What Is BEECN?

In 2012, impressed by similar emergency preparedness / response programs he had seen in the Seattle area, former Portland mayor, Sam Adams, implemented the BEECN Program in the Portland area, part of PBEM – Portland Bureau of Emergency Management.  What does BEECN stand for?   Basic Earthquake Emergency Communication Node – pronounced, BEACON.  

So… what is the purpose of BEECN you ask?  Good questions.  Let’s say there’s a large earthquake that takes direct aim at the Portland metropolitan area.  Like everyone else, you need help.  Unlike everyone else, you’ve done your research (or read my BLOG at least….) and know what a BEECN is and where to find one.  Of the 48 BEECN locations around Portland, you can go to the one located closest to you to ask for emergency assistance.  No food or water – not yet, at least, but true, dire straights type of emergency assistance.  You have a medical need, and the phone are down, as is the electricity, the bridges, and smoke signals aren’t an option.  The sites will have information on local areas where you can go to obtain food and water.

The city employees who is specifically trained to man the BEECN site will be able to radio your situation in to a central dispatch where your specific emergency is noted, triaged, and as emergency assistance is available, will be dispatched to your location to help.  Like everyone else, the city employees tasked to man the site, which will be fairly easily identifiable by a red and white tent, is not exempt from the affects, directly and afterwards, of the earthquake.  Because of this, the intention is for BEECN sites to be up and running within 24 hours of an earthquake.   The timing of each unit coming on line will be directly affected by localized damage, staff’s ability to gain access to the site, and other criteria.  Each site will differ, but the plan is for all sites to be up and running within a 24 hour period.

Along with the city employee designated to work the site, there may also be local volunteers, specially trained to assist the public, going out into the neighborhoods to render non-emergency assistance where and when able, at the BEECN sites – they are part of NET – Neighborhood Emergency Team(s).  NET stations may or may not be co-located at BEECN sites.  NET staff, along with other volunteers, may be manning radios and doing other tasks to help in any way possible.

As mentioned above, there are 48 BEECN sites in Portland and 48 established neighborhoods – which places one BEECN site per neighborhod.  PBEM worked with each neighborhood to find specially designated sites for each location, based on specific criteria:

*Flat ground

*Away from known hazards such as flood plains, steep slopes, slide zones, and hazmat sites.

*Away from overhead power lines, underground power lines, underground gas lines, trees, Unreinforced Masonry Buildings – and other structures that may fall – poles, towers, etc…

*Sites are at least half an acre in size to accommodate potentially large volumes of people looking for assistance, emergency vehicles, and supplies.

*Near churches, schools, civic centers, libraries, or other centrally located neighborhood centers or establishments.

BEECN sites can be found by entering your physical street address here:  http://www.portlandoregon.gov/pbem/article/414941.

They can also be found at   https://www.portlandoregon.gov/pbem/article/424349.

Another part of BEECN designed to assist the public during and after an earthquake is through direct informational updates using email, cell phones and local radio stations.  You can sign up for these alerts here:


In addition, local public alerts can be found here (this is real time, not just during emergencies or disasters):



More on PBEM, BEECN, and NET can be found at Portland Bureau of Emergency Management website, here:


I hope this information comes in handy.  Remember, the best way to survive a natural disaster is to be prepared.




Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top