Visitors to Seaside will now have an added path to safety with the addition of “you are here” signs. The site-specific tsunami evacuation maps are oriented with arrows to indicate the way to high ground, rather than providing a north-south orientation.
“One of the things that keep me awake at night as the county emergency manager are the visitors,” Clatsop County’s Emergency Manager Tiffany Brown said in November.
In preparing the maps, she said, “I just kept my audience in mind: the panicked pedestrian. And it just made sense to me you wouldn’t have to spend time orienting yourself, so for that reason, all of the signs are oriented to the viewer.”
The path to high ground is different at each sign location.
The idea for the new signs was formulated at a emergency management meeting last year at Camp Rilea which brought Clatsop County’s Emergency Management team, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, homeowners’ associations and city officials together.
Seaside’s planning director Kevin Cupples was among the group, and agreed to bring the new signs to Seaside.
“What came up is people don’t really have an idea of where high ground is,” Cupples said at a recent meeting of the Seaside Downtown Development Association. “In Seaside, if they’re a visitor, it’s difficult to explain where you need to go other than to point up to the upper hills.”
A $9,000 grant in 2014 paid for the first two “you are here” signs, along with tents, maps, card keys and other materials. This year, the county received a $10,360 grant solely for the signs.
Daniel Stoelb, Geographic Information Systems coordinator with the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, is the “unsung hero” of this project, Brown said.
“When I discovered that DOGAMI no longer produced the signs and that no template existed, he took it on,” she said. “It took us a couple months just to iron out the process, but once done, things went pretty smoothly.”
Stoelb created a new sign template to match the signs installed the previous year, and drafted signs for the cities of Seaside, Cannon Beach, Gearhart, Warrenton, Astoria, Camp Rilea, the U.S. Coast Guard station and Seaside School District.
Alejandro Bancke, GIS coordinator with Clatsop County, recently completed the remaining sign drafts for State Parks, Surf Pines, Camp Rilea, Arch Cape, Cullaby Lake and Astoria School District. Brown said the signs, at about $49 each, have been ordered but are yet to be installed.
Fifteen signs are now in Seaside. “Out of the 86 signs in the county, we got a pretty good-size chunk of them,” Cupples said. “We tried to focus on high-traffic areas in town that would give people an idea of knowing where they’re at.”
Two signs are placed at the north end of town along 12th Avenue, one at Goodman Park and one at the beach access. Broadway corridor signs are at the north and south ends of the Prom, the downtown parking lot, Quatat Park and the Convention Center.
Others are located at Broadway Park, City Hall, the Visitor’s Bureau, the pool and the library. Remaining signs are at the Community Center, the Avenue U access and at Cartwright Park.
Signs are designed to lead evacuees over the First Avenue bridge rather than the Avenue A or Broadway bridge, which are likely to collapse in a quake.
Making the signs accessible is essential to their success, Cupples said.
“If you’re waiting till the earth stops shaking to find out where your evacuation map is, you’ve kind of waited too long,” he said. “If people aren’t thinking catastrophically they’ll think, ‘I’ll just go on my phone.’ You probably won’t have cell service after a Cascadia subduction earthquake.”
Once visitors are safely to high ground, officials will look to getting them out of the region as quickly as possible. Supplies would be insufficient to provide for long-term sheltering, Cupples said.
Brown said evacuation road signs are still lacking in Seaside, and will be part of upcoming discussions.
“We’re going to round out the evacuation sign system in the county in the next three years,” Brown said. “The next phase after we get the rest of these signs installed will be to convene the group and say, ‘We need a round evacuation sign here, we need an arrow here. I need this here.’ We’ll be starting that after the first of the year.”
Some Seaside business owners worry that too much emergency information could scare visitors off.
Education is “part of a process we need to work on,” City Manager Mark Winstanley said. “I hear the complaints from businesspeople. But I think the better information we get out there, the better people are prepared. People need to be comfortable with what they need to do.”
‘I just kept my audience in mind: the panicked pedestrian.’
— Tiffany Brown, Emergency Manager