Outer East Portland emergency team tested in TOPOFF 4

As the federally-run emergency exercise was winding down, see how these volunteers tested their readiness to deal with a wide-spread disaster …

NET volunteers Mary Owings and Carol Moseley check in with team members in the field during the exercise.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
In a disaster that affects the greater Portland metropolitan area, police, fire and other professional emergency responders will be taxed to the utmost.

If bridges are down, roads are torn up and communications are interrupted, it might take days – not hours – for them to arrive in some parts of Portland.

Who will be there to help?

Most likely, the first emergency help you’ll see will be an orange-vested volunteer from your local Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET).

Testing readiness
“This is our first involvement with the city-wide exercise of a disaster,” reports Mary Owings, NET volunteer. “We serve a northeast section of outer East Portland. We have NET volunteers with us from Parkrose; and we’re working with Portland Fire & Rescue’s Station 7.”

Owings tells us that duties are divided up among volunteers, just as they are in the professional emergency service bureaus. One person checks in volunteers, others check out equipment, provide radio contact, and supervise the activity of the exercise – or, activity during a real emergency.

Peter Deyoe, team leader of Net 7 talks with Johanna Juhnke and Ryan Sprague after they return from their mission.

Mission: Information
We talk with one of East Precinct’s two Crime Prevention Specialists, Teri Poppino, at the exercise held at the East Portland Community Center on October 20.

“Today, I am the operations chief,” explains Poppino. “When volunteers come in, I make the assignments. Today, our mission is disseminating information into the neighborhood. We are handing out leaflets that tell how to ‘shelter in place’ during a chemical or radioactive emergency; and another providing crime prevention resources.”

Poppino says team members are also taking a survey among neighbors to learn if they have been trained by NET, have CPR or emergency skills, or speak another language and would be willing to translate during an emergency.

Loves helping; finds areas for improvement
NET volunteer Johanna Juhnke shakes off the rain as she comes back into the “command center”.

“Several of the neighbors we contacted said they were surprised that we came by,” Juhnke tells us. “They told us they were glad to get the information and to learn that neighbors were looking after them.

Why does she do this?”

“I love helping other people,” replies Jhunke. “I like to give back to the community. And, from helping with this exercise today, I see that we can improve our communications if there is a city-wide emergency. It’s good to get the kinks out before a real emergency hits us.”

You, too, can be a local hero! Your first step in getting involved is to visit www.pdxprepared.net.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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