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Singular omission undercuts CERT's earthquake prep efforts

Ashland’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is providing many excellent and critical services, including training, education, and information. Terri Eubanks, for example, is a skilled and effective public presenter. However, the credibility and efficacy of these efforts must be questioned in light of a serious omission — one that threatens self-invited chaos and tragedy — from the planning and elements of these efforts.

First, it is noted that the motivation for CERT to persuade members of the public to do their own earthquake preparation is the enormity of the scope of the disaster that a Cascadia subduction earthquake, aka “The Big One,” will produce. We now know that this is no Houston or Katrina. Nor is it your typical California fault-based earthquake. The consequences will be catastrophic for all of the Northwest, from Northern California to Vancouver, Canada — that is everything west of I-5, including the major cities in that corridor: Seattle, Portland, Eugene, etc. Bridges and overpasses crumbled, utilities interrupted, no gasoline, food, water, or medicines, are just a few of the results that will continue at least for weeks, and more likely for months.

CERT recommends individuals stockpile basic needs for an egregiously inadequate TWO WEEKS. And what of those who do not, or cannot, prepare? While using the anticipated scope of the event to encourage us to stockpile, CERT and local governments themselves are engaging in NO STOCKPILING. Someone arriving at the police or fire department the day after the quake asking for food or water for their children, or diabetes medication for grandma, will be turned away and told to hang in there for two weeks.

Why two weeks? If you were satisfied with FEMA’s efforts during Katrina, Houston, etc., you need read no further. Remember that those and similar recent disasters, although extensive, were of limited geographic and population scopes that are dwarfed by the Cascadia predictions. CERT’s stated expectation and plan for this problem (actually expressed as their “hope”) is that FEMA and the National Guard will arrive after two weeks to provide what is necessary.

This proposition by our relied-upon experts is disingenuous at best and ludicrous at worst. Remember: “You’re doing a heckuva job, Brownie!” What data or information is available to support a conclusion that this two-week, white horse rescue is even planned for by the federal agencies, much less reliable? If this data and information exists, it should be shared with the public to provide reassurance. If it does not exist, then it is inexcusable for CERT to be promoting and representing that this outcome will occur. Note the recent Tidings article in which FEMA itself warns hurricane-area residents of its limitations in responding to those disasters.

Can we even conceive of the consequences of weeks with thousands of our neighbors and citizens without necessities? Civil unrest? Chaos? Tragedy? What is the point of spending time and resources to encourage a few to stockpile and otherwise prepare, simply creating an “I got mine” situation, without preparing for those without resources?

Our communities are currently facing many different funding goals and issues. The scope of a Cascadia’s aftermath is essentially unimaginable. Unfortunately, the consequences of our community’s failure to include the stockpiling of resources in our disaster preparation is equally so. We deserve and are entitled to better from the agencies tasked with that preparation.

Craig McDonald lives in Ashland.