On Friday, March 11, after hearing that Japan had been devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunami, residents along the West Coast anxiously braced for the coming tsunami. I was headed to the coast because the Legislature had planned a Redistricting Public Hearing at Tillamook Bay Community College, but canceled it because of the tsunami warning.
Thankfully, Oregon Emergency Management and Tillamook and Clatsop county officials have been planning for just this type of crisis situation. Our emergency dispatch centers activated the tsunami siren system, the reverse 9-1-1 system phoned coastal residents within the tsunami zone advising them to evacuate, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration radios were triggered with tsunami warnings, and fire department personnel then went door-to-door making sure people were aware of the situation and asking them to evacuate.
We were fortunate that we had several hours notice and people could put their emergency plans into action, keeping their families safe and taking time to pack necessary emergency supplies. Coastal residents in Clatsop and Tillamook county reacted differently when they became aware of the impending tsunami and it is clear that preplanning makes all the difference in an orderly evacuation.
The Pacific Northwest is overdue for an earthquake along the Cascadia fault line, and if we were to have a subduction zone earthquake off our coastline similar to Japans, we would have less than 30 minutes before the tsunami waves hit our coastline. It is important to remember that if you feel an earthquake and are within a mile of the beach, do not wait for the sirens to sound or to be notified by safety officials. Take cover during the quake, and then after the shaking stops, immediately move to higher ground.
In cooperation with state officials, emergency responders in Clatsop and Tillamook counties demonstrated their capable life-saving evacuation techniques, and learned a lot from this experience. In some areas, tsunami sirens could not be heard, while others did not receive the reverse 9-1-1 call.
With this information, emergency officials are already working on improving their safety response plans of action. It is comforting to know that we have trained staff ready to respond in times of need, and I wish to offer them my congratulations on a job well done.