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How Portland’s Earthquake Preppers Are Planning for the Worst

To survive the “Really Big One,” some neighbors in the Oregon city are organizing block parties that promote emergency preparedness.
Pacific Northwest cities like Portland are preparing for the overdue Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, which could trigger tsunamis and other devastating impacts.
Pacific Northwest cities like Portland are preparing for the overdue Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, which could trigger tsunamis and other devastating impacts.Rick Bowmer/AP

On a chilly Sunday evening this fall, a few dozen people gather in a home in Portland’s Alameda neighborhood. As they chat about the hosts’ landscaping and what they’ve been up to at work over wine and beer, the scene looks like a typical neighborhood cocktail gathering. Then a bell sounds from the living room, and everyone leaves their conversations and heads into the living room to sit on couches and fold-up chairs.

“One of the main elements of disaster preparedness is knowing your neighbors,” Michael Hall says as the meeting begins. He’s the bell-ringer and leader of Alameda’s self-titled “Council of Blockheads,” which represents a two-block, 25-household area. For the last four years, the residents of this leafy neighborhood have convened twice annually over a lofty goal: ensuring the survival of everyone on the block in case of a disaster.