It's tough to be completely prepared for a natural disaster. But judging by the huge crowds at Lake Oswego's second-annual Emergency Preparedness Fair, the city's residents are determined to be as ready as possible.
An estimated 800 people visited the event last week at the City's Parks and Recreation Department facility at Palisades, where more than 20 display booths were packed with information about every conceivable aspect of disaster preparation.
Presentations covered the basics, such as nonperishable food and safe drinking water, as well as more complex topics like communication, wilderness survival and even how to safely dispose of human waste.
"Word got out — there's definitely an interest," said Lake Oswego Assistant Fire Chief David Morris as he surveyed the crowd. "The biggest thing is to have the increase in awareness — being prepared and being able to take care of yourself in the first 72 hours after an earthquake or other disaster is crucial."
Potable water is one of the most basic concerns, and the biggest line at the April 26 fair formed around a booth handing out three-gallon water storage jugs. But every booth drew numerous attendees as neighbors and families worked their way around the busy gymnasium.
"The rule of thumb in an emergency is one gallon per person per day," said Kari Duncan, who manages Lake Oswego's water treatment plant, "with a minimum supply for three days."
Those 72 hours are among the most crucial, officials say, because the city's emergency responders will be overloaded with calls and won't be able to respond to all of them. In some cases, they may also be physically blocked by damaged roads or bridges.
That's why a lot of disaster preparation focuses on making sure that neighbors are ready to look out for each other and form networks to take the pressure off the city's police and fire departments. It's a role that volunteer members of the Lake Oswego Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) group say they'll play when a major disaster strikes.
"We're trying to impress upon people that the normal communications channels probably won't work," said ARES member Ron Kinder.
The group has HAM radio equipment in each of Lake Oswego's fire stations and volunteers who will immediately head to the closest station in the event of a disaster to operate it. The goal is for the network to be able to handle non-emergency calls, such as family members trying to locate each other or groups working to distribute resources to neighbors.
Lake Oswego Fire Marshall Gert Zoutendijk said City officials were happy to see representatives from various neighborhood organizations at the fair. They'll be able to take what they learned back to their corners of the city, he said, and recruit their neighbors in the development of survival plans.
"I'm here along with another neighbor because we hope to pull together a neighborhood meeting to organize (for
disaster preparation)," said Westlake resident Carrie Konkol.
Officials from Lake Oswego's Public Works Department were also on hand to demonstrate a mobile water purification system that could be deployed after a disaster. That's an important capability, officials said, because it could take a long time to fix some of the water systems that could be damaged in an earthquake.
"If the reservoirs are down, we can set this pump up in the lake or river," explained the department's Craig Smith.
Lake Oswego's primary water supply infrastructure has just gone through a large-scale upgrade process as part of the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership, and the new system is touted as one of the most advanced and seismically resilient of its kind. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the smaller pipes that distribute water to neighborhoods, let alone the lateral pipes that carry water into individual houses.
At a booth operated by the local organization PrepLO, Taylor Finley demonstrated another water alternative: a siphon-based pump that passively pushes water through its filters using only water pressure, without requiring any kind of power source or active user input.
At the other end of the table, Daniel McCulloch demonstrated an important piece of equipment that some people might overlook: a twin-bucket emergency toilet system for compressing waste and minimizing the smell.
And at another booth, Troop Leader Chris Bartell and his Boy Scouts were selling emergency backpack kits with dehydrated meals, a portable stove and waterproof fuel and matches. The sales were part of a fundraiser to help send a group of Portland-area Scouts to the National Jamboree this summer, but Bartell said he hopes the kits could one day replace jerky and popcorn to become the go-to fundraising item for Boy Scouts.
"Giving people a reason to find out more (about disaster planning) is so fantastic," he said. "Every area should be doing this."
This year's emergency fair was the second in what the City hopes will be a series of annual events. While officials said they saw some familiar faces among the attendees, there were quite a few newcomers who were eager to learn more about preparedness.
"It's just about being a little more prepared," said attendee Demetric Sanchez. "I didn't know the lifespan of stored water."
Some of the other takeaways were about learning how to act as well as how to prepare. Police and fire officials held a series of hands-only CPR classes in another room in the building, and officials said they trained more than 50 people over the course of the evening.
The event also featured two presentations focused on aspects of disaster readiness. Clackamas County Resilience Coordinator Jay Wilson gave tips about home safety, emergency planning and self-sufficiency; and Tyra Baird, co-founder of the organization Preparedness Mama, gave a talk about the psychological impacts of a disaster, particularly for children.
"A parent is going to be their child's first responder, both physically and psychologically, in the event of a disaster," she said. "In children, the symptoms of trauma can look like misbehavior, but if you treat it like it's misbehavior, you'll probably make it worse."