Earthquake drill to test readiness

INDEPENDENCE -- Oregonians are resigned to the fact that, because we sit off a major faultline in the Pacific Ocean, we're due for a big earthquake at some point.

INDEPENDENCE -- Oregonians are resigned to the fact that, because we sit off a major faultline in the Pacific Ocean, we're due for a big earthquake at some point.

Might as well be prepared.

Polk County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is conducting a major seismic event drill on Saturday that will include phony building damage, emergency personnel and several dozen volunteers -- some of them playing casualties -- at the Independence Civic Center.

CERT has staged flood and other mass disaster exercises in a mobile home park off 17th Street in Independence in recent years.

"The Civic Center is a more visible building and we want to draw attention to the drill," said Kimber Townsend, Polk CERT coordinator. "We want bystanders ... gawkers are usually something you deal with when you're dealing with an emergency."

The event is being done in conjunction with Thursday's "Great Oregon Shakeout" -- a statewide earthquake awareness effort run by Oregon Emergency Management.

Saturday's scenario entails a 7.2 temblor off the Oregon Coast and its effects.

CERT members will be drilled on mobilization response times, cribbing -- a technique involving leveraging items to move heavy objects off victims -- as well as first aid, light fire suppression and how to visually assess the safety of a building.

Independence Police Department will test its communication equipment during the event. Townsend said CERT groups from nearby counties and local police and fire agencies have also been invited to participate.

"Victims" will be made up with broken bones, burns, cuts and other mock injuries to make the training more realistic.

Other parts of Oregon are taking the "Shakeout" seriously. Highway 101 near Newport, for example, was shut down temporarily on Thursday to conduct a tsunami drill.

Townsend said Polk County likely wouldn't have to worry about that threat from an earthquake.

"But one, two weeks after the earthquake, there would be evacuees traveling into the valley," she said. "A quake would take out the bridge to Salem and they would end up in our frontyard.

"As a county, we need to be able to care for ourselves, but also to reach out and give aid."

Learn More

* Polk County CERT will hold an earthquake response exercise at the Independence Civic Center, 555 S. Main St., on Saturday. Set up will begin at 11 a.m. and live drills start at 2 p.m.

CERT needs more individuals to portray "victims" during the event to assist with the medical triage portion. Those interested are encouraged to contact Kimber Townsend via email to polk.cert@yahoo.com.

For more information: www.polkcountycert.org.

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