Are You Ready for the Big One?

Many of you are aware of the threat posed for a major earthquake to occur along the Cascadia Subduction Zone, ranging off the coast from Northern California to British Columbia. We presently fall within the expected prediction range for a major quake ranging up to 9.0 on the Richter Scale, with related tsunami and land mass damage on a major scale. FEMA presently rates the threat of this earthquake as the number 1 natural disaster threat to our nation.
Our Missions Volunteer Coordinator, Becky Platt, and I attended an information briefing at the Oregon Department of Emergency Management on January 19 for the upcoming Cascadia Rising Exercise, scheduled for June 6-10. This exercise is designed to step through how current thinking envisions the first 4 days following a major earthquake to develop. The following summary is offered:
  • Participants: British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, FEMA, and the Department of Defense. California has chosen to not participate.
  • Scope: All levels of government emergency management agencies, primarily as a table top exercise for key personnel to check and validate communications and coordination methods and functions. The DoD will conduct 4 separate exercises in parallel, primarily to gauge the ability to respond to a disaster of this expected magnitude. We may see increased military transport aircraft and ground activity in and around local airports viewed as primary relief sites.
  • Actions that have the potential to touch our local churches: May involve local emergency management phoning to check on the possibility and availability to act as an emergency shelter. Any local church receiving a call should be aware of the purpose of this exercise. It is unlikely in this exercise, but always possible, that there could be a call for some kind of volunteer support, but I would only expect this from local emergency managers who are exceptionally well organized. For many, this is an additional duty, so they will be rushing to catch up in this 4 days. Regardless, this period could offer a good opportunity for all local churches to review or develop their emergency plans and contact information.
Separately, we were briefed on an effort to pair inland county leadership with coastal counties. This is based upon an expectation that some coastal leadership and facilities may be unable to function. Playbooks are being developed for designated personnel to move to specific areas near the coast as they are able to provide continuity of government functions. One example mentioned is the pairing of Deschutes and Tillamook Counties. No other pairings were mentioned, but this is a concept in development that we should consider within our Conference.  How we might respond within our Districts and the Conference, in a situation that could easily require replacement of key personnel and relocation of offices in the first few days, is a challenge we must consider if we expect to remain relevant in a crisis of this magnitude.
Some things for you and your church to consider:
  • We have churches at risk for tsunami and flooding…how can they continue to serve if they are among the casualties? Emotional and spiritual care would be a major need for disaster survivors and emergency response and disaster recovery persons, an effort that should be expected to last for several years. Do you have a ministry team trained to provide support like this?
  • Does your church have an individual or team you can count on to respond in an emergency? Have you reviewed or created your personal and church disaster plan? This could be an ideal opportunity to review and update what you have. This review should include an inventory of supplies set aside for disaster. The old recommendation was to have three days of supplies, but Hurricane Katrina taught us we need at least two weeks to support our families and those who may seek shelter with us.
We all would be well served if your local church becomes intimately involved now with your local emergency management system and with other local churches and NGOs wrestling with this challenge.

Dan Moseler
Dan Moseler is the Disaster Preparedness Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. Contact him if you have questions about how individuals and churches can prepare themselves for disaster, and be prepared to support others in need both locally and across the globe.