Tsunami signage

Bandon city workers help a contractor install tsunami directional signage in Old Town, part of a grant BandonPrepares received to raise awareness of tsunami danger in the inundation areas.

SOUTH COAST – U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., has helped kick off the innovative Tsunami Blue Line project that will highlight a clear tsunami evacuation route for Oregonians in high-risk inundation zones.

Oregon’s Blue Line Project commenced in Florence on the fifth anniversary of the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku subduction earthquake off the coast of Japan that caused a tsunami resulting in 18,000 fatalities and a partial meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

“It is a not a question of if an earthquake will happen, it is a question of when,” DeFazio told a crowd gathered in Florence for the event on March 11.

“The Blue Line Project will provide a critical pathway to help those in inundation zones reach higher ground in the quickest way possible. This project will help save lives and reduce injuries when a tsunami hits the Oregon Coast,” DeFazio said.

Based on a similar project in Wellington, New Zealand, the project marks the tsunami evacuation route with a painted blue line and additional signage along the roadway. Florence, Coos Bay, Reedsport and Gold Beach will all be participating in the pilot project, which is coordinated by the Oregon Office of Emergency Management and the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.

"Encouraging people to practice their routes to safety is one of the best ways to save lives during a tsunami," said OEM geologic hazards coordinator Althea Rizzo. "The Tsunami Blue Line pilot project is one of several ways Oregonians are working to prepare for tsunamis."

The city of Bandon has already placed signage throughout town indicating the direction to safety in the event of a tsunami, as well as marking tsunami assembly areas. The signage was completed through a collaborative effort involving the city, port and BandonPrepares, a nonprofit group dedicated to raising awareness about emergency preparedness.

Improving evacuation signage will save lives in the event of a tsunami by helping people in the inundation zone get to higher, safer ground faster. Depending where you are on the Oregon coast when a tsunami hits, it could take from five to 30 minutes to get to high ground.

Oregon is at particular risk of an earthquake on the Cascadia Subduction Zone and a resulting tsunami estimated to cause millions in damages and thousands of casualties. Earthquakes on similar subduction zones include the 2004 magnitude 9.1 Indonesia quake that caused 228,000 fatalities and the 2010 magnitude 8.8 Chile quake that caused 500 fatalities.

DeFazio has worked to increase funding for earthquake and tsunami preparedness efforts throughout his time in Congress. On Feb. 29, the House passed a provision, offered by DeFazio, to create a Federal Interagency Task Force that will develop a strategy to better protect and prepare for major earthquakes and tsunamis on the Cascadia Subduction Zone that could devastate Oregon’s coastline. In July 2015, he announced a $4 million grant to four universities on the West Coast, including the University of Oregon, to help support production of an onshore earthquake early warning system to alert people to an oncoming tsunami and help them get to safety faster.

“This legislation will help communities in Oregon and across the country to plan for, mitigate against, respond to, and recover from catastrophic earthquakes, tsunamis, and wildfires,” DeFazio said. “Ultimately, we need a robust early warning system in order to save lives, reduce injuries, and mitigate infrastructure damage from the devastating effects of a major quake off the Oregon Coast. The creation of this Task Force is a significant step in the right direction."

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