Over the past two years, Oregonians have faced devastating wildfires, floods, drought, ice storms, excessive heat events and a pandemic. The seemingly endless cycle of emergencies, disasters and “historic” events impacting our state are not anomalies or outliers; they are indicators of the types of climate-driven emergencies we will continue to experience and for which we must prepare.
These events have also underscored our state’s collective lack of readiness to face the reality of future adversities. One of the most difficult hazards to mitigate against is the hazard of apathy and the notion that so many people think emergencies won’t happen to them or that they have time to prepare later.
The truth is, disasters don’t wait for us to be ready, and when they strike, the time to prepare has passed. We know emergencies affect Oregonians in different ways, and that each of us can be impacted by these hazards. What’s important is that we leverage these experiences to inform and strengthen our culture of preparedness. Together, we have a shared responsibility to ensure we are actively reducing our risk. It takes each of us to make Oregon stronger – and safer – together.
When a disaster strikes, it may take days or even weeks for responders to reach impacted Oregonians, who may have to go without food, water or electricity. The Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM) actively encourages Oregonians to plan on being self-sufficient for at least two weeks following any type of emergency. This takes pressure off first responders so they can triage effectively and attend to life-threatening situations; ensures individuals can survive without help or additional supplies if roads are impassable; and encourages neighbors to care for one another, along with other vulnerable populations.
We understand the words preparedness and readiness – along with the notion of having two weeks’ worth of supplies – can sound and feel overwhelming. The good news is, many Oregonians may be more prepared than they think. It starts with simple actions, like signing up with OR-Alert to receive emergency alerts in your area; checking in on neighbors and loved ones before and during severe weather, utility outages or other emergencies; and understanding Oregon’s tiered evacuation levels and identifying evacuation routes from home, work or school and the surrounding neighborhood.
Preventing disaster can be as simple as a conversation – and it can make all the difference.
Individuals, families and communities need to develop an emergency plan that outlines what to do before, during and after an emergency. Talk with your family, neighbors and friends about the plan and ask important questions, like:
• Who will care for the kids, grandparents and pets if you are unable to get to them for several hours?
• Who in your neighborhood has medical skills, a generator, a chainsaw, or other important tools or resources?
• Do you have an out of state contact? Designate one person to be the main contact for your group of friends or family.
Once you have a plan in place, begin assembling supplies. An emergency kit should include two weeks’ worth of food, water, supplies and necessities like medications, copies of important documents and phone chargers. You probably already have many of the necessary items – flashlights, gloves, a battery- powered radio, trash bags, a first-aid kit – in your home. A good strategy is to integrate a culture of preparedness into your daily lifestyle. Think about resources you may have access to during a disaster, such as alternate water sources or products to purify water in emergency situations. OEM offers several resources, including brochures and short videos, on its website at www.oregon.gov/oem to help people prepare to be two weeks ready.
Disasters – large and small – can strike any time. Taking simple steps now can pay huge dividends when the next emergency arrives.