The Yoshida Event Center (also known as the gym) at Mt. Hood Community College is a designated Red
Cross disaster relief shelter that’s supposed to help people who are in danger of, or who have already lost, their homes and possessions during a major emergency in East Multnomah County.
This building was called home for a time by people from Columbia
Gorge residents, including the Corbett area near Gresham this month after they were evacuated due to the Eagle Creek wildfire.
As we look back at a recent stretch overflowing with natural disasters, including hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires, we know that the demand for these kind of shelters is a real and ever-present need. The state of Oregon is perched atop what’s known as the “Cascadia Subduction Zone,” an undersea fault line that runs from southern British Columbia to northern California.
Oregon State University scientists have found that there is about a 20 percent chance that Oregon will have an 8.0-point or higher earthquake in the next few decades.
Their survey showed that some of the Pacific Northwest’s largest cities, including Portland and Seattle, are overdue for a rupture and major event.
When this happens, the YEC is going to see a flood of people looking for somewhere safe to stay while they try and put their lives back together.
As we’ve seen this week in Mexico, earthquakes are very deadly, destructive and can leave a lot of people without a home.
So, Gresham and Portland are vulnerable: Our homes, businesses, schools and places of worship are all built on an area that’s prone to major earthquakes.
MHCC officials are aware of this fact, and have been trying to get a voter-approved general obligation bond measure passed, in part to help with retrofitting the YEC (and other parts of the Mt. Hood campus), making it a safer place and one more likely to survive a major quake and remain a viable shelter for people who lose their homes and businesses.
The problem with getting the building upgraded is, as with most problems in our world, money. And MHCC district voters have turned down a proposed bond many times, including the last two May election cycles.
The danger isn’t going away. Last year, MHCC had a seismic survey done by KPFF Consulting Engineers of Portland to see what problems Mt. Hood buildings might have. The two buildings with major stability problems on campus are the library, and the gym.
According to the surveys, anything rating higher than a low 6 on the Richter scale could bring a total collapse of the gym’s roof, as well as non-structural components potentially dislodging and falling – i.e., lights, scoreboards, basketball hoops etc.
This makes the gym useless as a shelter for the purpose of earthquake relief. Not to mention, if students/spectators are inside for an event when a quake hits, there is a serious chance of injury, and even death if these upgrades aren’t made.
This editorial is a call to action to our readers: We need to do as much as we can to help the school and our community to make our campus a safe place for its students and the community it serves. Right now, our gym and library are not nearly as safe as they should be. They were built long ago, a half-century, before we had the engineering knowledge to make them as structurally sound as we can today.
What can you do to help fix the problem? First thing is first, we all need to communicate!
Email politicians, stop by their office when you’re in Salem next, talk to everyone you know who lives in the MHCC area, and let them know when Mt. Hood puts a bond measure up, to vote for it even if it means a small tax increase, because this is the place people are supposed to be able to go to when their homes aren’t safe.
Additionally, we shouldn’t even have to wait for a bond to come around to get this problem solved. The state has money that it assigns to public schools and other public buildings for exactly this issue.
Call or email one of the state offices that handle seismic grants and upgrades, such as the seismic rehabilitation grant program through Business Oregon, the state’s business development department.
Finally –and I know this sounds simple, but – vote! If you don’t vote, you’re not heard, and an important thing like fixing the gym doesn’t get accomplished.
Do what you can to help, make this place safe for yourself and your fellow students, future students, and our whole community.
To read more about last year’s bond, you can go to MHCC’s website mhcc.edu/Bond.
For a copy of the KPFF Consulting Engineers’ survey, click here