Which natural disaster is Medford at highest risk for?

Medford, Ore. — The city of Medford is preparing for an emergency. Its in the process of updating its “Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan”, a plan that’s required to get federal aid, if a natural disaster strikes. NBC5 News is getting a first look at the 2017 plan, and what dangers experts say the city is most at risk for.

A team of local, state, and federal experts is currently assessing the top natural hazard risks for Medford. Emergency Management Coordinator Larry Masterman says identifying the most likely hazards, allows the city to make more informed decisions.

“How we’re going to do things before an event happens,” Larry Masterman says, “it can influence things like buildings standards, zoning, things like that.”

It also influences public education, so the community knows what they should be prepared for.

“We don’t need to worry too much about hurricane here,” Masterman says, “but earthquake is a big deal, weather is a big deal.”

The last time Medford’s top natural hazards were assessed was in 2004. The top 5 risks then were: severe weather, floods, earthquakes, air quality, and emerging infectious diseases. Today, the top hazard continues to be severe weather, but emerging infectious diseases, air quality, wildland-urban interface fire and earthquakes now round out the top 5.

“A lot of it’s science but some of it is inherently subjective,” Masterman says.

Things like history and probability factor in to the assessment, that’s why Masterman says earthquakes rank lower, despite being ranked a 10 when it comes to maximum threat.

“Our last big earthquake here was in 1700,” Masterman says, “but that big earthquake that 5 minute, 7 or 8 magnitude shaking here in the Rogue Valley is gonna hit us harder than anything else that we expect.”

Oregon now recommends people be prepared to be self-sufficient for 14 days instead of 3. The committee will be presenting the mitigation plan updates to the city council Thursday, before sending it to the state in April.

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