Open letter to Scott McDougall, Pacific County Emergency Management Agency:
I enjoyed the July/August Preparedness Post, as usual. Am glad to see the vertical-evacuation subject is a subject close to your heart.
However, there are a growing number of larger problems that need your immediate attention. Yesterday, I spoke at some length at a Surfside board meeting and for the second time in public about my disappointment with the effectiveness of emergency management agencies that have jurisdiction over Surfside with respect to tsunami hazards on the Peninsula.
Let me begin by reintroducing one of the most basic problems — missing tsunami hazard/warning/evacuation signs. Maybe missing is the wrong word. Maybe "never had any" county roadside tsunami hazard/warning signs is more accurate? Just to make sure this is correct, I asked the audience if they've ever see a sign anywhere on the Peninsula that said, "Now entering Tsunami Hazard Zone." Then I asked if anyone has ever seen a sign that said, "Now leaving Tsunami Hazard Zone."
To my knowledge, there are no tsunami hazard/warning/evacuation signs of any kind inside Surfside. In fact, there are no signs anywhere on the Peninsula indicating there is a tsunami hazard, let alone where the public should specifically vertically evacuate to a safe elevation before a tsunami arrives.
You mentioned in your recent preparedness post that some 100,000 people may be on the Peninsula on a busy summer day. Furthermore, "There is a great deal of conflicting information available to the general public." Lack of official information often leads to conflicting information. I think the lack of signs has a direct impact on the clarity of the general public's understanding of tsunami hazards.
Let us, for a change, take the guesswork out of the decision-making process, at least for the sake of the public. Hopefully, you think that placement of tsunami evacuation/warning signs along roads is an effective means of warning the general public about tsunami hazards and clarifying to the public where tsunami hazards exist and where they do not.
Why don't we have a basic set of tsunami hazard/warning signs on our county roads here in Surfside? According to documents I've reviewed, it looks like only six years ago we made arrangements with your agency to receive 22 tsunami hazard/warning/evacuation signs. We followed up three years ago with a request to your agency for the status of these signs. Yesterday I spoke with other past and present Surfside board members who recall conversations with your agency about the status of these signs.
It is my observation that Pacific County Emergency Management does not have actual accomplishments to show for itself with regard to this topic because of such little effort it actually exerts. No roadside tsunami hazard/warning/evacuation signs proves my point. In my opinion, this is negligent. Tsunami signs are not expensive and are not complicated to build.
You can't convince me that we'll ever see something expensive and complicated like a vertical evacuation structure on the Peninsula when we first can't figure out the acquisition, location and installation of simple and inexpensive tsunami hazard/warning/evacuation signs. I'm sorry to say that Scott, you're a super nice guy and your heart is in the right place, however: I think the people of Pacific County would greatly benefit from attention to these basic items. A director may not be able to solve the big problems right away, but we should not overlook the simple and inexpensive things that have the potential to make a huge difference in the number of survivors to the next tsunami event on the Peninsula.
Please do the right thing: install proper signs in proper locations and change my opinion on this subject.