Community Safety

Division of Student Life

Earthquake Frequently Asked Questions

Earthquake planning is all-hazard planning; it ensures that the college will be ready for a variety of eventualities such as fire, hazardous spills, flooding, power outages, and communication failures, as well as contingencies for food, housing, and power.


Q. Does the college have an emergency response plan (ERP), and, if so, what does it entail?

Yes, Reed does have a plan and it is available on the Reed community safety website. The ERP includes emergency response based on proven industry standards.

Reed also has an emergency response team (ERT) that meets monthly to discuss the ERP and to address open issues. The team is led by Reed’s director of community safety and is comprised of personnel from all campus departments, including facilities, catering, and communications. The team created the ERP, which is regularly updated and addresses major and minor eventualities.

Q. Does the ERP include information on earthquake preparedness?

Yes, there is information in the ERP on what to do in the event of an earthquake.

There are also a number of resources online related to earthquake preparedness, including:

Q. What are the chances of an earthquake impacting Reed?

There are faults that affect Portland so an earthquake is possible. Reed is focused on being prepared. Our ERP ensures that the college will be ready for a variety of eventualities such as fire, hazardous spills, flooding, power outages, and communication failures, as well as contingencies for food, housing, and power.

Q. How has Reed prepared for an earthquake?

Reed has planned for emergencies—including fire, earthquake, and other natural disasters. Emergency protocols are in place for buildings that pose unique threats such as gas leaks, the potential spillage of corrosive materials, etc. There are reserves of food and bedding, and backup power generators are positioned to support vital facilities. Copies of critical institutional data are securely stored in multiple locations, both on and off campus. Alternative communication systems are set up for campus communication and communication with emergency personnel. Reed conducts an annual earthquake drill to test emergency notification systems and to ensure that people who may be present on campus during an earthquake know what to do during and immediately after such an event.

Q. Does Reed have emergency food and water rations for the campus community?

The Reed commons has, at a minimum, a one-week food supply. If water is an issue, Reed owns a mobile water purification system that can supply drinking water to the entire campus community. Additionally, the college has a cooperative agreement with Multnomah County for emergency sheltering and medical supplies, food, water, and other support in return for the use of college space for mass sheltering in the event of a large-scale earthquake.

Q. If a large scale earthquake occurs, will Reed cease to exist as a functioning institution?

That is extremely unlikely. The only scenario we can imagine in which Reed would cease to function is if Portland ceases to function. We have contingency plans and resources to address most scenarios in the short term. Reed’s endowment is currently in the $600-million range, which would give us the ability to rebuild.

Q. What steps can the community take to prepare for an earthquake?

Personal preparedness is important. Essential needs in the aftermath of a large-scale earthquake are water, safe shelter, food, and sanitation. These are things that Reed is planning to provide, but having a backup plan is a good idea. We suggest storing extra food, water, a first aid kit, and an extra supply of any medications or prescriptions in your room or office.

The city of Portland has published a personal preparedness guide: Portland Bureau of Emergency Management Readiness. Safety tips and guidelines for creating your own preparedness kit can be found at

Personal preparedness items, including basic emergency backpacks, can be purchased on many commercial websites.

Q. Are adequate first aid kits readily available?

Reed has basic first aid kits that are appropriate for the type of emergencies encountered throughout the year, but personal preparedness is essential. In the aftermath of a large-scale earthquake, Reed would provide water, safe shelter, food, and sanitation. Having extra food, water, a first aid kit, and an extra supply of any medications stored in your room or office is highly recommended. We also suggest having a  printed list of important phone contacts in the event that your cell phone is inoperable.

See above about how you can create your own preparedness kit.  

Communication and Technology

Q: Does the Emergency Response Plan (ERP) include a contingency plan for communicating the health of students to parents in the event of an earthquake?

In the event of a campus emergency, parents and families should attempt to reach their student directly. If unsuccessful, parents and families should call community safety at 503-788-6666. If that number is not working, we recommend calling the dispatch cell phone at 503-849-8678.

If the Reed telephone and computer networks are down for an extended period of time, emergency information will be posted on, a website that is hosted outside of the Pacific Northwest. This site will be updated as frequently as technology allows as new information becomes available.

Reed's emergency alert service provides rapid notification to students, faculty, and staff in the event of an emergency. Each student should sign up for the emergency alert service.  Information about the service and instructions for signing up are available

Q. What is the technology backup plan? Where are Reeds College’s files backed up?

The data that Reed needs to conduct daily operations are securely housed in the cloud and in on-site buildings that were designed and constructed after the 1973 seismic codes went into effect. Following a major earthquake, Reed’s essential data processing and electronic communication services could be restored, though the amount of time required for restoration would depend on the severity of the event.

Q. Is there a prearranged chain-of-command if an earthquake occurs?

The Emergency Response Plan articulates the chain-of-command during an emergency situation. If the executive team is unavailable, the ERT incident commander has the authorization to take whatever action is needed during the situation.


Q: Is emergency training part of orientation to Reed?

Emergency training is not a part of orientation. In the weeks following orientation, all students receive information about emergency procedures and instructions on how to sign-up for the college’s emergency alert system.

Q: Does the college conduct evacuation drills?

The college participates annually in the “Great Shakeout” drill, an international preparedness drill that takes place in October. Additionally, the college conducts evacuation drills in all residence halls once a term.


Q: Do we have fire safety and evacuation plans for each building?

Yes, Reed has evacuation plans for all of the buildings for which they are required.

Q: Do Reed’s buildings comply with codes and requirements for earthquake readiness?

Consistent with the City of Portland’s building code, all buildings are designed to meet the seismic structural standards at the time of construction. The college has buildings across campus that were built between 1912 and 2013. Retrofitting buildings is not required as the city's seismic structural standards change. When major renovations or additions to older buildings take place they must be retrofitted to meet current seismic standards. 

Q: Does the ERP include a contingency plan for housing in the event dorms are destroyed?

Yes, we have a standing agreement with a general contractor and structural engineering firm to inspect our buildings following an earthquake. Buildings deemed structurally sound by the firm will be reassigned as housing if needed in the event of a catastrophic event. The college maintains roughly 800 sets of bedding.

Q. Has Reed hired a structural engineer to find out what it needs to do to be prepared?

Reed contracts with a structural engineering firm to assess older buildings during the renovation process. The seismic resistance of campus buildings will continue to be a focus of concern as we review every aspect of emergency preparedness.

Q. Are there risks related to the research reactor in the event of an earthquake, and, if so, how has Reed addressed those risks?

The research reactor facility was designed to withstand a major seismic event.

The reactor itself is a low-power research reactor, not a power-generating reactor, and is about the size of a washing machine. It is positioned at the bottom of a 25-foot water-filled tank. The tank and the floor on which the reactor rests are constructed out of reinforced concrete that is two feet thick. No nuclear waste is stored at the facility.

If the tank cracks and the water surrounding the reactor leaks into the ground, Reed will restrict access to 250 feet around the building.

If an object penetrates the tank with enough velocity to crack a fuel rod, the same protocol applies: Reed will restrict access to 250 feet around the building.

Even if an earthquake occurs while the reactor is running and all the water is drained from the tank, airflow around the reactor will be sufficient for cooling.