While Southern Oregon is a comparatively safe place to live, disaster can strike anywhere. Even in our beautiful region, summer wildfires threaten rural homes, creek beds overflow in early spring and recent earthquake activity has served as a reminder that catastrophe can strike in places that rarely see a natural disaster.
In fact, some emergency-preparedness experts say our region is due for a large-scale earthquake, the kind thought to strike every 300 years. Then there's the threat, small as it may be for this rural area, of a bioterrorism event. Or a serious pandemic. Or a volcanic eruption.
A good emergency kit should include items that would enable households to care for basic needs at home or, if evacuated, at a remote site. Pack supplies in water-resistant containers that are transportable.
Recommended supplies include the following:
• Water: One gallon per person, per day. If stored, drinking water should be changed out annually. Recipes and treatment tablets are available to allow treatment of additional supplies.
• Food: Nonperishable, easy-to-prepare items (three-day supply for evacuation, two-week
supply for home). Items could include "ready-to-eat" military-style meals, canned foods or
• Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
• Extra batteries
• First-aid kit and needed medications
• Multipurpose tool
• Sanitation and personal hygiene items (consider a portable toilet or "honey pot," if possible)
• Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of
address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
• Cellphones with chargers
• Family and emergency contact information
• Extra cash
• Emergency blankets
• Map(s) of the area
Consider the needs of all family members and add special supplies to your kit, such as pet supplies, infant formula and diapers, two-way radios, extra house and car keys, a manual can opener, tools, liquid bleach and other items. It might also be useful to learn CPR.
For other suggestions, check emergency-planning websites, including www.oregonredcross.org and www.co.jackson.or.us/sectionindex.asp?sectionid=28. The Red Cross site includes an online store that sells emergency supplies and equipment.
Mike Curry, emergency manager for Jackson County, says most local residents aren't prepared to be without power, food and water for even a day or two, much less the recommended five days.
Red Cross readiness specialist Antone Hernandez goes a step farther, recommending that people be prepared for up to three weeks of self-sufficiency in the event of a large-scale event.
"Most of what we have is floods and fire, and those are very geographic-specific, so most people around here think we don't have much to worry about," says Curry.
"There's a general tendency to not be self-reliant. People figure, 'We'll be able to go to the store and get what we need,' but the truth is even grocery stores only have about three days' worth of food. And as far as our local government, we all have families and we have to get to work, but our homes will be destroyed, too, and we have families to worry about."
"Besides," he adds, "infrastructure will be totally impacted, bridges will be impacted, water supplies "… it's more than most people could imagine."
Hernandez is unable to point to a single resident in the area who is as prepared as the Red Cross recommends.
"The Cascadia earthquake that we're anticipating — and it's not a matter of if, but when — will be a 9.0 on the Richter scale, meaning the Rogue Valley will get an 8.5 to 8.7. That's nothing to sneeze at. And there's a mentality that it's not going to happen, and folks aren't prepared," says Hernandez.
"When we do experience this major earthquake, which could happen today or could happen in 10 years, the difficulty is everybody expects that 'big brother' will be here to attend to our needs when, unfortunately, big brother may not be able to get to you."
Curry says county officials recommend that residents have enough supplies on hand to allow them to "shelter in place." If a large-scale disaster were to strike, shelters could not accommodate large numbers of residents, and being in familiar surroundings is preferred over "warm water and baloney sandwiches" at a shelter, says Curry.
Setting up a basic emergency kit is crucial, he says. Kits will vary from one household to the next with special circumstances such as pets, family members with specific medical needs and other issues.
To prepare for the worst, walk through various scenarios and check websites for recommended items to keep in your kit. Once the kit is assembled, make sure the items are maintained and replaced as needed.
Curry urges residents not to take an "it won't happen to me" attitude.
"People think, 'Oh, the government will feed us and set up shelters.' But we don't really have anywhere we could tell people, 'Hey, come on down!' Resources would have to come in from Nevada and Idaho if something happened here," says Curry.
"Keep in mind, it took FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) five days to get water to the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina."