First of its kind emergency 'Prep Hub' to be designed, built and installed in Portland

PrepHub - Design photo courtesy M.I.T.'s Urban Risk Lab

PORTLAND, Ore. - Researchers at M.I.T.'s Urban Risk Lab are teaming up with the City of Portland, Portland State University and Portland General Electric for a first of its kind emergency preparedness project.

M.I.T.'s Urban Risk Lab has designed what it calls a "PREPhub." Researchers working on emergency and disaster preparedness have discovered something interesting about human nature after a disaster, like an earthquake, occurs.

"After earthquakes, people almost always self-evacuate to public open spaces in cities," said David Moses with M.I.T.

The concept of the PREPhub would create something that looks like public art, but is larger and has other functions. It would serve as a gathering place after a disaster where community members could do something as simple as charge their cell phone.

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"It has integrated color changing LED lights that’ll be programmed according to the needs and wishes of the community. We’re hoping to include public WiFi," Moses said.

But it's still just a concept right now. It's PSU and PGE intelligence that will bring it to fruition. The City of Portland and PGE will lend some financial support to the project, too.

Portland State University Computer Science Faculty member, Kristin Tufte, says, “We see the PREPhub as a platform for research at Portland State both in distributed energy research, which is done by Bob Bass’s lab. And by social science and community engagement research in which we’ll be engaging our urban planning department.”

Portland General Electric sees a lot of opportunity in the project, too. Kimberly Howard is part of the PGE education initiative and says they'll be doing research on how people will interact with the PREPhub. One of the key portions of their work will be on clean energy storage for the solar battery that will run the PREPhub. They also are working with the city to draw attention to the city's Basic Earthquake Emergency Communication Node, or BEECN, locations.

One of the main goals of the project is to get the PREPhub installed in a location before a disaster, so that people understand what it is, and begin to interact with it during what's known as "blue sky time."

“So in a ‘dark sky time,' the first thing they’re going to think about is, we need to get to our PREPhub," Howard said. "We’re going to get information there, we’re going to be able to charge our cell phones there. We’re going to be able to come together as a community and figure out what we need to do next.”

PSU's Kristin Tufte said, “The first phase will be to design, fabricate and install the PREPhub.”

Work is beginning now, and installation on the PSU campus is expected in the Summer of 2019.

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