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Shaky ground

West Linn set to participate in earthquake drill


by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - After retiring from the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, Randy Crebs joined the West Linn police department in a part-time role that includes emergency management duties.On Oct. 17, at exactly 10:17 a.m., an earthquake will strike in West Linn.

Don’t panic — the ground won’t shake and nothing will be displaced. This “earthquake” will be in name only, as West Linn participates in the Great Oregon ShakeOut earthquake drill to help educate city employees and residents alike about what to do in a real emergency.

The drill, which emphasizes the three steps of “drop,” “cover” and “hold on,” is something that West Linn Training and Emergency Management Specialist Randy Crebs believes deeply in. He knows from his days in the Navy that unfamiliar practices require frequent drilling, building muscle memory until the proper actions are second nature.

And in this particular situation, when first instincts often lead to the most dangerous response — running — drills like the ShakeOut become even more important.

“Muscle memory and mental memory is what you’re going to react with in a time of crisis,” Crebs said. “If you don’t know what to do, your first instinct is to run. And when you start running, you’ll be hit with a flying picture frame or glass — maybe something falls on top of you.”

The key is to take cover as quickly as possible, and hold on tight to whatever object is being used as protection. That’s what staff at city hall will be doing just after 10:15 a.m. on Oct. 17, when an “earthquake” announcement is formally issued and the drill begins in earnest.

Crebs, for his part, hopes that the drills extends far beyond the walls of city hall.

“It’s not just our personnel that we’re training, it’s the whole public,” Crebs said. “There’s millions of people on this thing.”

Indeed, more than 14.8 million people across the world will participate in the Oct. 17 drill. Oregon had seen more than 95,000 registrations as of Sept. 30, and Crebs feels the training could be especially important in this state.

Sitting in his office at the West Linn Police Department, Crebs points to a graph illustrating the frequency of “great” earthquakes (between magnitudes 8.0 and 9.0) in Oregon over the past 10,000 years. Though he is admittedly “not a stats guy,” he was struck by the pattern he saw on the graph.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - After consulting historical trend charts, Randy Crebs worries a sizable earthquake in Oregon is imminent.

“We’re due for something,” Crebs said. “It’s scary for me. We’re sitting right on that fault; it’s like, ‘When is this going to happen?’”

A former member of the Clackamas County Sheriff Crime Scene Investigation unit, Crebs was hired part time by the West Linn police in 2012 to help with background checks and field training for new officers. He was also asked to help fill a void in emergency management left by retired Capt. Ron Schwartz.

Since then, Crebs has taken a number of training courses administered by the Federal Emergency Managment Agency’s Emergency Management Institute, but he also brings real world experience to the job.

Back in 1996, Crebs was part of the Clackamas County field operations team during the floods in West Linn. It was a 24-hour operation, as Crebs and three others worked tirelessly to help residents.

“We slept on the houseboat during the height of the flood, in case there were any emergency calls on the river, which we got our fair share of,” Crebs said. “And during the day … we had to evacuate several residents from their houses, and businesses along the river had to be sandbagged and preserved to make sure we didn’t have looting and vandalism.”

That experience, among others, provided a baseline for the role Crebs is filling now in West Linn. Back in May, the city put its emergency response system to the test by administering an emergency notification system call to members of the emergency operations team and setting up an operations center on the fly.

“The results were really good, we had a very good response from our members,” Crebs said. “All of our members are very vested in this emergency management. They’re all eager to learn and work together, and they’re all very aware that at some point their training and experience is going to be needed in a real situation.”

In the event of an emergency, the operations center would be based at city hall. When the new police station is completed in 2014, the emergency operations center will relocate to that building.

“We will have all the up-to-date, newest technology,” Crebs said.

But that’s further down the road. For now, Crebs is focused on promoting the ShakeOut in West Linn.

“I strongly encourage everyone in the community to participate,” Crebs said. “It will definitely save lives.”

To register for the ShakeOut, visit clackamas.us/shakeout. To learn more, visit shakeout.org/oregon/index.html.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Randy Crebs encourages all residents to participate in the upcoming Great Oregon ShakeOut earthquake drill.

Patrick Malee can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 106. Follow him on Twitter, @pmalee_wl



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