Every year, natural disasters strike the homes of residents all over the world. Whether a devastating hurricane, tsunami, tornado or earthquake strikes, the aftermath can cost millions in damage and can ruin the lives of many. As far as natural disasters go, The Pacific Northwest is overdue for the projected “big one,” an earthquake of catastrophic proportions.
The Cascadia Subduction Zone is located off the Northwest coast where the Juan de Fuca and the North American plates meet.
This zone is part of the Ring of Fire that brought about the 2004 Sumatra earthquake and tsunami as well as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
According to Oregon Public Broadcasting’s “Oregon Field Guide,” geologists have spent over three decades researching the history of massive earthquakes, which concluded that Cascadia has experienced 8.0 or higher earthquakes every 200 years. That’s right; Cascadia is long overdue for some serious hurt.
And preparation is part of many conversations going on in the Pacific Northwest.
State agencies, private entities and citizens of the Pacific Northwest are concerned.
If the previous events are an indicator, the magnitude of “the big one” is going to be at least an 8.0.
Pacific University is one of the many academic institutions that have to address the prediction of such an ominous event and Pacific’s proximity makes it vulnerable to an earthquake of epic proportions.
Pacific has emergency procedures on their website, but the earthquake that is predicted to occur within the next 50 years will be anything but ordinary.
Scott Shuman, director of legal affairs at Pacific, is working with the city of Forest Grove and with committees within Pacific in an effort to update the existing plan to meet the concerns of the predicted earthquake.
“We are going through a fairly comprehensive update to the emergency response plan in an effort to better align our plan with the city of Forest Grove and the Washington County plan,” Shuman said.
The need for preparedness is the minds of many people, but there are some predictions that had a bleak outcome for the Pacific Northwest.
An article in the New Yorker titled, “The Really Big One” by Kenneth Murphy, director of Region X with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), commented on the situation: “our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate Five will be toast,” Murphy said.
When asked about Murphy’s comment, Shuman was optimistic in light of the foreboding assumption, “at the end of the day our goal is just to be as prepared as we can, work with those around us and then if something does happen, work together and be as resilient as we can to get things back as quickly as possible,” Shuman said.
The fears wrapped up in personal safety are numerous as the media airs television specials and more reports about the prediction and preparedness. Personal earthquake plans are recommended.
“I think one of the cornerstones of any kind of personal preparedness is a 24 hour or 72 hour kit,” Shuman said. “Some people use the term bugout bag.”
Many students at Pacific are from other towns, cities, states or countries.
The possibility of communication breakdown is a struggle that would be presented for many students and the community post-earthquake.
Planning and preparedness are both paramount when facing the prospect of a doomsday event. While Pacific, the City of Forest Grove and Washington County prepare for the worst, students of the university and the surrounding community can do the same.