USA: Scientists warn Oregon is lagging in disaster preparedness
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.
“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.