Oregon not prepared for Cascadia quake and tsunami, state auditors say

Cascadia Subduction Zone - Image from the Oregon Secretary of State Audits Division.

PORTLAND, Ore. – If “the big one” hit today, Oregon would not be prepared.

That’s according to a state auditor’s report released Thursday, looking at the Office of Emergency Management’s (OEM) work with state and local governments on preparing for a major earthquake or tsunami.

The audit was released just days after a large earthquake struck the Gulf of Alaska, putting coastal residents on "tsunami watch."

This week also marks the 318th anniversary of the last Cascadia Quake, measured at 9.0 magnitude. Officials said there's a 40 percent chance that an earthquake with an even higher magnitude along the Cascadia Subduction Zone will occur in the next 50 years.

Such a quake would cause numerous deaths, threaten infrastructure, and cost potentially billions of dollars.

The Secretary of State’s Audits Division said Oregon must do more to prepare for such a catastrophic event.

"It is critical that we act now to better prepare our state to survive not only this particular threat, but all catastrophic disasters facing Oregon," Sec. of State Dennis Richardson said. "The state’s emergency management system, coordinated through the OEM, must be prepared to respond to such events."

RELATED: What to do, who to call when a tsunami hits: 'Have a go bag ready ... know where to go'

Auditors found that the state’s emergency management program lacks planning and doesn’t meet the national baseline standards.

They also found that the programs are understaffed, in particular the OEM, which has requested budget increases for years. Officials say being short-staffed hinders coordination for emergency management.

Also, auditors say that there needs to be more accountability to make sure they are on track to meet their goals and to increase public awareness.

The office forwarded several recommendations to the OEM and to Governor Kate Brown’s office. | READ THE FULL AUDIT

“These recommendations include such actions as completing, implementing, and exercising emergency and continuity plans; meeting minimum emergency management program standards; reporting on efforts to improve state resilience; defining roles and responsibilities and assessing and filling resource gaps,” the office said.

Living along the Cascadia subduction zone has always come with the hazard of a megathrust earthquake.

The state's Office of Emergency Management said the best thing for people to do is to be prepared. The earthquake could hit at any time - and you should have a plan in place for different scenarios.

When the big one hits, experts recommend dropping to the ground, taking cover under a desk or table and holding on to something sturdy for at least 60 seconds.

RELATED: 'Shake Alert' warning system could give you early heads up ahead of earthquake

Emergency management officials told KATU News that everyone should have at least a two-week supply of water and food in their home. It doesn't have to be expensive food, and they said a lot of supplies can be purchased from a dollar store.

It's also key to assess your house for potential safety issues.

"The most common injuries from an earthquake are head and neck injuries from falling stuff, this is why you need to prepare ahead of time, so that you're creating safe space in your home and in your work," said Althea Rizzo, a Geologic Hazards Coordinator.

Families should have communication plans. If cell phone communication goes down, how will you connect with family members?

First aid, the potential for fires, and water sanitation are also a few of the countless things to consider when preparing for a massive-scale earthquake.

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