When a new emergency preparedness project kicks off this fall, the Coos Bay area will get a tsunami czar.
A nine-month program to increase coastal residents' preparedness for earthquakes and tsunamis will include new inundation maps, volunteer door-to-door educators, and a paid coordinator to help spread the word.
The program has two goals: Teaching everyone in the area where the inundation zone is, and encouraging all residents to prepare for a period of isolation that could last for weeks.
Deb Sterling of Tsunami Outreach Oregon met Wednesday with representatives of local governments to tell them about the program and solicit members for a steering committee.
New inundation map due
Essential to TOO's program is a new inundation map of the Coos Bay area that the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries will unveil in October.
The map isn't related to the Federal Emergency Management Administration's recently updated flood plain maps.
DOGAMI's map will show the inundation zone for an 'XXL" tsunami, based on new information from the geologic record, said George Priest, a DOGAMI geologist.
'The Japanese had a rude awakening," said Priest, referring to the March tsunami. 'They did not look at the geologic record."
Priest said when seismologists make earthquake and tsunami predictions based on historical records of earthquakes, they underestimate the threat. New techniques for analyzing geologic evidence of quakes show a bigger inundation zone along the Oregon coast than the one that emergency preparedness officials currently use.
At Wednesday's meeting, North Bend Police Chief Steve Scibelli said that during the March tsunami, local 911 dispatchers fielded many calls from residents asking whether they were in the inundation zone.
That's why, after the Coos Bay inundation map is released, community volunteers will go door to door in the inundation zone to make people aware of the hazard.
The larger community will also get information about how to prepare for long-term disruption of services in the event of an earthquake or tsunami.
Damage to bridges and utilities could throw us on our own resources for weeks, Sterling said.
And it's important for citizens to realize they won't be able to just pick up the phone and call 911 when emergencies arise during that period.
Paid organizer will lead
Sterling said the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, through DOGAMI, would pay the salary of a temporary paid organizer who would coordinate volunteers to do the educational work and conduct pre- and post-surveys to measure results.
She said the coordinator would work with existing volunteers, such as Citizens for Safer Coastlines, volunteer firefighters, and Community Emergency Response Teams, in addition to recruiting other volunteers.
CSC, formed after the March tsunami, has been conducting education in the community and raising funds to equip the area with tsunami sirens. Another fundraising project seeks to provide low-income families with NOAA weather radios that broadcast emergency warnings.
CERT trains citizen volunteers in emergency preparedness.
Reporter Gail Elber can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 234, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.