In the event of a magnitude 9 Cascadia earthquake triggering a tsunami, residents of Cannon Beach and other coastal towns will have to survive on their own for at least two weeks, experts say.
Cannon Beach is working on an emergency preparedness plan to address this possibility.
Area hospitals and the Cannon Beach Medical Reserve Corps also have emergency preparedness plans in place.
To organize the effort at the city level, Cannon Beach hired Rick Hudson as its emergency manager. “Our goal is to create a refugee camp (on high ground) where people can remain temporarily,” Hudson said. “We have not created these things yet, but we are working on it.”
He said the reserve corps has basic medical supplies at “survival cache sites” in Cannon Beach.
“Some people will need more definitive care,” he said. “The county has an evacuation plan, but there is not a plan on how to get people from the area to hospitals. Hopefully, we will be working on a plan to do just that. The challenge is the topography, the hills.”
The refugee camp would provide water, food and shelter “for a limited number of people; basically, the population of Cannon Beach,” he said.
“The city has dedicated itself to having a good emergency plan, a working plan to improve the survivability of the citizens and resiliency of the city,” he said.
“Our plan is to create a makeshift MASH facility in the hills or out of the inundation zone.” He said it will “take us a couple of years to build this up correctly.
“The county doesn’t have the resources to save all the cities. The city will be on its own (at first).”
Taking people to hospitals will require “air medical assistance, helicopters,” he said.
Erik Meyer is the emergency management manager at Providence Seaside Hospital. Meyer said if a disaster occurs, the “roads are going to buckle, bridges (will) fail” and there will be landslides. People will have to travel by foot.
However, those who are airlifted out are more likely to be taken to Portland rather than a local hospital.
He said expecting outside help to get help to the small coastal towns in two weeks is an “extremely generous” prediction. Help to the big cities like Portland and Seattle, would most likely come first.
Seaside Providence has an evacuation plan and a site where supplies, tents, trailers and generators are stored out of the inundation zone, he said.
Hospital personnel have about 22 minutes “after the ground stops shaking” to evacuate the building and move to higher ground 100 feet away, he said. That is from the north side of the building. From the “south end of the building, you would have about a block, nothing further,” to travel.
He said the hospital conducts an evacuation drill twice a year. “We have a pretty extensive plan,” he said. “It’s something we live and breathe here. Our workers, employees, are pretty knowledgeable about the risks we face.”
Seaside is constructing a state-of-the-art school on high ground above the hospital, which Providence can use as an “alternate care site, if necessary, a back-up plan,” he said. It will be completed in the autumn of 2020.
Paula Larson is the safety, security and emergency preparedness coordinator for Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria. Larson said Columbia Memorial is in the inundation zone. However, the Astoria hospital is inland several miles, so personnel have 25 to 40 minutes to evacuate four blocks to higher ground.
Columbia Memorial staff conducted a drill in June using “volunteers who acted as patients” to the safe site in a parking lot, she said.
“We are prepared to be self-sustaining for 96 hours, including diesel fuel for the generator, medical supplies, food and water,” she said.
Some employees are taking a Ham radio class through the hospital, she said. The intention is to enable hospital personnel to communicate with the county and the Oregon Health Authority to call for additional resources.
Both hospitals have “go-bags” for their employees, which contain some essentials in case of a natural disaster.
Meyers said Cannon Beach is “miles ahead of where most of these communities are.” But tourists, generally speaking, are less likely to be prepared than residents, he said.
The executive summary of a report by the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGOMI), titled “Oregon Hospitals Preparing for Cascadia,” by Yumei Wang, states: “Hospital facilities in western Oregon are not expected to perform well after a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake and tsunami. Due to their close proximity to the Cascadia fault, the 11 hospitals along the coast will likely incur the most serious damage and may take over 3 years to fully recover to an operational state.”
In response to a question by The Gazette, DOGOMI provided the following Tuesday:
“Several coastal hospitals are actively working with their water districts to make sure plans are in place so hospitals have water to operate.
• City of Reedsport is working with Lower Umpqua hospital to purify and desalinate water, and truck it in bladders on a flatbed truck to the hospital. The hospital has a connection that allows trucked potable water to be used by the hospital
• Peacehealth in Florence has on-site shallow ground water wells for use during water outages, as well as portable water purification systems.”