Canby Rotary to Unveil Communications Trailer for Disaster Response

If Canby’s community leaders and emergency management officials have learned one lesson from the disasters of the past few years (including the wildfires of 2020 and the ice storm and heat wave of 2021), it’s to be prepared for anything.

Rotary Club of Canby leaders, with the partnership and assistance of other organizations and stakeholders, have taken that lesson to heart with Canby Rotary Ready, a two-phase project designed to enhance community resilience during a disaster.

The project includes an emergency supply cache of chainsaws, generators and other supplies stored at Canby Public Works and available to first responders and CERT volunteers in the event of an emergency. This first phase has already been completed.

Courtesy the Rotary Club of Canby.

The second and more ambitious phase is the outfitting of a mobile communications trailer equipped with a generator, charging units for cellphones, a satellite link to the internet, amateur radio and a communication link to emergency services.

The club plans to unveil the newly outfited mobile communications trailer at its regular weekly meeting on Friday, May 5.

“We eventually hope to have multiple trailers to cover four zones within the city of Canby,” Canby Rotary President Craig Johnson explained.

Courtesy the Rotary Club of Canby.

The inspiration for this project arose out of the aftermath of the wildfires of 2020 as well as the ice storm and heat dome crises the following year, Johnson said.

“Evacuations and power outages made it clear that there was still work to do to make our city ready for a disaster,” he said. “A shortage of portable generators was apparent and confirmed by Canby Fire, especially among the medically vulnerable.”

Through input from community stakeholders, including utilities, government entities and first responders, club members prioritized the need for disseminating information in case of an extended outage of power throughout the city.

Courtesy the Rotary Club of Canby.

The idea of a mobile charging station was born. As cellphones are the primary means of communication for most Canby residents, providing a place where multiple phones could be charged at once, in addition to access to the internet, would be critical.

The club has raised nearly $70,000 of its initial $75,000 goal to realize the trailer, through fundraising, donations, foundation grants and other support.

Rotarians initially sought to purchase a pre-existing piece of equipment, but they were less versatile — and far more expensive — than what members had envisioned.

Courtesy the Rotary Club of Canby.

“Among our club members, we have first responders, city employees, telecom executives, engineers, and creative thinkers who were able to come together, determine the need, brainstorm the problem, design a solution, and create something we could be proud of,” Johnson said. “Our club members actually designed and built the trailer with in house talent!

Club leaders say one of the key benefits of the project has been to raise awareness among community organizations about their respective disaster plans so that their efforts can complement one another.

Courtesy the Rotary Club of Canby.

“It has been a truly collaborative project and one that we believe will be replicable in other communities, especially in the Pacific Northwest,” Johnson said.

As extreme weather becomes more common and the possibility of a Cascadian Subduction Zone event looms large, the Rotary Club of Canby hopes this project will help their community be more ready and resilient.

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