By Natalie Roadarmel
Known to most of us as “The Big One,” the Cascadia Subduction Zone is due to release an earthquake on Oregon at anytime.
The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a fault that runs for 600 miles, reaching from Northern California to British Columbia. The 41 earthquakes that have occured in the last 10,000 years on this fault have been anywhere between 190 and 1,200 years apart. The last earthquake the Cascadia Subduction Zone experienced happened on January 26, 1700 and was 9.0 magnitude. As a result, Oregon is due for the next earthquake, as they seem to happen about every 300 years, and it will likely be 9.0 magnitude as well.
It’s been known throughout Oregon that this mega-quake will be occurring in the near future (there is a 40% chance it will happen in the next 50 years). However, the state is far from prepared. A recent audit released exemplified this. The state has already announced that residents should anticipate a lack of services and assistance for at least two weeks after the earthquake, but it is clear the state is unprepared in many other ways.
The issues begin with Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management being understaffed. This office coordinates Oregon’s preparedness and response efforts, but cannot do its job properly because of its lack of staff. Additionally, many of the State emergency response facilities are in buildings which are vulnerable to earthquakes, and many emergency operation centers are placed in hazard zones. Although the mega-quake is the most prominent disaster Oregon faces, there are many other catastrophes that the state is vulnerable to and should prepare for. These include wildfires, landslides, flooding, and extreme weather. The audit responded to these issues with 11 recommendations for the emergency management office and the governor’s office. These recommendations included completing emergency plans and meeting emergency management program standards.
The Oregon Military Department and Governor Kate Brown agreed with the recommendations of the audit, although Brown stated that one of the recommendations had already been completed. Office of Emergency Management Director Andrew Phelps commented that preparedness is a continuing action.
“We’re never going to get to a point where we can say, yep, we’re prepared. We kind of live on the premise that each day we want to be more prepared than the previous day, and tomorrow we’ll be more prepared.”
So what can you do to be ready when the big one hits? It is important to have an emergency kit including enough food and water for two weeks, a first aid kit, and a communication device such as a walkie-talkie. It is also smart to have an evacuation route planned in advance. In addition, the entire West Coast now has a early-warning-system, ShakeAlert, implemented to warn residents of an earthquake right before it happens.
Although natural disasters are imminent, every step the state and its residents take to prepare for possible catastrophes brings all of Oregon closer to a safer future.