Are You Prepared

THANK YOU! I am excited to share that our 2016 Annual Campaign continues to grow. We are now entering the final 12 days of our 100 Days of Impact and the end of the calendar year. Our campaign currently stands at over $2.8 million. Thank you to those who have made your commitment! We are working hard to raise an additional $300,000 in the next two weeks. We can only do this with your support – please make your pledge today!

You can also pay your pledge and take advantage of year-end tax savings by paying your pledge online or by calling 503-245-6219.

My family moved to Portland in the summer of 2010. While settling on our new house we met with our insurance agent to discuss our homeowner’s policy. At the end of the conversation he asked if we wanted to include earthquake insurance. I had no idea what he was talking about. What do you mean earthquake insurance? I moved to Portland – not Los Angeles or San Francisco. After sharing more information, we quickly added the policy. Fast forward five years, and the July 20 New Yorker magazine included a daunting article about “the really big one.” Now I truly understood what my insurance agent was talking about.

On Wednesday night, the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland sponsored an emergency preparedness workshop for our Jewish community. We heard excellent presentations from Carmen Merlo, Director of the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, and Alice Busch, Operations Division Chief for Multnomah County Emergency Management. They used the February 2011 Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake as an example of what could happen in Portland due to the similarities between the cities (seismic setting, liquefaction zones, concentration of unreinforced buildings).

I am not an expert on the subject, but please consider this week’s Remarks as a "layman's" public service announcement:

  • During the last 10,000 years, our area has experienced 40 large earthquakes (8-9 magnitude). The southern end of the Cascadia Subduction Zone (where Portland is located) ruptures roughly every 250 years. And, the entire fault area ruptures every 500 years. The last major earthquake – January 22, 1700.

  • The area up and down the Willamette River and Columbia River are soil liquefaction zones (a phenomenon whereby a saturated or partially saturated soil substantially loses strength and stiffness in response to an applied stress, usually earthquake shaking or other sudden change in stress condition, causing it to behave like a liquid.).

  • If an earthquake happens – stay indoors and get under a table or desk. You are more likely to get hurt by falling objects outside the building than inside.

  • Our city has many bridges – and many will be unusable. Only the new Tilikum Crossing Bridge and the new Sellwood Bridge are designed for current seismic code. Although the bridge decks may survive, the access approaches may be unusable.

  • 1,800 unreinforced masonry buildings are in the heart of downtown Portland. Debris will be in the streets and it is possible many of these buildings will be destroyed (70% of downtown buildings in Christchurch had to be demolished). This will make rescue work very difficult with major roads impassable.

  • Seventy percent of single family homes in the City of Portland were built prior to 1970. And it was not until 1994 that Portland required homes be bolted to their foundation. Homes not bolted could slide off the foundation with heavy shaking. Plus, older homes may have unreinforced masonry and can collapse.

  • Make sure your water heater is braced to the studs of your home – not just the wall. The water heater could tip over and start a fire. In addition, the water inside can be used as a potable water source.

  • Get to know your neighbors! In 95% of cases following a disaster it is neighbors, friends and family who come to your aid – not necessarily emergency personnel.

  • Sign up for public alerts – They will only contact you if you are near an impacted area.

  • Have a disaster kit ready that includes: extra medications (may not be covered by insurance), two weeks’ worth of water (1 gallon per person per day), food, flashlights, boots, gloves, and even a hard hat.

I share all of this for several reasons. You hear about the “coming” earthquake all the time, yet have you prepared yourself, your family, and your business? In my professional role at the Jewish Federation, I think constantly about if our Jewish organizations are prepared to act when necessary? And what role can the Jewish community play in assisting others through a natural disaster?

At the conclusion of the evening’s program someone asked, “How do we stimulate and mobilize the community to prepare for the earthquake that will happen?” Do not wait! Be proactive! Be prepared!

Many thanks to Steve Sirkin (volunteer extraordinaire), the Jewish Federation’s representative to the Oregon Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster – ORVOAD, for all his efforts in making this important program happen.

And just late yesterday I was notified by the American Red Cross that there is a potential need for a large number of volunteers to help in disaster shelters in our local area due to the current storms.  There are five shelters that may open in the upcoming days and volunteers are needed.  Shelter volunteers assist in registering clients, serving food, assembling cots, providing information to residents and maintaining shelter and client safety.  Training is provided. If you are interested or available, please send a note to for more information. 

Finally, an important community announcement,Oregon Jewish Life magazine (an independent for-profit company) is moving to a subscription-based model. Starting in January 2016, the magazine will only be mailed to homes of paid subscribers.The cost is $12 per year/$20 for two years. Please call 503-892-7403 or click here to subscribe. Complimentary copies of OJL will be available at area congregations, community centers, and New Seasons, along with multiple other retail locations.

Shabbat shalom.



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