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Community Preparedness

A major disaster can pose significant challenges for non-profit organizations, schools, colleges and faith-based organizations. Even a minor disaster can interfere with your ability to operate, or require funding for repairs. There are steps your organization can take to be prepared. The information below can help you. You may want to take basic steps to prepare your organization. You may want to create a full-scale preparedness program. Either way, we’re here to help.
 
We encourage organizations to think of all the hazards you might face. Oregon has windstorms, wildfires, floods and winter storms. We have even seen tornados. We know that we will have a major earthquake here someday. Cybercrime and other human-caused problems are also a danger to a wide range of organizations.
 

The physical damage from a full-scale Cascadia earthquake will primarily occur west of the Cascade Mountains. However, every area of Oregon will be impacted by the loss of virtually all fuel supplies and the unprecedented requirements for emergency response. Organizations need to be aware of the statewide impacts, and plan for how they will prepare and respond.

There are many things you can do that will increase the odds of your organization making it through a disaster with as little impact as possible. Some of these require little time or money, others can be done as resources permit.

Know Your Hazards
 
Make a Plan
 
 
Prepare Key Personnel or Volunteers
 
 
Prepare Employees, Volunteers, Members, Clients and/or Students
 
  • Your organization may focus only on preparing employees, or may decide to increase preparedness among members, students or commuinty partners. If you start with your own core group, you will learn what works well and what doesn't. You can use that to guide later efforts to increase preparedness among a larger group.
  • Everyone should have a plan. Plans should include arrangements for pets, infants and young children, and seniors when appropriate.
  • Preparing students before an emergency will pay off when a disaster comes.
  • While 72 hour emergency kits are good for limited disasters, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management recommends being 2 Weeks Ready.
  • Consider providing emergency preparedness supplies or equipment instead of other items for gifts, bonuses or prizes. The Red Cross and other suppliers offer many options.
  • Help others think through what they would need to get home or to work in the event of a Cascadia earthquake. A sample survey you can adapt for use will provide a baselinehelp you plan for how many employees are likely to be able to get to work or home following a Cascadia earthquake.
 
Prepare Supplies
 
  • Collect emergency supplies for your facility. Make sure you have flashlights and extra batteries, a first aid kit, water, a NOAA weather radio, tools, a fire extinguisher, sanitation supplies and some non-perishable food onsite in case you are unable to leave your building for a period of time.
  • If you anticipate that your facility could be used for people to shelter-in-place, guidelines for personal preparedness will help you determine what quantity of supplies are needed.
 
Prepare Buildings
 
  • Mitigate risks. Different hazards require different preparation. FEMA provides information on how to mitigate risks from all hazards. Earthquake risks can be limited by using these detailed instructions to secure your space.
  • Make sure you have paper copies of critical information – for example, employee contact information; student, member or client information; insurance information; your emergency plan; contact information for critical suppliers, suppliers or service companies.
  • In the case of a Cascadia earthquake, sewer and water systems may be damaged. If people are sheltering in place at your location, you will need to deal with sanitation issues.

​​Each disaster will require a different response. The planning you do will help you sort out what needs to happen. It will also help you communicate with clients, members, students, parents and your community with what they can expect from your organization in a disaster.

Non-profits, faith-based organizations, schools and colleges are often trusted by the community. In the case of a catastrophic disaster, the organizations that generally deal with emergencies (police, fire, hospitals, emergency managers, the Red Cross, etc.) will not be able to meet the surge in needs. Many people will reach out to trusted organizations for help. The extent to which your organization will be able to respond to these requests will be determined by the planning and preparation you do now.

Even if you haven’t been able to plan, the information below may help you decide what you need to do in the first two minutes, two hours, two days and two weeks following a disaster. While some of these tips relate specifically to a catastrophic Cascadia earthquake, most apply to a range of disasters.

First 2 Minutes
 
  • Check for injuries – your own and people around you.
  • During an unexpected disaster, an adrenalin surge will spread through your body. You may experience distortions in time, vision, hearing and other senses. You may experience a temporary state of not feeling pain, which could mean you aren’t aware of an injury that needs attention. You may lose control of bowels or bladder as the body shuts down any system that isn’t necessary to survival. When the adrenalin surge ends, you may collapse in exhaustion. These are all normal responses and may be seen in any of the people caught in the event.
  • Help yourself and others with critical needs – for example, injuries or shock.
  • Assess damage to the building. Decide whether to leave or stay is best. Determine safest routes to get out. Following an earthquake, most people feel a strong compulsion to get outside as soon as possible.
  • Implement any evacuation plan. Figure out how you will account for everyone who leaves.
  • Determine if there were customers and/or suppliers or others in the building to account for who will not be on lists of employees.
  • Decide what emergency supplies and critical business materials should be taken out of the building if you are evacuating. Put someone in charge of the items.
  • Be ready for aftershocks following an earthquake. Do not stand under or near things that could fall on you.
  • Text your status to loved ones, hopefully through your pre-arranged out of state contact.
  • Turn off water at toilet and hot water heater to prevent contaminated water from coming in.
  • ONLY if you smell gas leaks, turn off the gas. If you do not SMELL a leak, don’t turn off the gas. A gas leak has the smell of rotten eggs.

First 2 Hours
 
  • Provide first aid as needed within your group.
  • In an earthquake, be ready for aftershocks. Do not stand under or near things that could fall on you.
  • The adrenalin surge caused by an unexpected disaster (earthquake, fire, shooting) will usually be followed by exhaustion as the threat passes. This may be a factor in rallying people to action. Those who have experience in deep breathing exercises will find the technique helpful to restore clear thinking and reactions.
  • If you are in a situation where you are trying to rescue others, remember that rescuers can become the next victims. Work with your group to do what is necessary in the safest way possible.
  • Go through your list of employees to ensure everyone is accounted for. Try to account for customers, vendors or others who may have been onsite as well.
  • Talk to employees, customers, vendors and others who are onsite. Try to figure out the best approach to keep people as safe as possible, as well as help them plan for how to get to a place where they can stay longer-term if they aren’t able to make it home.
  • If you must shelter-in-place, assess the best options for a safe shelter that allows your group to stay dry and at a comfortable temperature. Create or build shelter if needed. Prioritize who will spend time in the shelter based on physical condition and needs of group members.
  • Change into heavier clothes, shoes and gloves if available and appropriate.
  • In case of an earthquake, take from your emergency kit, or make from fabric, a dust mask. There will probably be a lot of particles, smoke or dust in the air.
  • Help your group to decide if they are going to stay where they are for some period of time or if they are going to attempt to get home or to a longer term shelter. Determine if the group has maps, or knowledge of the area, to help make the trip in case roads and bridges are unusable.
  • Text your status again if you haven’t gotten through. Conserve your cell battery as much as possible.
  • Assess what resources your group has access to – water, food, lights, heat, first aid supplies, maps, skills and knowledge of group members, etc.
  • In case of an earthquake, decide what your group will do as a replacement for non-working toilets. Do not flush water down!
  • Beware of exposure. The shock of a disaster may make it harder to be aware of how cold or hot you are getting. Try to make sure your body isn’t having to work any harder than necessary to keep your body temperature in a safe zone. Help your group to be aware of their condition as well.
  • If you are getting cold and you have something that is a source of heat (heat packs, warmed rocks, other) place under your arms. There is a major artery there. This will warm the blood going through your body and help you stay more comfortable.
  • If you are getting cold and you have no source of heat, create insulation between you and the cold. Wrap layers of newspaper around your torso and tape together. Wad up paper, put in a plastic garbage bag, and pull bag up over your legs and seal with tape. Avoid dampness.
  • Beware of dehydration. It is important to drink fluids. If your group has emergency kits with water filters and/or supplies of water, they will be able to do this with less worry about how to stretch a scarce resource.
  • Implement your Business Continuity Plan, taking pre-planned actions to protect your most critical business functions.
  • Determine what assistance will be needed to carry out the actions in the Business Continuity Plan. Starting with the employees you are able to communicate with, decide what aspects of the work can be done given current conditions. Coordinate plans for meeting onsite at a later date/time if people are going home to check on conditions there prior to coming back to work.
 
First 2 Days
 
  • Implement your emergency business plan for contacting employees, protecting data, managing the company and re-establishing supply lines of needed materials and products. Remember, if the disaster has overloaded systems, it will be easier for a text message to go through than a telephone call.
  • Gather copies of insurance policies and other important papers that you will need to file claims, document losses and revise contracts and agreements.
  • If health services are not available, remember that even small cuts and abrasions may become infected without hot running water and soap to keep wounds clean, or antibiotic cream and bandages to protect from bacteria. Do everything possible to care for wounds the best that you can.
  • Continue to expect aftershocks following an earthquake. Do not stand under or near things that could fall on you.
  • Re-assess damages after any aftershocks that occur. Areas that seemed fine before may show problems following an aftershock.
  • Begin to clean up the damage from the disaster. Any items that include chemicals should be handled carefully. Don’t throw away chemicals that could interact in the same bag and create dangerous gases.
  • If the disaster impacts garbage service, be careful how you clean up. Use a separate bag for food or anything else that can decay and smell. Heavy duty contractor trash bags are the best to use.
  • Move the bags with chemicals and things that may spoil as far away from people as you can. Try to keep the bags as protected as possible, in the event garbage service does not resume for weeks or longer.
  • Items that are broken or smashed but will not smell and do not contain chemicals can be gathered and set aside until garbage pick-up resumes.
  • Be very careful while cleaning following a major disaster. Remember, a small injury that might have been an inconvenience could cause serious problems in the absence of health care. Work slowly and carefully. Beware of aftershocks following an earthquake.
  • If possible, contact your insurance company for assistance and to file a claim. If you don’t have telephone or internet service, take electronic pictures of damage for later use.
  • If you are sheltering in place and first responders are still overwhelmed or unable to reach you, continue to work with your group to stay hydrated, reduce exposure, address injuries and stay calm.
  • If you have people sheltering in place at your business, continue working on plans for how they will be able to get home, or to a place they can stay until things improve.
  • Continue to improve your shelter in place conditions as you are able to. Reinforce shelter. Reassess the resources you have and how you will allocate them over the next period of time. Reach out to others for help.
  • Talk with other business owners in your area and see if there are ways to combine efforts and make everyone’s recovery go more smoothly.
  • If water and sewer systems are damaged, personal sanitation will be a challenge. There are inexpensive and effective ways to deal with the issue.
  • In the case of a major disaster, it is inevitable that many rumors and half-truths will be spread. Only make important business decisions on the basis of information coming from authorities and trusted sources.
 
First 2 Weeks
 
  • Continue implementing your business emergency plan.
  • Use the information you’ve gathered on the status of your employees to revise your plans if needed. Determine what you can accomplish with the employees who are able to work during this time.
  • Assess and prioritize what resources you have available for use, including human and financial resources.
  • If there have been serious injuries or deaths of employees or their loved ones associated with the disaster, implement your plan to respond to these or determine what you need to do in response.
  • Are there ways that you can partner with other businesses in your area, or other businesses in your industry, to get up and running more quickly? Reach out to business and community contacts who may be interested in working together to share facilities, supplies or employees.
  • Reach out to government and community resources that may be able to help. The Small Business Administration provides a guide to services that can help businesses recover following a disaster. Team Rubicon helped businesses following Hurricane Sandy, and your local emergency manager will know about deploying this resource.
  • The aftermath of a disaster is a difficult time to make decisions. You may wonder if you can reopen your business at all. You may invest too many resources in trying to reopen a business that is no longer viable. Reach out to trusted advisors to make sure that you are considering all your options.

​There are many variables that will affect the recovery of your business. The resources that may be available will depend upon the particular circumstances of your organization, including tax status. Talk to your emergency manager about the help that may be available in your area. (link to locals list)

 

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