West Coast Reviews its Emergency Preparedness

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The huge earthquake in Chile has emergency officials in the U.S. taking inventory.

They want to know how serious the risk is for a major quake and tsunami to strike the West Coast, and how prepared Americans would be in the event of such a disaster.

Nightmare Scenario

If a major earthquake hit off the coast of Portland, Ore., experts say tall buildings would shake violently, and winds could carry broken glass as far as a half mile away.

They also say, similar to what happened in Chile, rubble would be everywhere and there would be casualties.

Portland resident Kinsey Horne and her family are not taking any chances.

"Yeah, in grade school and high school they always told us to make an earthquake kit, so I have one in my car and one in my house, and my parents have them in their house," Horne said.

According to Oregon's State Geologist Vicki McConnell, a large earthquake like the one that devastated Chile will occur near Portland.

"We are about 75 miles out where the subduction zone is to the coast, and in the course it's only another 60-70 miles into Portland...." McConnell said.

Geologists found earthquakes hazards across the region, including old bridges and hundreds of buildings put up before nationwide seismic regulations that went into effect in 1971.

"Unfortunately for us it's an uphill battle, because people don't pay attention to the fact that it can happen here," said Keith Berkery of the Portland Office of Emergency Management.

What about a Tsunami?

Emergency officials in California have experienced numerous earthquakes, but a tsunami is a different story.

However, the state's emergency management agency says its tsunami warning system worked much better this time.

California was criticized back in 2006 for its lack of coordination when an earthquake rattled Japan.

"We were pleased with the ability to immediately connect with all the counties and be able to provide them any information and updates," said Kelly Huston of the California Emergency Management Agency.

The Sacramento Operations Center had even mapped out where the big waves might occur, with Pismo Beach, Calif., having the most potential for destruction possibly facing surges of up to 9 feet.

Fortunately, the California coast never saw the big destructive waves this week. So whether it's a tsunami or earthquake or both, it appears emergency leaders on the West Coast are taking preparations seriously.

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Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.