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Lawmaker wants Oregon schools to teach disaster preparedness

Echo Mountain Fire
Chris Lehman
Rep. David Gomberg evacuated as the Echo Mountain Fire advanced toward his home near Lincoln City. Gomberg's house was spared, but hundreds of others were destroyed.

A state lawmaker on the Oregon coast wants schools to teach students how to prepare for things like earthquakes, wildfires or tsunamis.

Democratic representative David Gomberg had to flee his home near Lincoln City in 2020 in front of a rapidly advancing wildfire. While his house was ultimately spared, Gomberg said his family’s hasty evacuation was made easier because they had a go-kit ready and a plan in place.

"It saved us time, it saved us emotional wear-and-tear," he said. "We knew what we needed to do and were able to go out and do it."

Gomberg said while schools do a good job with fire drills or duck-and-cover earthquake drills, "all of these are designed to focus on something happening right now. But what we’re not doing is ... giving students a lot of information on how to prepare for a natural disaster.”

Gomberg, who's up for re-election in November, said he wants to introduce a bill during the 2023 legislative session to require schools to devote at least one day a year to teaching students disaster preparedness. Lesson plans could be tailored to the needs of different parts of the state, he said.

"What I envision is the (Oregon) Department of Education crafting lesson plans, so that each individual teacher doesn't have to put this together on their own," said Gomberg.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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