By Steve Elder | CNA Media Team
In a disaster, your first round of help will come from nearby, very nearby. The members of the all-volunteer Concordia-Vernon Woodlawn Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) practice regularly to lead that effort.
NET members are trained by the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management and Portland Fire & Rescue to respond to events such as earthquakes, floods, severe winter storms, hazardous material spills and other citywide/regional emergencies.
In the event of a large-scale disaster, the city’s 71 active NETs aim to act as first responders until the arrival of adequate emergency services. NETs aren’t new to Portland, which in 1994 was the third city in the country to form them.
“Neighbors are close and are usually the first on the scene,” explained Amy Gard, Concordia/Vernon/Woodlawn NET leader. “It’s been documented that everyday citizens are typically responsible for 92 to 98 percent of rescues in disaster situations. NET just helps prepare them to be better at it.”
Recovery following a disaster is greatly aided when residents are prepared individually and can coordinate with their neighbors. Find resources on preparedness and resiliency at PrepOregon.org.
Most of NET’s preparations focus on responding to a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. Scientists predict a 37 percent probability this zone will rupture again within the next 50 years, producing a 9.0-plus earthquake in Portland.
“Understandably, not everyone can devote the time to being an official NET member,” Amy said. “But, as a team of 32 people tasked with helping the 17,000- plus others in our neighborhoods, we need everyone’s participation – even if it is just preparing their own household.
“One thing is that we would love for every household in Concordia to have water and food storage to last at least two weeks.
“NET training and membership is a commitment, but offers great opportunities to assist in real-life emergencies,” she added. For example, NETs assisted Portland Fire & Rescue in securing perimeters following the October 2016 gas explosion in northwest Portland, and during the past winter’s multiple downed power lines.
More recently, NETs worked with several state and federal agencies to help in the asbestos cleanup following a May warehouse fire.
“The agencies we support benefit from our assistance,” Amy pointed out. “And NETs benefit from the learning experience these incidents provide, better preparing us for larger-scale emergencies that may occur.
“Preparing at all levels will make Portland a more resilient community.”