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Disaster Debrief - Ice Storm Community Discussion

On February 3rd, 2023 the Upper McKenzie Community Center held a 3 hour community discussion following the most recent ice storm and power outage that affected our community.


We asked "What went well and what could we do better?" We had a discussion about how the UMCC can better serve the community and how neighborhoods and individuals can come together to support each other in times of need.


Our plan was to discuss topics such as power, water, heat, communication, supplies and equipment, planning and preparedness, and community needs.



We also had agencies and organizations who came together during the ice storm join us for the conversation. We were joined by McKenzie Valley Long Term Recovery Group, Locals Helping Locals, Lane Electric, Lane County COAD, McKenzie Fire and Rescue, Upper McKenzie Rural Fire Protection District, Elevate Technology Group, McKenzie Community Communications, Orchid Health- McKenzie Clinic, and Sasquatch Services. Every agency, organization, and business had great input to the discussion and we are very grateful that they all could attend.


We had attendees sit at tables labeled by neighborhood, so people could meet their neighbors and discuss challenges, needs, and ways they can support each other in a disaster. Each table filled out forms with contact information and listed their assets to their neighborhood. The goal was to let everyone's neighbors now know who has/doesn't have a generator, who has heat or running water during an outage, a chainsaw, heavy machinery, has ways to communicate with radios, is First Aid/CPR certified, or has other helpful contributions.


Overall, the community discussion was very helpful. People were able to connect with their neighbors and talk about what worked for them and how they can be better prepared for the next disaster. The input from local agencies, businesses and organizations was also helpful in planning for the future. They were able to hear our needs, and we were able to hear what they do for our community.


The biggest takeaway is that we realize in this conversation:

#1 BE PREPARED. Have the supplies, prepare for outages, test your generator, have the fuel, prepare/store food. We WILL have more disasters and power outages.

#2 BE A SELF SUFFICIENT COMMUNITY. We are cut off from the outside world and it's conveniences often, and we need to rely on our neighbors and our community. Communicate with your neighbors and if you are safe and able, volunteer to help others.


To view a video of the Disaster Debrief, courtesy of McKenzie River Reflections, go to: tinyurl.com/yvju5dzu



The meeting was opened by John Carlile, President of Upper McKenzie Community Center. He summarized how the UMCC volunteers got the generator going, opened the building, and how we found a few weak links (such as needing a separate generator to get running water) which we quickly responded to.


Liz Muzzey described the process and invited people to write “What went right, and what could be improved", on sticky notes, and then have participants stick them on the large paper on the wall under the headings of Communications, Power, Water, Heat, Supplies, Debris Removal, and Classes You'd Like to See at the UMCC.

The sticky notes that were submitted will be at the bottom of the blog.


We then had a discussion about what was written on the sticky notes as a community. Communication was the topic for the majority of the meeting and this is a summary of what was discussed.


Communication:

A Variety of Communication methods are available. No one method will suit all people at times. Resiliency requires people to use different methods at different times as appropriate.


Wired Services – Voice and Internet-

Century Link - Prior to Holiday Farm Fire, Century Link Landlines would work when the power was out, (and power lines were still standing), because they relied on generators  (It would not work when lines were severed). After the HFF Century Link installed batteries, which now runout after about 24 hours.

Spectrum phone and internet will work if the power is out but the lines are not severed. Users need some power backup, such as an inverter to work off a 12v battery.


Wireless Services – Voice, Text and Data:  Mobile cell services and mobile data are vital to many people being able to communicate when wired services are not operating. Texts use minimal power on phones, and can be transmitted where cell service is available.  Mobile data provides access to internet communications.

  • Spectrum Mobile phones works off of Verizon Towers (Mt Hagan), so will work as long as that tower is operating.   

  • Verizon has been the most reliable, but is not great. It works off Mt. Hagan, the only tower in the area.

  • ATT and T-Mobile Cell Phone services have recently been adding capacity due to towers and Carmen Smith, and Belknap Butte, east of McKenzie Bridge. This makes better connectivity in the upper valley. 

  • ATT has generators on most towers and will be the most reliable service in a longer outage.

  • People can access different carriers towers as they travel by having a “dual-sim” phone.


Internet-

  • Elevate offers Internet services in areas that are line-of-sight from Deathball Mt. These need a power source to operate the modem. 

  • Various satellite-based Internet services are available, such as Starlink, Viasat, and Hughes Net. These also need a power source to operate the modem. People with these systems can provide neigborhood hubs for communications.

  • All land based internet (Spectrum, Centurylink) are unreliable when lines are down or damaged.


Social Media:

Social Media – particularly Facebook are widely used on mobile phones when the power is out.  The advantages and disadvantages were discussed.

  • An advantage is that people can report, and learn, what is happening in “real-time”.  

  • A complaint is that some posts provide incorrect information.  

    • The discussion turned to what Page people do and should use; and to whether webpages, rather than Facebook pages would provide better information.

    • Someone pointed out that this would require someone to be responsible for keeping a page updated on things like what store has fuel etc.

  • A tab/ document should be in known location on FB page for disaster/ emergency

    • Documents should be located and printed/ screen captured BEFORE the emergency

 

Radio System

GMRS (General Mobile Radio System) Radios were introduced by Sarah and Dave Hunter.  She is coordinating local GMRS training, and McKenzie Community Communications has the radios available to the local public. A sheet of paper was circulated for people to sign up for more information.  Seventeen people signed up.


HAM Radio system training is available. Systems are smaller and mobile now. 


Information Boards

Information boards are accessible to anyone anytime, if they can get to that point. They are routinely used by Fire Management Agencies during Wildfires.

We will install an information board outside the UMCC and will post updates within 48 hours of an emergency/ disaster (or as soon as someone can get there to post)


Person to Person Communication

Communications within neighborhoods is immediate and up to date.


Upriver Checklist

A checklist of preparedness specific to our area?


Disaster Directory

Perhaps something like this should be created or revitalized if it exists.



Transportation:

Maybe a shuttle service to the warming center/ relief center if necessary- Horse Creek Lodge?



Supplies:

Working together- One neighbor can take gas cans for neighborhood and fill for everyone vs. everyone going into town to get fuel.

How do we get Blue Sky available for gas/propane in an outage? - Generator grant or something like that?

There are other resources to find propane/ fuel upriver during a disaster from seasonal businesses and others that may not be open- Tokatee, Forest Service, etc.

Pet Food/ supplies - Greenhill can provide

Medication- Everyone should have at least 2 weeks of necessary medication at home.



Agencies, Businesses, and Organizations contribution to the conversation:

A representative of each group summarized what their role is in Disaster Response.


Long Term Recovery Group was described by Nelda Engstrom. She pointed out that LTRG can assist in future disasters, (not just 2020 HFF). She described their efforts to get propane when it was not available.

 

April Matson of Lane Electric Co-op said that they will have a “town hall” type of meeting upriver soon.  We will hear about PSPS and Wildfire Settings on the powelines.   A question was asked about the option to have power from Carmen Smith and Cougar powerhouses. She said this was being talked about.

 

Cary Lieberman represented by Greenhill and Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD). This is a collection of non-profits connect to request and distribute resources during Disasters. There is a COAD representative in State Emergency Services process of getting Disaster Resources.   All are volunteers, but they are working on getting a paid position.    (Who is McKenzie area Rep on in COADD?)

 

Upper McKenzie Rural Fire Protection District in McKenzie Bridge responded to fire and medical emergencies. They don’t clear roads except to access emergency situations. They have a “rescue” vehicle, which is not a Transport vehicle.    

  • During the ice storm the Transport Ambulances from town could not get here.

  • They can only get fuel at Blue Sky. 

  • The Chief of the District is the area representative in the County Cooperator calls, in an Incident Command Structure. (ICS).

 

McKenzie Fire and Rescue – Leaburg. Bart talked about the “resource of having neighbors”. 

  • They are just finishing a new Disaster Response Center building. It will store resources and has only a few showers.

  • It was funded after the 2020 HFF. 

  • He talked about the challenge of getting propane last week, and the demand created by people from Springfield coming out to Leaburg and Vida. 

 

Deputy Director of Oregon Emergency Services , Patience Winningham, is a resident of McKenzie Bridge. She described the need to ensure coordination through the Incident Command Structure.

  • She thinks of UMCC as a Resilience Center, in providing the Warming Center, and having this Disaster Debrief.


Nic Fetterhoff from Sasquatch Services provided many services after the ice storm, helping clear roads and remove debris for the community. He noted two things.

  • There are a lot of new fuels on the ground that people will need to take care of before fire season.

  • People need to consider defensible space- those with more defensible space sustained less damage to homes and property in the ice storm.



Here are the sticky-notes that people wrote down and were discussed- some at more length than others:

Power

Generators- Different loads in different houses

Generlink, Generac- turn on when power goes out

5000 Watt Honda Generator ran 10 hrs before refueling

Large battery power station

Lithium battery - Ex:Echo flow- Fast to charge 

Lead Acid battery - Slow to charge

Battery packs for recharging cell phones and small appliances

Propane for cooking

Propane water heater

Propane indoor heater

Ask propane provider for a “wet line” to refill smaller tanks

Sunbeam/American Red Cross nightlight/emergency lights- they turn on when the power goes out

Cell towers power supply

Limited access to fuels


Water

Blue River- Water is provided even without power

Showers

Extra water to operate toilets

Water available at Horse Creek Lodge, UMCC 

Have some bottled water for cooking and drinking


Heat

Wood stove

Propane and gas

        

Supplies

Keep Blue Sky open

Medication

Pet food and supplies

Food

Blankets

Clothing

Community center resources: Cache of supplies

Is it possible to have a plan for scheduled propane deliveries in an emergency?

Back up battery

Transportation to warming center?


Communication

Word out to people about the warming center

Ham Radio contact with Eugene

Internet and Cell service

    -Elevate was up the whole time

    -Starlink operational at all times

Old fashioned rotary phone might work if phone lines aren't down

Form groups of neighbors to help one another

Mobile phone/computer hot spot

Phone service through ooma.com with old landline number

Need central GMRS base station with updates 2x per day

Info board on front of UMCC


Debris Removal

Chain saws

Uneven/sloped driveway hard to get out

Snow plow, snow Shovel, snow blower

Recommend: Sasquatch Services- Nic and his wife Hannah helped a ton of people.

Blue River got Blue River Drive cleared before the county got there

Community members helped to clear neighbors debris


Classes

Class on backup power options: Generators, Inverter to connect car battery and to power the router, Batteries

How to make a generator cover



The Upper McKenzie Community sees a need for more discussion and classes on various topics and skills and we will be starting a "Locals Learning" series of classes where community members can learn skills and gain knowledge taught by community members who have that skillset and know-how.


A HUGE thank you to everyone who attended the meeting and contributed. Our community wouldn't be as amazing as it is without people like you in it who are interested in helping and contributing, and committed to making it a better place.

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1 Comment


A very capable board is such a welcomed relief.

The way you all conducted yourselves as the community center board is highly regarded.

Boy am I great full to see how well the conversation was redirected when needed and how honoring you are to everyone.


Really!!! 🤜 How lucky are we!

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