With September being national preparedness month, Oregon Sea Grant is encouraging people on the coast to practice tsunami evacuation using tsunami quests.
The self-guided walking tours use clues and instructions to show people how to find higher ground, while also leading them to discover historical treasures. Eventually, the clues guide people to a hidden box with a logbook to sign and a hand-carved stamp to mark their completion.
“It’s really open to anybody who has a sense of adventure and pencil and a set of directions,” said Cait Goodwin, the Oregon Sea Grant quest program coordinator.
Goodwin started the program in 2007, which she based off Valley Quest on the East Coast.
It works kind of like geocaching and letterboxing, except the quests are in a book, and there is no trinket sharing upon finding the hidden box. The quests are designed to be educational.
There are 28 active quests in the Oregon Coast book, and while they are not all emergency preparedness related, they all teach about a given area.
Free sample quests are available on the program’s website, and in September, in honor of emergency preparedness month, the five tsunami quests are free online.
The North Coast quests guide people through Fort Stevens State Park near Warrenton and from the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria. The walks take about 30 minutes to an hour to complete.
The Astoria quest begins at the Astoria Riverwalk in front of the Barbey Maritime Center. The directions guide questers to higher ground, while also highlighting historic landmarks that reveal clues to a hidden message. Each clue helps reveal a letter of the hidden message, which isn’t divulged until arriving at the final destination.
However, the real treasure is the fun of the walk and learning about history, Goodwin said.
Whether people live on the coast or are visiting, they will usually learn something they didn’t know before. She said quest builders share things that people tend to walk by all the time on their way to work or while shopping and never stop to notice.
“The tsunami quests are bringing your attention to evacuation signs, looking to see what alternate routes might be, those types of things,” Goodwin said. “Things that can be easily translated into other places so that when you go to the coast, that’s something you think about no matter where you are like, ‘Oh yeah, I know what that sign means.’”
Goodwin said when people arrive on the coast, they should stop and figure out where higher ground is located. She said people should be aware of the tsunami flood maps and create a plan prior to enjoying the beach.
“One thing it does do is actually have you walk the evacuation route,” she said, adding, “it’s good to actually practice your plan.”
Quests are best done with families, couples or classes split up into groups of six, Goodwin said.
Blue Anderson, director of visitor services for the Columbia River Maritime Museum, said the quest book is sold at the museum’s gift shop and has been popular, especially among teachers.
Goodwin said children are not afraid of fire drills because they do them so often. She hopes tsunami quests can normalize evacuation.
”It’s been a fun way to kind of get those conversations going and having people think about where they would go if the ground were to start shaking,” she said.