South Clatsop County was hit hard in the 2007 storm and many felt cut off from the emergency response efforts based in Astoria.

Leaders have spent the last year becoming more prepared to cope with the next emergency.

In Cannon Beach, three new committees have been formed this year, in addition to its existing emergency preparedness committee.

One committee deals with post emergency recovery for the population's immediate needs; a second committee focuses on local shelters; and a third, or "resilience," committee is exploring how to rebuild the town, including a new "tsunami-resistant" city hall.

Until last December, when Cannon Beach lost electric power and had no access to telephones or roads in and out of the city, officials thought they knew what to expect. "We thought we were prepared," said City Manager Rich Mays.

The city's new "post emergency" committee is trying to determine what the population and emergency personnel may need as soon as disaster strikes.

"We don't know if we will have to take care of 10 people or 10,000 people," Mays said. "But we need to have food, water and shelter. We have to know where to store these supplies and how to make them available."

"Our biggest dilemma is shelter," Mays said. "We don't have any shelter that's (at a location) higher than an elevation of 51 feet. Should there be a tsunami or earthquake, we would have no shelters left. That could mean using portable shelters."

But where to put those tent shelters is another question, he added.

"How do you plan for a place that might be under water, or where trees have fallen or where the earth may be cracked?" Mays asked.

Mayor Jay Raskin, who is an architect, also is designing a "vertical evacuation" building where people could go in a disaster. The building, which could incorporate a new city hall, would be built high enough to provide a dry shelter even in a flood of 15 feet or more. The tsunami-resistant building could be built 15 feet off the ground, with parking or an area for a public market underneath and the city hall on the first floor.

An evacuation area also could be built on the roof, Raskin said. At 10,000 to 11,000 square feet, the building would be a little larger than the current 9,000-square-foot City Hall. In an emergency, it could hold about 2,500 people, he estimated.

Although "vertical evacuation" buildings exist in Japan, "there's not a single building in the United States designed for evacuation with this in mind," Raskin said. "This would be a first. This is good for Cannon Beach."

In Seaside, a local Tsunami Awareness Group, working with federal emergency funds directed to the city by Rep. David Wu, D-Ore., has gathered enough supplies to fill 120 barrels.

The barrels will last 20 people for three days. Five evacuation zones and several "safe" houses also have been established.

The group conducts preparation meetings in local neighborhoods that request them, and it has conducted emergency preparedness fairs at the Seaside Civic and Convention Center. A Community Emergency Response Team also is organized to help in all kinds of emergencies, and a group of ham radio operators offer frequent classes.


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