Floods that maroon our coastal towns, pounding rains that wash away our roads and blackouts that thaw our freezers are among the natural hazards to life on the Oregon Coast.
By Jordan Wolfe
The Emergency Volunteer Corps (EVC) of Nehalem Bay wants to expand the conversation about what our communities need to do in the wake of a natural disaster. To continue a culture of readiness and preparation, the EVC held their annual meeting on April 18 at the Pine Grove Community House in Manzanita.
Linda Kozlowski, president of the EVC, discussed a new program to encourage the community to build a fully loaded GoBag, described as “the bare essentials to grab and go when your house is on fire, is damaged by a disaster or a tsunami is rapidly approaching,” ideally with enough supplies to keep someone warm, dry, fed, and hydrated for up to three days.”
According to Kozlowski, the new program will be called “GoCoffees” and be get-togethers to have coffee or tea, where one person with a fully loaded GoBag will upturn its contents and identify every item in it, in a show-and-tell style.
During the afternoon meeting, Kozlowski awarded volunteers Betsy Chase and husband Paul Knight as the most valuable team of the EVC.
“Being prepared needs to start with individuals and households. I am privileged to be associated with this organization,” Chase says. “It is a good example of how to build a community around things that matter.”
Knight says of their award, “It’s a little overwhelming! We’re really involved. We’re making this community our community. My wife has been amazing. She is on the recycling and library committees. She’s just a powerhouse. I follow her lead.”
Chase presented the results from a recent survey she created and conducted within the Nehalem Bay area. 446 households responded to the survey, around 21 percent of all households. Chase says of those that responded, 14 percent feel prepared for a natural disaster and aftermath, 60 percent feel somewhat prepared and the final 26 percent self-reported themselves as being totally unprepared.
The presentation shifted towards preparation and fallout from a 9.0 earthquake from the Cascadia Subduction Zone.
Director of Oregon Emergency Management, Andrew Phelps says “If people began preparing for the worst – like the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, then disasters such as the wind and rain storm last December don’t become so bad.”
Phelps gave a presentation with liveliness and levity about the state of readiness in Oregon. “The Cascadia Subduction Zone did not come up during the interview. I had just spent the last seven years in New Mexico. I didn’t know how to spell or pronounce ‘tsunami.'”
Phelps says that oftentimes the government and citizens become short-sighted when it comes to preparedness. He explained his belief with the example of the United States’ heavy emphasis on terrorism prevention post-9/11 that Hurricane Katrina made the country realize that other disasters could happen too.
In a recent survey from Salem’s Statesman Journal, Phelps says only seven or eight percent of Oregonians feel prepared for a natural disaster.
“Oregonians are more ready than they think,” Phelps says. “We have this great outdoor culture that lends itself to preparedness. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on fancy gadgets.”
Being clever and savvy was also a talking point for Phelps. “Most people think they don’t have 40 gallons of water ready,” he says, “but you have a water heater, don’t you?”
Those in attendance for the annual meeting provided a lively energy and asked well-informed and intelligent questions of the guest panel that consisted of Phelps, County Commissioner Mark Labhart, Senator Betsy Johnson and the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries director, Brad Avy.