There's always the possibility that a natural or human-caused disaster could affect us here in the Pacific Northwest. The Oregon Office of Emergency Management encourages residents to be prepared to be on their own for a minimum of two weeks. This will help emergency responders focus limited resources on injured and other vulnerable populations immediately following a disaster.
Remember, emergency preparedness is a shared responsibility. Here is some information to help you prepare, and stay safe, in the event of an emergency.
Being prepared with a back-up power system in the event of a major disaster or prolonged power outage is an important part of disaster planning, especially for people who use electricity and battery-dependent assistive medical devices such as breathing machines or power wheelchairs.
Using a generator when the power goes out is a great option, but safety should be the top priority for both you and utility workers. There are two kinds of generators, portable and permanent. Portable generators are intended to provide power to an extension cord which is then plugged directly into an appliance or piece of equipment. Permanent generators are wired directly into the electrical system of your home. Learn more about generator safety.
Whether a natural disaster or just an unanticipated power outage, having emergency lighting is critical to helping you navigate the darkness. LED flashlights provide super bright light and last for hours. Keep several flashlights at home and keep one in each of your cars. Lightsticks and emergency candles or lanterns can provide low level lighting for extend periods of time. Make sure your emergency kit includes extra batteries.
Smartphones have become a vital tool to receive emergency alerts and warnings, so it's important to make sure you can keep them powered up in an emergency. If the power goes out, preserve battery power by minimizing device use and changing the setting to low power mode or airplane mode. Have an emergency charging option for your phone and other mobile devices.
Following a disaster, clean drinking water may not be available. Experts recommend that residents of the Pacific Northwest store 14 gallons of water per person in your household (enough for two weeks).
Here are some water storage and treatment tips:
Water heaters can move or tip over if not securely anchored to the wall or floor. For a small investment of time and money, you can avoid spilling gallons of precious water that could be useful in an emergency.
Purchase and install a strap or bracing kit from your local hardware store, or have a licensed plumber strap your water heater according to code.
And remember, water from your hot water tank is safe for sanitation, but we do not recommend drinking or cooking with it. Heated water could potentially have the chlorine cooked out of it allowing for bacterial regrowth, and the water could also be laced with an accumulation of heavy metals such as lead and copper, depending upon the age of the appliance.
Do you have important items gathered into an emergency kit? How will you communicate and reconnect with your family after a disaster?
Use these checklists to ensure you are prepared for any type of disaster:
Want to purchase a pre-packed emergency kit? This site has some great resources: Disaster preparedness kit: How to pack easily for earthquake, tsunami and more.
Many mobile devices will now bring you wireless emergency alerts—real-time information directly from local and federal sources. Check out these alert options:
Lane County ALERT ME! Lane County is able to send you emergency alerts via text message, email, pager, or voice call (in extreme cases), based on your preferences. Sign up today and share the types of alerts and notifications that you would like to receive, as well as your contact information and preferences.
American Red Cross: Earthquake Mobile App Receive alerts and notifications when an earthquake occurs, prepare your family and home, find help and let others know you are safe even if the power is out.
FEMA Mobile App Learn what to do before, during, and after emergencies with safety tips, and receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five different locations anywhere in the United States.
When you report a power outage via our toll-free reporting line, you can request a call back letting you know when your power is restored. You can also text 'stat' for a status update if you reported your outage using the texting service. To avoid extra steps during an outage, and to be placed on a restoration plan, please update your account with your current cell phone number by calling customer service at 541-685-7000, or by emailing EWEB.Answers@eweb.org.
Getting to know your neighbors can improve your safety and help the whole community become more disaster-resilient.
The Map Your Neighborhood program can help you meet your neighbors and prepare for emergencies. Once you and your neighbors have a good start on household preparedness, you can use the Map Your Neighborhood program to plan to help each other effectively after a disaster. Map Your Neighborhood walks your group through a simple step-by-step process to customize an emergency preparedness plan for your area.
Southeast Neighbors also has some great information about Map Your Neighborhood on their website.
In case of a disaster of any type, it may be necessary to turn off utilities to avoid damage to your home.
Unlike gas, turning off the electricity doesn't require any tools. If your lights are flickering or you suspect any damage, locate the electrical circuit box and switch off all the individual circuits. Then turn off the main circuit. If your power goes out, turn off all electric appliances and unplug major electric appliances. This will help prevent damage to the appliances when the power is restored. Learn more about protecting your electronic equipment.
Your water meter is usually located in front of your house near the curb. Often there are two valves that shut off the water: the curb stop (EWEB valve) and the customer hand valve. The curb stop is the valve that shuts the water off to the water meter. The customer hand valve is located directly after the water meter. Here's how to shut off your home's water supply in an emergency.
Don't have a customer hand valve? We offer a rebate to help you install a customer side hand valve if one is not present. Get more information and the rebate form here.
After an earthquake, don't turn the water back on until you've been notified by EWEB that it is safe to do so.
If you have gas appliances, you need to know how to keep your home safe before and after an earthquake or other disaster. Visit https://www.nwnatural.com/Residential/Safety/EarthquakePreparedness.
If there is an extended power outage in the middle of winter, you'll need to take steps to keep your home as warm and comfortable as possible.
In an emergency, water and sewer lines may be disrupted, and you may need to improvise emergency sanitation facilities. One option is the Twin Bucket Emergency Toilet. Be sure to include basic sanitation supplies in your emergency kit, including plastic garbage bags and ties (heavy duty), household chlorine bleach, soap, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper.
More emergency sanitation information.
Any time the power goes out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours if the door remains closed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends these food safety steps to follow before and during a power outage.
September is National Preparedness Month! Check out these local educational events and activities throughout September to help community members prepare for disasters or emergencies.
You can significantly reduce damage to your home by fixing a number of known and common weaknesses. This FEMA booklet is a good start to begin strengthening your home against earthquake damage.