Prepare for a disaster now, expert says

Find out how a nationally-recognized speaker, called the ‘Prophet of Doom’, got this outer East Portland audience to think about ‘preparing for the unthinkable’ – using humor! See four things you can do this week to prepare …

Nearly 100 folks gather to hear disaster survival author and lecturer James Roddey speak, at Floyd Light Middle School.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A couple of weeks before tornados ripped through the nation’s heartland, leveling homes, James Roddey of “Ready Set Prepare” came to speak with neighbors at a special evening meeting on April 29 at Floyd Light Middle School.

In the past, Roddey has served as the State of Oregon Earth Sciences Information Officer. “Now, this is my ‘day job’,” he told East Portland News.

James Roddey of “Ready Set Prepare” counts down the simple steps anyone can take to start preparing for a major emergency.

“Working for the State, anytime there was a natural disaster, I was the guy to whom the media turned to explain the science behind a volcanic eruption, a flood, a tsunami warning, or an earthquake.”

Then, after serving as the communications director for the Oregon Chapters of American Red Cross, Roddey said he decided to “follow his passion”.

James Roddey says his mission is “Helping communities become more resilient”.

“My passion is really for helping communities prepare for disasters. Full time now, I travel all over the United States – talking, giving workshops, and trying to help communities become more resilient.”

As he began his presentation, Roddey quickly disarmed those who were expecting a stern lecture about the horrors of unpreparedness. His humorous asides put the 93 audience members at ease, while he talked about serious subjects.

When a major disaster hits, stores’ shelves will be empty – and are not likely to be quickly restocked, James Roddey says.

Pointing to a Costco-sized package on the video screen, he quipped, “ ‘She who controls the toilet paper, controls society’. I’m stocking up. And, if I need to sell some, I won’t be selling it by the roll – I’ll be selling it by the sheet!”

The terms “resilience” and “sustainability” are key words, Roddey said. “The fact is, when a major earthquake strikes the greater Portland area, help will not be quickly coming.”

Part of being a community member, he went on, means being prepared to take care of family and perhaps immediate neighbors. “More and more, we are seeing the government stepping away from a lot of its responsibilities, when it comes to preparing their citizens for disasters.  It is up to us, as citizens, to do it ourselves.”

After working with grass-roots organizations around the country, empowering their communities, and the citizens to get prepared, he said, “It really comes down to a neighborhood thing. You build from your neighborhood out your community.”

It may be some time before “help” comes after a major disaster, speaker James Roddey says.

Portland is doing a lot of things “right”, he noted. “They have [established] Neighborhood Response Teams and other programs to help people get prepared.”

His biggest take-away, Roddey emphasized, is to be prepared, because “the big one” is certainly coming.

“You’re not crazy if you think it’s a good idea to get prepared,” Roddey said. “It doesn’t mean to become kind of a ‘nut-case prepper’. It just means that you’re concerned about the well-being of your family.”

The Pacific Northwest has been “lucky”, “because we haven’t had a lot of ‘big’ disasters. But, we do have the potential for an earthquake larger than California will ever experience.”

Overdue for an earthquake
So big, Roddey said, “it has the potential for one of the largest earthquakes recorded on earth, right off the Pacific Northwest coast. “The last one was 313 years ago. The average recurrence interval is about once every 250 to 330 years.”

By being prepared for the “big one”, neighbors will also be prepared for any kind of natural disaster, he noted. “This could be the power going out because of windstorm, or a massive snowfall, or a flood.”

What does “Personal Preparedness” look like?
Many tout making a “72-hour Kit” with three days worth of food and supplies.

“Because of the potential for a really big earthquake that may affect 10 million people, all at the same time, people need to be prepared for much longer timeframe. Two weeks is probably the minimum you need to start thinking about being prepared for an event like this.”

James Roddey gives a one-week assignment he says will help overcome emergency preparation reluctance.

This week’s homework:
“These simple ideas will get you started on a disaster preparedness plan without you even knowing it! Do these over the next week and I guarantee they will give you the confidence to start working on a plan,” Roddey stated.

  1. Set up an out of state contact that knows how to “text message” – it might be your only way to communicate after a major disaster.
  2. Turn your cell phone into your most important safety tool – load it with emergency contact numbers to first aid/ CPR instructions; create lists of rally points, prescriptions, medicine, food and medical allergies.
  3. Visit a website – If your house was ablaze, what would you take with you? This website is a good place to start a conversation with family members and friends:
  4. Read a book – Roddey recommends The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley to “help shape your response when the chips are down”. CLICK HERE to open this author’s website.


And, East Portland News adds another:

  • Visit Roddey’s website – You’ll find a wealth of common-sense information and resources at his ReadySetPrepare website. CLICK HERE to open his homepage, including Home Hazard Hunt and Household Disaster Plan.


As Roddey says, “Being prepared is not a sprint, but a marathon. Do a little every week and you’ll be well on you way to having a safer and better prepared home.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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