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Portland Bureau of Emergency Management

Readiness. Response. Recovery.

Phone: 503-823-4375

Fax: 503-823-3903

TDD: 503-823-3947

Evacuation: Where will you go?

A train derailment and fuel fire.

A natural gas line break.

A hazardous materials release.

A rapidly moving wildfire.

These are just a few of the incidents that could prompt firefighters to initiate an evacuation. The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management is in the early stages of updating the City’s comprehensive evacuation plan.

Evacuation is one of many emergency response plans the federal government requires the City to have in place to be prepared to respond to disasters. As PBEM staff members update the plan, we are seeking input from law enforcement, firefighters, transportation planners, healthcare workers, other emergency management agencies and you.

The natural and human-caused hazards faced by Portland make a citywide evacuation highly unlikely, but it’s still necessary to have a plan that addresses the varying complexities of emergencies. That’s why the City has identified five areas within Portland where there are unique challenges to evacuation: Hayden Island, Linnton, Forest Park, the Downtown Central Business District, and Multnomah County Drainage District along the Columbia River. Community meetings will be scheduled to seek input from residents and businesses in these areas. Check PBEM’s events calendar for details.

PBEM Director Carmen Merlo is particularly interested in hearing about obstacles individuals might face if asked to evacuate.

“It’s important Portland’s emergency planning efforts to take into account all members of our community,” says Merlo. “We’re concerned about reaching out to people with additional needs or who speak a language other than English.”

PBEM is also examining alternatives to traditional transportation.

“Everyone thinks of evacuating in cars but that doesn’t have to be the case,” Merlo says. “We have options: We can evacuate by foot, by bike, by bus or even by boat.”

What the City can’t do is predetermine evacuation routes or set meeting locations for all hazards. Specific evacuation information will depend on the details of the incident.  For example, the direction of a hazardous materials spill will depend on the wind and other conditions at the time of the release.

“We can’t have a plan in place telling people exactly where to go – such as the Linnton Community Center or another facility – because, until an event happens, we won’t know the safest meeting locations and travel routes.” Merlo says. “However, we can work with neighborhoods to pre-identify potential meeting sites and evacuation routes based on known hazards.”