City of Portland plans for a no-phones emergency

Each BEECN site is stocked with communication radios, supplies and basic first-aid bandages. (KATU Photo)

The City of Portland has an emergency plan in place that could be a critical tool for residents in case of a major disaster that knocks out phones.

The city has designated 49 separate sites as Basic Earthquake Emergency Communication Nodes or "BEECN" sites.

"If there’s a big earthquake or some other calamity, and phone lines go down and people need help, we have volunteers who are trained around town to go to a BEECN site near where they live or work, and get out the radio and first-aid equipment that’s stored at that site," said Ernest Jones of the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management.

The BEECN sites are stocked with basic first-aid bandages, survival supplies and communication radios. The city's goal is to provide a BEECN site within about a mile for most people in the city, and most are in public parks and school or church playgrounds.

"Any large wide open area where at least 100 people can congregate, where there’s not like a big water main under it or a parking structure that could collapse, and not where power lines could fall on the site," Jones said.

Within two days of an earthquake, volunteers are trained to deploy their neighborhood BEECN and offer help to anyone who needs it.

"We’re very lucky we’re one of the only places in the world that have anything like this," Jones said.

More than 350 people have been trained to use the BEECN sites, and just about anyone can volunteer, starting at age 14; although, most teenagers would need parental permission. Jones told KATU he does about one volunteer training per month, and the city is always looking for new BEECN volunteers.

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