If disaster strikes in the Portland area, government disaster teams need to be acutely aware of the ethnically diverse nature of the population so they can communicate with the people they are trying to save.
It's not enough to prepare an emergency plan, said Jonathan Jui, M.D., the keynote speaker at The Skanner Foundation's Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast, but officials need to know how to contact residents of diverse cultures.
"What the community hears and what it knows are two different things," said Jui, who spoke on the theme "Lessons From Katrina for Dr. King's Beloved Community."
Nearly 1,200 people attended the 20th annual breakfast in the Portland Convention Center. Among the participants were Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Portland Mayor Tom Potter, state Sens. Avel Gordly and Margaret Carter, both Portland Democrats, and Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney.
Business owner Roy Jay, who is founder of the African American Chamber of Commerce and president and CEO of the Oregon Convention Center and Visitor Services Network, received the Drum Major for Justice Award. The John H. Jackson award for community activism went to the Rev. Mary Overstreet-Smith, pastor of Powerhouse Temple.
Hurricane Katrina was the focus of the speech delivered by Jui, who worked with the National Disaster Medical System team at the New Orleans airport to help hurricane victims. Jui is director of emergency medical services for Multnomah County and a professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health & Science University.
"It was the first time in the history of the modern United States that an entire jurisdiction had to evacuate," said Jui, about Hurricane Katrina. He reminded the 1,200 people attending the event in the Portland Convention Center that many of them would have to be involved helping others if a disaster ever hit the city.
Between 10,000 and 15,000 Hurricane Katrina victims were stranded without food, water or sanitary facilities, Jui said. Eventually, between 20,000 and 30,000 people were evacuated from New Orleans.
At the airport, the medical teams, including the team Jui worked with, were "overwhelmed" with thousands of victims, from the newborn to the elderly and terminally ill. They ran out of ventilators and medication, and they had no patient records, he said.
Jui, who has been at several disasters, including the Sept. 11 attacks and at hurricanes Ivan and Frances during the 25 years he has been with the national medical team, said the airport was in chaos with "patients all over the place."
"I've never seen the size, scope and magnitude of an operation like this," he added, while a slide show depicted the disaster. "There were children, adults, and stranded pets. There were faces, more faces and more faces."
Jui urged the audience to prepare beforehand for disaster, which, in the Northwest, could be an earthquake, tsunami or pandemic flu. Trusting relationships between government officials and citizens need to be established, so residents believe officials when they are told to evacuate immediately.
Such was not the case in New Orleans, where politics got in the way of dealing with the disaster, Jui said.
Instead, even local officials weren't warned about the hurricane or the rupture of the city's levees that held back Lake Pontchartrain. No one seemed to understand the extent of the catastrophe until it occurred, Jui said.
While officials must practice emergency drills and prepare area-wide plans, individuals need to create their own disaster plans, prepare emergency kits and discuss with their loved ones how they will contact each other, Jui said. They should also have copies of important papers with them in case disaster strikes.
Sen. Avel Gordly, D-Portland, who introduced Jui and delivered a call to action after his speech, told the audience that residents have to "rely on God and themselves first, members of the beloved community second and an organized response team when it gets there."
She suggested that residents find out about their children's school emergency evacuation plans and familiarize themselves with the roads leading out of the city.
Gordly also asked for volunteers to attend a meeting planned by the city of Portland's Office of Emergency Management to discuss emergency response requirements. The meeting will be from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 4, at Emmanuel Temple Church, 1032 N. Sumner St.
She also requested that medical and mental health professionals contact the Multnomah County Health Department to become members of the medical reserve corps. Individuals and organizations also are needed to distribute "emergency pocket guides." Written in English, Spanish and Russian, the guides outline what people need to do to prepare for an emergency.
"This is a call to action in the name of the beloved community," Gordly said.
Roy Jay received the Drum Major for Justice Award for his efforts to bring together Multnomah County judges, criminal offenders from Northeast Portland and community volunteers for an event called "Project Clean Slate." The program allows people to erase minor criminal convictions from their records without paying fines in exchange for community service. At least 2,500 people have benefited from the program.
After receiving the award, Jay said he wanted to "thank God, family, my enemies and my friends or otherwise I wouldn't be here."
The Skanner Foundation also awarded the John H. Jackson Award to the Rev. Mary Overstreet-Smith, for her community activism. The founder and director of Harvest Time Ministry TV Cable Services and the pastor of Powerhouse Temple, Overstreet-Smith was honored for her humanitarian efforts to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.
A native of Gulfport, Miss., Overstreet-Smith sold her vacation home in Arizona and used the money to buy a truck, which she drove to Gulfport filled with donated items. She helped more than 25 families relocate in Portland and coordinated volunteers from other churches to help.
Local businesses awarded nine scholarships. Robert Naranjo, a senior at Columbia River High School, Vancouver, received a $128,000 four-year Reserve Officers' Training Corps scholarship to the U.S. Naval Officer program. The foundation has distributed $300,000 in scholarships during the past 20 years.
Others receiving $1,000 scholarships were:
• Jonna Noelle Frater, senior, De La Salle North Catholic High School. Sponsor: Safeway Northwest.
• Bryan Little, sophomore, University of Virginia. Sponsor: Tri Met.
• Nana Dickson, junior, University of Oregon. Sponsor: State Farm Insurance.
• Janie Raye McGee, sophomore, Clark College. Sponsor: Oregon Health & Science University.
• Camille Kent, sophomore, Mills College. Sponsor: Providence Health System.
• Marneet Lewis, freshman, Portland Community College. Sponsor: Wells Fargo Bank
• Dwayne Williams, sophomore, Oakwood College. Sponsor: American Family Insurance.
• James Orr, junior, Western Oregon University. Sponsor: Oregon Lottery.
• Violeta Figueroa, sophomore, Portland State University. Sponsor: Oregon Lottery.
The Skanner Foundation's Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast will be broadcast by Portland Community Media on Channel 23 at noon on Jan. 19; 9 a.m. Jan. 22; 7 p.m. Jan. 26; and 3 p.m. Jan. 28. Check the Web site, www.pcmtv.org, for details.