The Big One: Is the coast prepared?


CANNON BEACH, Ore. -- The Pacific Ocean is among the most seismically active areas on earth.

Two big quakes struck on either side of the Pacific Thursday. Meanwhile, the Northwest is getting ready for the Big One - a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami on the coast.

But Oregon's response plan assumes the quake will happen in February, which is not exactly the busiest tourist season. So how will people handle the disaster when crowds on the coast grow from hundreds to 100,000?

When the tsunami siren goes off Carol Pierce will head for her "go-bag" - actually, a go-backpack.

"With water, all the things they say we should have," she says about its contents. "But if I take off into the woods with that, someone will probably take it away from me or something. I'm sorry, that's not very kind but "

But the kind of thing you have to think about, and the kind of thing they're trying to get ready for at the Oregon Office of Emergency Management. Officials there admit that figuring out how many people will need help is as hard as figuring out when they'll need it.

"Part of the catastrophic planning is to fly supplies in using helicopters, after the event, once we can assess how many people we're going to be dealing with," said Althea Rizzo, geological hazard programs coordinator.

The OEM's February disaster model figures around 600 people will die in the tsunami and possibly two or three or four times that many with peak season tourists in town.

Some of those tourists will be from out of state.

But the OEM wants all visitors to come prepared with three to 10 days of food, water and clothes.

"Mainly, I think, people are prepared for their own houses. We have supplies from home, but we're not going to bring 12 gallons of water for a few days' trip. But at home we have supplies," said Stefan Grenberg, who was visiting from Seattle.

They're lucky to be in Cannon Beach. Along with Seaside, the city has helped people stockpile emergency supplies in containers out of the danger zone. In Cannon Beach's containers supplies aren't just for residents but for visitors too. Still, the OEM is counting on tourists to do their part.

"When you check into a hotel, ask the hotel what their procedures are," said Rizzo.

The OEM has a hospitality worker emergency training program available but only about 40 hotels are taking part in that right now.

Emergency responders say the best thing you can do is learn CPR, since family and neighbors are likely to be the real first responders.

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