Groups working with city, residents, businesses to craft emergency response.

COURTESY OF THE CITY OF TUALATIN - A map shows where each of Tualatin's Citizen Involvement Organizations operate. Residential CIOs serve specific neighborhoods, whereas the Commercial CIO represents businesses in general.If the dreaded Cascadia subduction zone earthquake were to strike Oregon tomorrow, would you be ready?

Expert analyses suggest most residents and businesses would not be — and neither would many state and local government agencies.

Cathy Holland, president of Tualatin’s Commercial Citizen Involvement Organization, is working along with other CIO officers to get her community in better shape in case of disaster.

“We’ll save a lot of lives if we can get everyone in Tualatin prepared,” she said.

Region lives under threat of massive quake

Researchers believe the last major earthquake in the Pacific Northwest occurred in 1700, well before the arrival of European settlers. It was triggered by the rupture of the subduction zone between tectonic plates off the coast of northern California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

An analysis published last month suggested the chances of another huge earthquake — possibly exceeding a magnitude of 9.0 on the Richter scale — off the coast of central and northern Oregon are between 15 to 20 percent over the next half-century.

Such an event would be devastating to the region. Analyses indicate most bridges would fail, as would freeway ramps and overpasses. The electrical grid would collapse, along with many cell towers. Many water and sewer lines would likely be destroyed, leaving millions without potable water. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities would be rendered inoperable. Many buildings, especially those built before Oregon updated its building code in 1994 to require new construction be built to higher seismic standards, would collapse. Landslides and liquefaction could wipe out other buildings and roads.

Despite all of that, Holland said, “Most people are going to survive. But how well you live after the event is going to depend on how prepared you are, and how prepared your neighbors are. And what we’re really trying to do is get the whole community prepared.”

Tualatin is actually better positioned than many communities, according to Holland.

“Tualatin’s slide risk is actually pretty low, but there are places where we could have slides,” she said. “The other thing that helps Tualatin is we have a very high building code standard, and we’ve had it for a long time, so whatever the standards were in the ‘80s, that’s what our buildings were built to. So we have a very high survival possibility.”

That said, much of downtown Tualatin lies in the floodplain of the Tualatin River. If a future earthquake causes the collapse of Scoggins Dam, upriver in western Washington County, the river could swiftly rise and flood low-lying parts of Tualatin.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Cathy Holland talks about the importance of emergency preparedness in case of an earthquake.

Volunteers stepping up in case of disaster

In the event that disaster strikes, Holland said, the CIOs have been working with some 42 ham radio operators who live in the Tualatin area in an effort to coordinate what could serve as an emergency communication system. Holland said she has even picked up an operating license of her own.

“We’ve set up a ham network,” she said.

Eighteen Tualatin residents involved in the CIOs’ efforts have also been undergoing CERT training — short for Community Emergency Response Teams — with the financial backing of the city of Tualatin, said Holland. Ten more have been trained in Tigard.

Robert Kellogg, president of the Ibach CIO and candidate for Tualatin City Council, is one of the trainees. Classes are every Thursday at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center in east Tualatin, starting Sept. 8 and continuing into next month, he said.

“We’ve covered a number of interesting topics already ... including first aid, organizing for a disaster, going over terminology, expectations and a lot of different scenarios in terms of disaster,” he said.

“We have CERT volunteers now all over the city,” Holland said. “They are integrating with the CIO boards to come up with individual CIO emergency plans, because every residential area has its own risks. And the link between all of us are the ham radio (operators).”

Holland laid out a scenario in which an earthquake hits, Tualatin’s utilities and hospital are knocked offline, and the suburban city is effectively cut off from its neighbors, with the downtown area likely flooding as well. In that instance, she said, residents and anyone else trapped in the city when the disaster strikes — the vast majority of the people employed in Tualatin commute from elsewhere, she noted — will likely have to fend for themselves for a week or longer before the National Guard arrives. Major stores like Fred Meyer or Cabela’s will sell out quickly, she said, assuming they survive.

“Our community is going to have to rely on ourselves,” Holland said.

She added, “By having a plan, it gives people who are present at least an idea of how to go about it.”

City official praises CIO efforts

At about 27,000 people, Tualatin is just over half the size of neighboring Tigard to the north. The larger city has a robust emergency management program, as do Washington County and the city of Portland, as Holland noted.

But while Tualatin’s municipal resources are more limited, Holland credited the city with doing what it can to support the CIOs’ efforts to prepare the community for a major disaster.

Jerry Postema, Tualatin’s public works director, said he “really can’t say enough about the effort by the CCIO and the CIOs. They’re just doing a great job.”

Tualatin has an emergency preparedness plan and is part of Washington County’s Emergency Management Cooperative, Postema noted. Additionally, he said, city staff receive incident command training and 72-hour emergency kits and have participated in regional drills, including the “Cascadia Rising” exercise in June.

“The CCIO and the CIOs have been great in raising awareness in the community,” Postema said, noting that he has been to a number of events around Tualatin to speak about disaster readiness. “I think we’ve been doing pretty good at raising awareness in the community. And really, the majority of it is personal preparedness.”

On that point, Holland said she is encouraging people to stock up on water and granola bars — a big enough supply to last a person at least a week — and store them in their cars, along with a first aid kit.

“Cars can be your shelter in place,” Holland said.

People should also prepare a “go kit” in the event of a major earthquake by placing a pair of comfortable shoes, a can opener and a flashlight — at a minimum — in a drawstring bag and tying it to the foot of their bed, she said.

“What (experts) simulate is this bed is going to go all the way across the room,” Holland said. “Absolutely everything that isn’t bolted down is going to go flying across the room.”

Nonperishable food should be stockpiled at home, she added. She also recommends families agree on an emergency contact living outside the earthquake zone, in the hopes that they can get a text message out even if cell towers come down during the earthquake, and that people practice ducking for cover, avoiding windows and unsecured objects, and identifying emergency exits in case of an earthquake.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Cathy Holland points out the different zones of Citizen Involvement Organization coverage in Tualatin.

Each CIO playing a role for its area

Holland remarked that “even getting 10 percent of our population prepared is going to take years.”

Right now, Holland said, each CIO president — Tualatin has six residential CIOs, each corresponding to a neighborhood, plus its Commercial CIO — is working to “map” his or her part of the city. Emergency gathering places are being identified, disaster response scenarios are being planned out, and volunteers such as the ham radio operators and CERT trainees are stepping up to potentially become community leaders in the event of a major disaster.

“In a nutshell, it’s 90 minutes of accelerated emergency preparation,” Kellogg said.

About 70 households in Kellogg’s Ibach neighborhood are now participating. He said it will be an “ongoing effort” to recruit more, with the goal of preparing as many people as possible to step up for both their own homes and their neighbors if needed.

Kellogg explained, “Effectively, the program doesn’t have a leader, per se, for any of these blocks of houses. The job is to prepare everyone so that anyone can do the job when the time comes.”

Willie Fisher, president of the neighboring Byrom CIO, said the goal is to have at least half of the households in each residential CIO go through the preparedness program by the end of 2021, as well as at least nine CERT volunteers per CIO.

“I think it’s so important because rather than creating chaos and panic when a disaster strikes, it could actually help everyone to be calm, because they know that we have a plan,” Fisher said.

The city is playing a supporting role as well, Postema said.

“We had in the budget a line item for about $8,000 to fund the CERT training,” he noted.

While Holland called the Cascadia earthquake the “most significant” threat the region faces, she and Postema both said the work being done to prepare for a disaster could also benefit community members in the case of a lesser event, such as a severe windstorm.

“Whatever the event is, people just need to be prepared,” said Postema.

Resources for preparing

Holland encourages residents to get involved in preparing for a disaster by contacting the president of their local CIO:

  • Byrom CIO: Willie Fisher (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
  • East Tualatin CIO: Charlie Benson (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
  • Ibach CIO: Robert Kellogg (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
  • Martinazzi Woods CIO: Carmen Madrid (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
  • Midwest CIO: Jackie Pride (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
  • Riverpark CIO: Ted Saedi (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
  • Holland said the CIOs have been using booklets provided by agencies with experience at emergency management, including these resources:

  • Prepare! A Resource Guide, produced by the American Red Cross Cascades Region
  • Living on Shaky Ground, produced by Oregon Emergency Management
  • Building and Strengthening Disaster Readiness Among Neighbors, produced by Oregon Emergency Management and the Oregon Citizen Corps
  • Additional information and tools to help assess risks and prepare for a disaster, including a magnitude-9 earthquake, are available online:

  • Oregon HazVu
  • Oregon Risk MAP
  • Portland Bureau of Emergency Management Earthquake Preparedness
  • The Great Oregon ShakeOut
  • Throughout Oregon, coordinated earthquake drills are held every year as part of the ShakeOut. This year’s exercises are scheduled for Oct. 20.

    By Mark Miller
    Assistant Editor
    email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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