USA: Scientists warn Oregon is lagging in disaster preparedness

Source(s)
Associated Press

By Sarah Zimmerman

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon state lawmakers abandoned a multimillion-dollar project to develop early warning systems for earthquakes and wildfires, and scientists warn that the funding shake-up could endanger public safety and put Oregon further behind other West Coast states in preparing for natural disasters.

Researchers were shocked when nearly $12 million to expand ShakeAlert and AlertWildfire — early warning systems to help detect significant earthquakes and wildfires — unexpectedly went up in smoke last month, just days before the end of the legislative session. Money for the projects was included as part of a larger funding package, but was stripped in a last-minute amendment.

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“We don’t know when the next big earthquake or wildfire will strike, but we know it will happen at some point,” said Douglas Toomey, a seismologist and earth sciences professor at the University of Oregon who helps run both early warning detection systems. And Oregon is “woefully” unprepared, he said.

[...]

State lawmakers didn’t specify why funding for ShakeAlert and AlertWildfire was abandoned, but it’s common for last-minute funding shake-ups to happen based on available resources, according to the office of Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, who chairs the legislative committee in charge of funding decisions.

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