Updated 10/16

The Cascadia Subduction Zone

Dr. Buford P. Foonis, eminent professor of Geology, has predicted that an earthquake will occur along the central portion of the Cascadia Subduction Zone within the next 7 to 10 days. Dr. Foonis indicates that the epicenter will be somewhere between Gold Beach and Grants Pass, with a magnitude greater than 9.0 on the Richter scale. Since this easily qualifies as a major event, widespread disruptions can be anticipated. Local agencies are gathered to determine what, if anything, can and/or should be done to protect the citizens and property of our area. Participants at the meeting include:

The Political Bureaucracy:

This includes the Mayor, the County Commissioners, and their various staff members. The Mayor and Commissioners are the logical agents to coordinate efforts with federal and state officials. Who should they call, and what are they asking for? They are also the obvious liaison with the media. Radio, television, newspapers, social media - they all need to know what's going on so they can keep us informed of emergency plans and efforts. What about now, before the quake hits? How can they help to prepare the city and surrounding areas for the event? But one thing is certain: a media circus is guaranteed. What can we do to limit the inevitable insanity, and direct their energies along a positive path?

Medical Services; Asante Three Rivers Medical Center:

No matter what happens, the medical community will be busy. When the prediction is announced there may be panic (and injuries), and if the quake does hit there is certain to be injury and loss of life on a massive scale. How about disruption of supplies, and the overall ability of medical personnel to move about Josephine County in emergency vehicles after the quake? How does this affect where we station medical personnel and supplies before the quake? At the hospital, or...? And speaking of the hospital: it (as well as local dialysis centers) is built dangerously close to the river. What will they do if Lost Creek Dam fails and the lower floor(s) are flooded?

Emergency Services:

What can individual businesses, homes, and neighborhoods do to prepare for the quake? Is there anything that can be done to set up emergency aid facilities? What about the bodies of the dead? Decomposing corpses will turn into a very serious health risk in a very short time. What about blocked roads? What about contaminated water? What about emergency relief for the multitudes left homeless? What about... What about... What about... The list of potential challenges seems to be endless.

Law Enforcement (city, county, and state), Fire Department:

Looting, panic, mayhem, social unrest, and all that stuff - the cops will have their hands full, and more. But remember: they are human, too, and will be affected by the event just like the rest of us. What if some of the officers do not survive? What if some who do survive decide to take care of their own emergencies, and fail to come in to work after the quake? Should we bring them in now (and worry about the overtime later), or spread them around with instructions to assist in recovery operations wherever they might happen to be when the shaking stops? And the fundamental question: are the cops tasked to protect lives or property? Do they allow looting... or shoot to kill?

Can we expect fires after the quake? If past events are any guide, it would seem likely. Assuming the city (and county?) goes up in flames, will we have enough water to fight the many fires (as well as intact water mains to deliver the water to where it is needed)? As with the police, what if some don't survive, or fail to report to work? And how about the crazies - should the firemen be issued sidearms for protection?

Physical Infrastructure:

Electric, Gas, Communications, Roads, Building Department: Will we still have our expected utilities after the quake? Assuming that they are affected, what can be done to re-establish them as quickly as possible? History has shown time and again that major quakes are commonly followed by fires which are in many cases caused by ruptured gas lines and downed electric wires. Should we turn off both now? What about the phones? How can communication links be maintained?

Good access - any access - will be important, especially for medical and emergency services vehicles, law enforcement, and firefighters. Will there be any roads left? Will the bridges survive? How about Lost Creek dam? What if the lake is full and the dam collapses? How high will the resulting floodwaters rise? Will we still be able to cross the Rogue after the flood, or will the city and county be divided into north and south halves?

Which structures can be expected to survive, and which will probably fail? Is there anything that can be done now to strengthen some of the weaker buildings? What if buildings which were "constructed to code" fail during or after the quake? Is the county liable? Either way, whose head will roll? What about the schools? Some of them are old and may be structurally inadequate to withstand the quake. Do we evacuate? These are our kids, and the possibility of having a vast number of them injured or killed...

Water in, water out: the Rogue watershed:

No one can survive for very long without water. What can be done to maintain the delivery of city water to homes, businesses, and fire hydrants (probably the most important in the critical first hours after the quake)? Will the water even be potable, or will it be contaminated beyond all rational use? And how about county residents who rely on personal wells? Are they going to be fine, or will they have problems, too?

How about the city sewers? It could be a real mess if they are blocked (especially when the sewer rats get hungry and come to the surface looking for, and finding, food). And again, how about those in the county? Will their personal septic systems still function?

How will the quake affect the Rogue? Will water still run downhill to the sea? And what about the ocean itself? Can we expect a tsunami, and if so, what will be it's impact on Gold Beach and the lower Rogue? How about way up here in Grants Pass? Will we see saltwater surging east through the ruins of Caveman Bridge?

The insurance companies:

Okay - it's a problem. So who's gonna pay (someone has to, right)? Sounds like an insurance nightmare to me! And even if they're willing, will they have the funds? How about those without insurance? Are they USCW/OAP or will they find a kind-hearted (and rich) benefactor? Or will the Feds have to step in and bail us out, as they did after Katrina? But New Orleans was a single city, not the entire Pacific Northwest from the coast to the Cascades. Could be a big number! Will THEY have the funds?


Put some quality time into this. It WILL happen... only the timing is uncertain. You may want to contact your agency and get their response. Many of them may have already given some thought to this scenario and will be able to help you with your planning. If they haven't, maybe you can help them. Good luck, and let's come up with a viable plan for all our sakes.

How you will be graded on this activity: There are no official reports or lab materials to turn in - this one is based purely on the APE Factor. Do some quality research, prepare yourself well, and then take an active role in the public forum.


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