By Steven Sandberg
ASHLAND, Ore. — A Southern Oregon city wants to put the idea of emergency preparedness into the hands of its citizens. For some time, the city of Ashland has been finding ways to keep its services available, to help its citizens during an emergency. Now, they want to teach them to help themselves.
Keeping people safe and prepared has been evolving in Ashland. First, it was spearheading a county-wide emergency alert system for computers and mobile devices.
“The amount of calls they can go out within a minute or two is just phenomenal,” says Ashland Fire Chief John Karns. “So, it is the best means to safely execute an evacuation.”
Then, it was preparing Ashland city workers with survival kits, to keep them functioning in the event of a disaster.
“The boots on the ground guys that have to go out there and deal, and work in traffic and work with heavy equipment and maintain city services in the event of an emergency,” says Ashland Public Works Greg Hunter.
Now, it’s helping people ready themselves, teaching them to become self reliant during an emergency or disaster.
“It needs to be positive, it needs to be regional, it needs to be simple,” states Ashland Mayor John Stromberg.
Mayor Stromberg is launching the Southern Oregon prepared initiative: a series of public service announcements teaching people the easiest ways to stock up on food, locate crucial services, and survive if the local infrastructure is brought down in an emergency.
“What you really want to have happen is someone gets the message and says, ‘Oh, I can do that,’” Stromberg says.
The initiative would also team with local businesses and organizations, who would sell or provide the items people need. The plan is to expand it outside of Ashland, and get all of Jackson County ready to go.
“It’s not going to mean anything if just Ashland people get prepared in their homes. It needs the region. The region is the natural area,” says the Ashland mayor.
Ashland has seen its share of disasters in the past few years. The Siskiyou Fire in 2009 and the Oak Knoll Fire in 2010 compounded the fact that emergency crews, and the average citizen need to be prepared.
“Instant information in an emergency, that’s not ever going to happen, but we like to be able to get it out as quick as possible,” says Karns.
The plan still has a long way to go. Stromberg still needs to finalize the organizations that will work with him, and decide how his public messages will look; but he says it’s a plan that will keep people safe down the road.
“People are more secure and better community members when they’re prepared, when they know that if something goes wrong, they can take care of themselves and their family,” says Stromberg.
Mayor Stromberg says the project is still moving forward. He says if everything falls into place, he hopes to have the initiative up and running by later this year.