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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Bureau of Emergency Management

Readiness. Response. Recovery.

Phone: 503-823-4375

Fax: 503-823-3903

TDD: 503-823-3947

Preparedness Research


Portland is at risk from a range of natural and human-caused hazards, including a massive earthquake. Simple steps taken before a disaster occurs can save lives, protect property, and reduce human suffering.  That’s been PBEM’s message for years.  Who’s listening?  We worked with DHM Research on a survey to understand the readiness of Portland’s residents and neighborhoods for a disaster, explore barriers to greater preparedness, and consider motivators to encourage resilience. Click here to view the full results of the study and click here to view an overview of the research.

What we did

We conducted a telephone survey, online survey, and two focus groups from November 2016 to February 2017. To ensure an accurate sampling of Portland’s residents, the surveys and focus groups considered age, ethnicity, and location.

What we learned

  • Portlanders are largely aware that a disaster could happen.
  • Portlanders expect to rely on themselves, people in their households, and family or friends first in an emergency situation.
  • Although Portlanders are open to the idea of working with their neighbors to be better prepared, there is not a shared understanding of what neighborhood preparedness looks like or what steps need to be taken.
  • Portlanders believe knowing their neighbors is a first step in neighborhood preparedness. Those who are more connected to their neighbors also feel more prepared for emergencies.
  • People are unsure about how to start emergency preparedness conversations with their neighbors.
  • Government officials and other public safety responders are trusted messengers when it comes to emergency preparedness.
  • Overall patterns from the research suggest specific vulnerabilities exist related to age, household income, and household composition.

What we’re going to do with the research

PBEM received an increase in the City of Portland’s 2017-18 budget to strengthen our community resilience efforts, including funding for two new staff positions to do community outreach and volunteer coordination. The survey results provide effective, research-backed strategies to:

  • Direct the work of our community outreach team to increase the size and diversity of our volunteer programs.
  • Improve how we recruit and train new Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) volunteers.
  • Shape the messaging used in emergency preparedness media campaigns, including one planned for this fall.
  • Revise language in the guidance publications we distribute to the public.
  • Write a new curriculum for the current neighborhood-engagement program “Map Your Neighborhood.”
  • Seek additional partners – including City bureaus and community groups – to strengthen our resilience-building efforts.

We intend to make the most of this research and seek opportunities to update it in the future.