Volume XIV | Issue 1 | Spring 2014
Emma Wampler shares her platform (disaster planning for the Oregon coast) at the Miss Bandon Cranberry Festival pageant in 2013. Photo: Angela Cardas

Knowledge of adults, energy of youth

A pageant winner leads the effort to bring emergency training to the young people of Bandon

The competition may have been lighthearted but Emma Wampler’s speech wasn’t — it was deadly serious. The 2013 Miss Bandon Cranberry Festival contestant spoke in September about a subject she holds dear: preparing for disaster. As a resident of Bandon, Wampler and her neighbors are at Ground Zero for a Cascadia Subduction Zone event, which is expected to produce a 9.0 earthquake and a succession of devastating tsunamis. The hardest hit area is expected to be the South Coast.

Bandon is Ground Zero for a Cascadia Subduction Zone event

During her speech, Wampler talked about the imminent nature of the event and the devastation that is likely to result. But she spent most of the time talking about the importance of disaster planning, and the potential this process has to bring the community together. 

“It’s important that people be educated and not afraid, but ready. We need to know how we will handle the situation, individually and as a whole,” she said in her speech. “Because disaster preparedness is not only about being ready for the event to happen, but being ready to rally as a community after the inevitable damage is done.”

Wampler’s speech found a receptive audience. She won the pageant, but, more importantly, helped rally youths around the effort. Bandon’s first teen-age Community Emergency Response Team will begin training soon.

“CERT is a program that teaches people to be calm, stick together, take care of yourself and your community,” Wampler explains. “If we have that when a disaster comes along, we will be in a better place to take care of each other. In turn, it will bring us closer together as a community if we have a set goal to prepare ourselves. Even if nothing happens, either way it’s best for us to have this plan set, because we’re pretty sure this will happen eventually.” 

A personal connection

Wampler’s interest in the subject began two years ago, after she began hearing about tsunamis and disaster preparedness efforts on the radio. Her father had just been diagnosed with cancer (he passed away in October 2013).  “If we’d had a tsunami, he would have been in a real critical state. And if my family was in that situation, a lot of families would be as well.”

Disaster preparedness is Wampler’s platform this spring and summer as she prepares for the Miss Oregon pageant in Seaside. And she’s aiming that message at her fellow students. “The Cascadia event could happen while kids are still here,” she says. “A lot of kids got woken up to that at Cranberry and the school assembly. The teen CERT will give us the knowledge of the older generation and the agility and energy of the younger members. It provides a level of hope for the next generation and people can see that we are passionate about protecting our community.

“The worst thing that could happen is chaos because no one is taking care of anyone. A lot of people are either sure it’s not going to happen, or they are so terrified that it will happen that they aren’t prepared. We need to find a happy medium that allows us to be as ready as possible.”

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