Talking to people about preparing for an emergency such as a flood or an earthquake is likely to get you some rolling of eyes along with glazed looks. It is scary, unpredictable and most of us are totally unprepared.

When my in-laws moved to Oregon from Florida several years ago, we convinced them to put together an emergency kit of all the recommended items and store it in the garage. I took my father in law to a local store and as we walked up and down the aisles gathering items from our list, I could tell that he was doing this to humor me. When the clerk tallied up the bill for our purchases, I could see that he was annoyed. Why spend so much for something that probably won’t happen?

At a recent meeting, we heard some of the science behind the potential for our region to experience a significant earthquake. While there is no accurate method to predict when or if such an event will occur, I heard a voice in my head say, “Better safe than sorry“. I discovered an interesting website named The Great Oregon Shakeout. The website is modeled after others and is part of an effort to organize a statewide earthquake drill.

On Oct. 20, 2011, at 10:20 a.m., Oregonians who want to be a part of this educational event can participate by holding their own earthquake drill at home or organizing a drill at work to simulate what you would do in the event of an earthquake.

The basic drill consists of Drop, Cover and Hold. You drop to your hands and knees, you cover your head, neck and body as you are able, and you hold onto your shelter until the shaking stops. This strategy is designed to protect you from falling and flying debris and to use shelter such as a table to create a void that you can stay in until help arrives.

For older adults and people with disabilities, emergency management experts stress that there are a few common sense guidelines that address people who use mobility devices such as wheelchairs or walkers.

The first point is that you should not try to move to another area, but to immediately protect yourself the best you can right where you are. If you are in your home and are unable to Drop, Cover and Hold, then do your best to protect your head and neck with a pillow or your arms. If you are in bed during an earthquake and have limited mobility, then it is recommended that you stay in bed and cover your head with a pillow. If you are in a vehicle, experts recommend that you pull the car over to the side of the road and stop. Set the parking brake to help keep the car from rolling. Stay in the vehicle until the shaking is over.

There are also recommended actions that you and your family can take within your home to reduce the risks from furniture or heavy objects if they move during the shaking. Move bookcases and other furniture away from beds and sofas where you sleep or sit during the day. Heavy objects in your home should be moved to lower shelves to limit their chances of falling and creating a hazard within your home.

During the presentation that we heard, it sounded a bit silly to practice Drop, Cover and Hold. But as I think about it now, our family will be practicing to help us remember what to do if we have a significant earthquake in Oregon.

Scott Bond is the Director of Senior and Disability Services for Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments, the Area Agency on Aging for Benton, Linn, and Lincoln counties. He can be reached at 541-812-6008 or sbond@ocwcog.org.

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