On May 22, 2013, more than 150 volunteers joined staff at the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM) in a citywide test of the bureau's new Basic Earthquake Emergency Communication Node (BEECN) system. The group convened two stages of a daylong practice drill at 48 different sites evenly distributed on both sides of the Willamette River. The site featured in the above video is BEECN #4, staffed by Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) volunteers Elizabeth Drummond and Jane Emrick. Volunteers braved cold, wet, blustery conditions to build the BEECN sites from scratch. They set up radio communications with each other and with HAM radio operators at a total of 74 locations (including fire stations). BEECNs are temporary places for Portlanders to go after an earthquake when phones are down. At these sites, one can report medical needs and severe damage. PBEM's BEECN practice drill coincided with a large-scale, three-day regional emergency preparedness exercise carried out among multiple agencies.
By the numbers:
- 77% of the total BEECNs were successfully deployed.
- Most of the 11 failed sites were in the SW hills where weather and topography hampered radio contact.
- All 25 Fire Stations in the exercise engaged successfully.
- Each Fire Station and BEECN was staffed with 2 volunteers, plus volunteers located at Portland and Multnomah County Emergency Coordination Centers (ECCs).
- There were 163 volunteer shifts in total (including 6 roaming teams).
- There were only 3 no-shows. 98% of volunteers attended the drill despite challenging outdoor conditions.
- 8 PBEM staff supported the drill from an ECC.
- 3 Police and 3 Fire employees also supported the drill in the field while employees at 25 Fire Stations acted as gracious hosts.