Earthquake Damage

Oregon may experience damage in the future similar to Japan's last earthquake.

Oregon's Future Earthquake Scenario
Part Two

Ask yourself this question: If an earthquake in the range of 7’ lasting for up to five minutes were to strike Douglas County, what would happen? How many bridges would fall, how many buildings would fail and collapse? How many fires would break out, and would the fire department even be able to respond? Would the roads be drivable? How long would the food in the grocery stores last? Would there be riots or looting? Would we come together as a community, or would we crumble and turn our backs on each other?

Unfortunately, we may find out the answers to these questions in our lifetimes, and the answers — if we continue without preparing — may not be the ones we want. Since Douglas County does not have an official shelter, when the big one strikes, we will most likely experience the worst of a very bad situation.

“I tell my students, you sit and watch the clock and watch it for four minutes. Now imagine shaking so bad you can’t stand up. That is an eternity,” says Jason Aase, UCC Geology professor who teaches his students about the average duration of a mega-thrust, subduction zone earthquake — the type predicted for Oregon.

“Get your basic 72-hour survival kit ready. Do you have your water? Do you have your food? It will be you and your neighbors. The roads will be out. Pick the road, and it will probably be out. The [Oregon] department of geology says the I-5 corridor will cease to exist,” Aase says.

Deputy Fire Marshal Monte Bryan agrees about the need for preparation.

“Everybody should have a 72-hour kit, with enough supplies for each person for three days: food, water, medical supplies, extra clothing, a fire starter, a flashlight and spare batteries. People also need to have a family reunion plan and an alternate means of communication,” Bryan said.

So where will people go, who will they turn to after the ground stops shaking and the dust begins to settle? Experts say that with few drivable roads, local services such as the fire department, the hospital and the police will be limited in both response time and the ability to get to where help is needed. With the scope of the disaster spread out over a huge area, outside help will also likely be slow in coming, and it could be days or even weeks before that arrives, some authorities predict.

“Unfortunately, we do not have a shelter,” Bryan said, “We do have a public safety center (on Douglas Street near the courthouse), and we are developing an emergency operations center with command staff.”

And while there is a lot of grim information and less-than-cheery news in regards to Oregon’s future earthquake scenario, the good news is that people are becoming educated and knowledgeable about what is coming and how to prepare.

“The awareness level is going up,” Bryan said, “That is my goal, to make people more aware through outreach and letting more people know. Last year 23,000 people took part in the Great Oregon Shakeout, and this year it was over 100,000 practicing the earthquake drill: duck, cover and hold and evacuation.”

Aase adds, “As far as recovery, I’m pretty sure the small communities will fare much, much better than the large ones. Just a better sense of community and — I hope — people are generally more prepared in a more rural setting.”

According to the American Red Cross earthquake preparedness website, these are some of the steps one can take to prepare for an earthquake:

  • Become aware of fire evacuation and earthquake plans for all of the buildings you occupy regularly.
  • Pick safe places in each room of your home, workplace and/or school. A safe place could be under a piece of furniture or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases or tall furniture that could fall on you.
  • Practice drop, cover and hold in each safe place. If you do not have sturdy furniture to hold on to, sit on the floor next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms.
  • Keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes by each person’s bed.
  • Make sure your home is securely anchored to its foundation.
  • Bolt and brace water heaters and gas appliances to wall studs.
  • Bolt bookcases, china cabinets and other tall furniture to wall studs.
  • Hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors, away from beds, couches and anywhere people sleep or sit.
  • Brace overhead light fixtures.
  • Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets. Large or heavy items should be closest to the floor.
  • Learn how to shut off the gas valves in your home and keep a wrench handy for that purpose.
  • Learn about your area’s seismic building standards and land use codes before you begin new construction.
  • Keep and maintain an emergency supplies kit in an easy to access location.
The Mainstream is a student publication of Umpqua Community College.