhood-level organization, and Castle says that's the part that will continue well beyond these two gatherings.
"Once we've dispensed this info, the neighborhood associations are getting primed to be able to continue moving that info out into the neighborhoods in their own meetings," she says. "Some of them are setting up monthly meetings to really delve specifically into some of those topics."
Right after an earthquake, Castle says, neighbors will be able to quickly check on each other and follow survival plans to make sure everyone has the necessary shelter and supplies. That process begins with a "Map Your Neighborhood" meeting, which will be outlined at the PrepLO events.
"You make a plan with your immediate neighbors about how you're going to make sure everyone is accounted for and assisted after the quake happens," says Castle. "You'll find it's also a really good way to exchange information about how to make those preparations to your own home."
Castle says PrepLO's goal will be to help facilitate those meetings in each of the city's neighborhoods over the next year by training a representative from each neighborhood association, and by providing expertise when the meetings are conducted. The group will also continue to help out at city events and hopefully serve as a "liaison" between government agencies and citizens preparing in their own homes.
"What we're hoping we can do with these events is to help people get started," says Castle. "Once you go through this process and get your own preparation, you're in a much different place than you're in right now."
IF YOU GO
What: "Building a Resilient Lake Oswego"
When/Where: 7-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, at Lake Oswego High School (2501 Country Club Road); and 7-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 1, at Lakeridge High School (1235 Overlook Drive)
Details: A presentation will cover details about preparing your own home and supplies and working with your neighborhood association to form a plan for what to do in the aftermath of a major earthquake.
More information: losn.org