CANNON BEACH, Ore. (AP) — It's a leisurely stroll with purpose.
Cannon Beach City Councilor Nancy Giasson has been organizing weekly walks this summer to help North Coast residents become more confident about their ability to find safety if a massive Cascadia earthquake and ensuing tsunami were to strike.
Participants gather every Friday at Cannon Beach Community Church and receive an overview of the evacuation route they're going to take from Giasson or from Les Wierson, who developed maps for the 10 routes throughout town.
Following each 60-to-90 minute walk, Giasson writes a report that describes the route and problems encountered, and relays ideas from participants about how the evacuation process can be improved.
"It started out as an adventure, and it has turned out as an extraordinary educational opportunity," Giasson told The Daily Astorian newspaper.
The walks continue every Friday through Sept. 28. Some routes will be repeated, and at least two are scheduled in the nearby city of Seaside.
The participants are joined by members of the city's emergency preparedness committee, who may discuss a possible alternate route if the path they're on is blocked by fallen trees or other debris. They might point out the location of a structure that has been designated a "safe house" or look for road signs telling them where the evacuation assembly area is.
Wierson said he developed new evacuation maps after finding several mistakes in the old ones.
"In the Fourth of July parade, we were trying to get information out, and our slogan was, 'If the ground shakes, run for the hills,'" Wierson said. "And I looked around, and I didn't know exactly where the hills were."
The former city engineer figured that if he couldn't determine how to reach the high ground, then nobody did.
Besides evacuation routes, the maps display orange and yellow lines showing where past tsunamis have reached. They also include research by Oregon State University tsunami experts who have calculated how fast a tsunami will reach shore, where people will run and how quickly they need to reach safety.
Dee Spooner, whose family is new to the area, said before the walks she knew "absolutely nothing" about how to prepare for a tsunami. Now, when she and her husband take a stroll, they look for areas where they might camp if necessary. They're also scheduling a family "event" to practice an evacuation.
"Now, I have more confidence," Spooner said. "I have a game plan. I have a 'go' bag, and I can get beyond my initial panic."
Information from: The Daily Astorian, http://www.dailyastorian.com
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press