Category Archives: safety
The arrival of spring brings many visitors to the Oregon coast and all of us want you to be safe while exploring the shoreline.
“March can be a tricky time of year on the coast,” says Lisa Stevenson, OPRD beach ranger speaking at Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area. “The ocean can still experience stormy winter weather despite the warmer temperatures on land.”
Coastal threats can come in the form of powerful waves, unstable logs on beaches and erosion of rocks and cliffs.
“People are so excited for the spring sunshine that sometimes safety takes a back seat,” Stevenson adds. “But preparation and common sense go a long way to keeping you safe on the coast.”
Stevenson lists several tips for ensuring your trip to the coast is a safe one:
- Always keep one eye on the ocean so you won’t be caught off guard if a bigger wave surges up the beach. These “sneaker waves” are unpredictable, powerful and especially dangerous for children.
- Stay away from logs on the wet sand or in the surf. These logs can weigh several tons and can be moved by only a few inches of water. The ocean is strong enough to pick up even the biggest log and roll it over you.
- Know when the tide is coming in, especially when exploring tidepools. It’s easy to become stranded by the incoming tide when your attention is elsewhere. You can keep track of tides with a tide table; OPRD park rangers and many local businesses can give you one for free.
- Be careful on cliffs and rocks. They can be unstable due to erosion. Stay on marked trails and do not climb over fences. Both are there to keep you safe.
Why didn’t we bring the first-aid kit? The hike was only a 4-mile round trip on a well-maintained trail. What could go wrong? Well, a yellow jacket nest encounter would be exciting.
That happened, but the result was only two stings among the three of us and no adverse reactions. Although we knew to prepare, we didn’t put it into practice.
Practice preparedness – earthquakes and tsunamis
The New Yorker magazine ran an article this past July that brought a lot of attention to The Really Big One – a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake followed by a tsunami. That story made it real to many, and several campers and visitors asked us for our coastal campground tsunami routes. They took steps to prepare.
The good news is that every state park coastal campground within a predicted tsunami zone has an evacuation route posted with signs in the park. Each coastal brochure also includes a campground map that shows the designated tsunami evacuation route.
Make it a practice to look for the evacuation route signs after you’ve arrived at the park. You can also find the coastal campground brochures at http://bit.ly/1FWG0GQ. Take the time to look at the map before you head out. The maps are also available at the park.
What else can you do?
Search for resources to help you prepare. The Oregon Tsunami Clearinghouse has an evacuation zone map viewer, as well as links for specific information for coast visitors, residents, boaters, and kids and teachers. The clearinghouse motto sums it up: We cannot prevent a tsunami but we can prepare for one.
The Great Oregon ShakeOut website has tips for preparing for the earthquake that precedes the tsunami. The “Get Prepared” section includes tips for hazard hunts, disaster-preparedness plans, emergency supply kits and more. Take a look at the Earthquake Preparedness page on the American Red Cross website.
When you’re at the beach, look for new numbered signs along the shore, part of a beach safety project to help emergency personnel respond quickly.
The bright yellow signs with bold black letters are installed at state, county and federal beach accesses from the Columbia River jetty to Crissey Field at the California border. Numbered 1 through 197, the signs are designed to be easily visible by beachgoers who can relay the number to a 911 dispatcher in an emergency. Dispatchers have GPS information needed to direct first responders quickly to the emergency.
“It can be confusing locating a victim offshore or on the beach. The beach numbered signs have helped tremendously in our ability to respond promptly in an emergency,” said North Lincoln Fire & Rescue Captain Jim Kusz, a member of the planning committee that began meeting in 2004. “The signs have proven to be an excellent aid for our Water Rescue Team and in coordinating our rescue efforts with United States Coast Guard and other agencies.”
In addition to the numbered signs, more than 200 beach safety signs are now at beach access paths that warn visitors of hazards such as rip currents and sneaker waves. The signs also list prohibited activities including littering and lighting fireworks. The signs convey information using internationally-recognized symbols.
“Unfortunately, accidents happen on the beach. Rolling logs, rip tides and unstable cliffs are all potentially dangerous,” said Calum Stevenson, Ocean Shore specialist for Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD).
Near population centers, the signs are as close as 1/4 mile apart. In more remote areas the signs are up to two miles apart or more where there are fewer beach accesses.
The first signs were installed November 2008 in Lincoln City and Devils Lake. Now, 424 signs are in place along nearly the entire coast, except for some private accesses and cities that may come on board later. The 45 miles under U.S. Forest Service (USFS) jurisdiction between Florence and Coos Bay is also unsigned. OPRD is working with the USFS to resolve archaeological and other issues on federal land before proceeding.
The $78,000 project was funded by a combination of visitor fees and Oregon lottery dollars that are dedicated to state parks. Some coastal cities have shared in the cost of creating and installing signs. Private communities, such as Salishan in Lincoln City are paying for their own signs.