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Portland to trial emergency microgrid infrastructure

Emergency preparedness hubs are designed to operate entirely off grid during a disaster and provide crucial services, including power and communication.

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The hubs are designed to provide services such as emergency power and communication
The hubs are designed to provide services such as emergency power and communication

The city of Portland is piloting a new kind of microgrid infrastructure to help improve disaster resilience and emergency preparedness.

 

The trial will see the city introduce emergency preparedness hubs (Prephubs) designed to operate entirely off grid during a disaster. They will provide crucial services that include power, communication and emergency first aid supplies.

 

The project falls under the city’s Smart City PDX banner, the urban data and technology strategy which aims to use data to improve citizens’ lives.

 

Partnership approach

 

The project is being conducted in partnership with Portland State University, Portland General Electric (PGE) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and will be coordinated by Portland Bureau of Emergency Management.

 

“The city of Portland is leading the nation on emergency preparedness efforts thanks to this innovative solution from MIT,” said Ted Wheeler, mayor.

 

“We want our residents to feel safe, prepared. These hubs will serve as a place for the community to gather. This will hopefully serve as a model in other cities, making our cities safer and more prepared.”

 

The hubs will also provide secure, locked storage for basic earthquake emergency communication node (BEECN) cache equipment. BEECNs are places for Portland residents to go after a major earthquake to ask for emergency assistance and get information.

“These hubs will serve as a place for the community to gather. This will hopefully serve as a model in other cities, making our cities safer and more prepared”

PGE will provide power to the Prephubs from the grid and from energy storage devices, supplemented by solar arrays and pedal-power. The hubs will be able to recharge cell phones during a natural disaster.

 

The first pilot Prephub is planned to be installed at Portland State University. Different activities have promoted community engagement to define how this Prephub can better serve its community and improve emergency preparedness, while nurturing a sense of identity and solidarity during a major disaster event.

 

Envisioning the future

 

Portland State University, in collaboration with the city and PGE, coordinated a charrette visioning process in June 2019 that included first responders and community connected to the selected site.

 

Charrettes are community engagement tools used by design professionals and those working in the public realm. Design charrettes can help communities imagine what the future might look like, and how special opportunities or challenges in our communities might be handled.

 

They are also used as tools to help build consensus and agreement about what issues matters most, and how to move forward and address them as a community.

 

If the pilot at Portland State University is successful, Portland said it will evaluate other sites for installations and develop effective community engagement strategies depending on the location and demographics the BEECN site intends to serve.

 

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