PORTLAND, Ore. — Andrew Phelps was living blocks away and watched in horror with many others as the World Trade Center towers collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.
Phelps, who took over the job of director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management in February 2015, was working as an actor auditioning for jobs at the time.
A feeling of helplessness pushed him to walk down to where workers were preparing to head into ground zero to start removing debris.
Phelps said there was a group of steel workers waiting for a truck to take them to the site. He talked with them until the truck came. One of the men pulled him into the truck.
“It was dangerous, and chaotic and I had no training,’’ Phelps said. But it made him re-think his career path. He was set to take the New York Fire Department test, but decided to go a different route, getting his degree in emergency planning and management at John Jay College.
He did work for about 3 years as the public information officer and Captain of the Beacon New York Fire Department before heading to New Mexico to work as a program manager for the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
He parlayed that job into Emergency Manager for the city of Santa Fe until he was hired to run Oregon’s emergency program.
Five months later, the New Yorker story on the devastating consequences of a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake on the Pacific Northwest.
“It opened a lot of eyes, not just here in Oregon,” Phelps said of the piece. “I was sort of surprised how many folks who lived in Oregon for a long time still didn’t quite understand what that threat looked like. Quite frankly it represented a disaster bigger than Katrina, Sandy Loma Prieta earthquake -- all those disasters combined.”
Phelps answered non-stop questions from media outlets across the nation. One reporter said he was probably tired of getting the same question over and over about the state’s preparedness.
“Anytime we can message preparedness and talk about the hazards that are facing Oregon before they happen I think that’s always a good thing,” Phelps said.
On Wednesday, Phelps’ office will release the second of two comics produced by his staff and the staff of Dark Horse Comics in Portland. The first one, Without Warning! Earthquake, was a big hit.
“Every time I go someplace around the country people want me to bring copies of that comic book,” Phelps said. It’s very well written, very well illustrated and on its own I think it stands as a great comic book. Add to that the preparedness messaging folks can take from it and it’s just an absolute home run for usFrom the Office of Emergency Management:
To download your copy of this comic book: Click here: