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The First Mega-Shelter Arrangement in Oregon Created for Major Disaster Response and Recovery

The Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission, a regional public venue management agency, creates partnership with Oregon Trail Chapter of the American Red Cross, to effectively coordinate and provide mega-shelter

services and response during major disaster.

PORTLAND, Ore., Oct. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- The capacity to effectively manage human needs during and after major emergencies and disasters requires extraordinary preparedness, cooperation and response between multiple jurisdictions, public agencies and community organizations with expertise in emergency response and public facility management. The Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission (MERC) and the American Red Cross (ARC) Oregon Trail Chapter have developed the first mega-shelter agreement of its kind in Oregon that provides response and coordination of services and operations during major emergency and disaster relief efforts.

The alliance between MERC and the ARC Oregon Trail Chapter follows a national trend among government agencies, public facility managers, and community organizations to develop alliances to increase cooperation and collaboration to more effectively respond to major natural and human-made disasters. "We're very pleased about our partnership with the American Red Cross, and it reinforces MERC's commitment to the regional community," said MERC CEO David Woolson. "We're always seeking ways to grow our capacity to provide shelter and food to Oregonians following a disaster," said Thomas Bruner, ARC Oregon Trail Chapter CEO. "Our chapter's partnership with MERC will help improve our community's overall system of disaster response."

There were no precedents prior to Hurricane Katrina for operating large evacuation centers or 'mega shelters' to manage the needs of thousands of people being sent to arenas, stadiums and convention centers during and after the storm. The term mega-shelter was created during the Katrina response to differentiate the capacity of large evacuation facilities -- that can shelter over 2,000 -- from traditional sites like schools and churches.

In the months that followed hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, leaders from the International Association of Assembly Managers (IAAM) and the American Red Cross worked to developed new best practice guidelines for operating mega shelters and providing emergency assistance during large scale disasters. "Hurricane Katrina taught us that when people are devastated by a major disaster, they need managers from the area's large public assembly facilities and emergency response organizations to function as a team to adequately meet their needs," said Robyn Williams, IAAM First Vice President and a MERC facility manager. "MERC's arrangement with ARC Oregon Trail Chapter helps ensure that we can mobilize the professional expertise and facility services capacity of our region's public assembly venues when major emergency response infrastructure is needed in our community."

The cooperative agreement between MERC and the ARC Oregon Trail Chapter creates provisions and conditions to ensure that both agencies work effectively before, during and after disaster events where human suffering and human needs cannot be alleviated without assistance. The core focus of the agreement provides for collaboration and services that will ensure effective use of the public venues in a disaster situation. MERC has agreed to provide the following assistance to the American Red Cross during disaster relief efforts:

-- Use of its kitchen facilities and staff for meal preparation

-- Assistance with mobile or fixed feeding operations

-- Use of indoor space for disaster relief facilities

-- Use of parking areas for disaster relief

-- Personnel for disaster relief efforts

The agreement also provides for emergency preparedness exercises and other planning activities and calls for maintaining close interaction and liaison between the organizations at all levels to share data and knowledge about disasters, disaster declarations, and legislative information relevant to the partnership.

The Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission serves as a catalyst for economic development, community and culture in the Portland metropolitan region. The public agency promotes livability and economic vitality through stewardship, management and development of regional public assembly venues. MERC, a subsidiary of Metro, is the management authority for the Oregon Convention Center, the Portland Center for the Performing Arts and the Portland Expo Center. Visit

The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization, led by volunteers, that provides relief to victims of disaster and helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Local Oregon Trail Chapter volunteers respond to residential fires and other disasters an average of every 40 hours. All Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from Oregonians. Financial gifts help provide shelter, food, clothing, counseling and other immediate assistance to those in need. Call (503) 284-1234 or visit

Contact: Julie Reed, MERC Lise Harwin, ARC Oregon Trail Chapter

b: 503.731.7838 b: 503.528-5629

c: 503.312.8459 c:503.969.7474

SOURCE Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission; AmericanRed Cross
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