At 11:00 a.m. on January 26, 2012, the anniversary of our region’s last great earthquake, the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM) -in partnership with Multnomah County- will initiate the first-ever, citywide test of Portland’s community notification system. This relatively new system has been used successfully in real, small-scale emergencies. But it has never been stress-tested on a large scale.
During this citywide test, PBEM will attempt to send a single message via landline phone, cell phone, text, and email to a maximum number of Portlanders in the shortest amount of time possible. “We want this test to expose any weaknesses in the system,” said PBEM Director Carmen Merlo.
Greater participation in the test will ensure a larger sample group and help PBEM gauge the system’s functionality. Merlo encourages Portlanders to register for this and all future notifications by signing up at www.PublicAlerts.org. Personal contact information provided during registration is kept private and used only for the purpose of sending geographically tailored emergency messages. During the January 26th test, residents will be notified only if the contact information provided corresponds with a Portland mailing address.
It bears reminding, our region could experience a magnitude 9.0 or greater Cascadia subduction zone earthquake at any moment. The last one occurred January 26, 1700. Scientists say we are in the average window of time during which these massive, destructive earthquakes occur. The community notification system may serve as an invaluable communication tool during this and other kinds of emergencies.