March 9, 2019 — Humans need water to survive, with our need for water greater than the need for food when it comes to maintaining life. Because clean water is essential to good health, a threat to our water supplies from a catastrophic natural event could place millions of Oregonians in mortal danger.
This type of scenario is central to a project recently completed by Florence-area Eagle Scout Daniel Olson.
Olson, a Siuslaw High School senior, has been working with Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue’s Chief of Operations Jim Dickerson and with Frank Nulty, a member of the Western Lane Emergency Operations Group, (WLEOG) to develop inexpensive water filtration systems that can be readily deployed at pre-selected locations around Florence. This placement would ensure that some clean water is available for area residents in the event of a major natural disaster.
“Daniel was asked to design and build an up-scale Water Purification Station, based upon the purification unit which Boy Scout Troops use to support their ‘Remote Lakeside Bivouac,’” Nulty said. “This station would provide safe drinking water for our Emergency Operations Center and associated emergency responders.”
Experts in disaster preparation have developed computer simulations of quakes hitting the Cascadia Fault Zone, which predict that much of the infrastructure that provides essential services, like the Florence Water Treatment Plant, would be destroyed. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has estimated that a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami along the Cascadia rift could kill 13,000 people, injure another 27,000, displace 1 million people and leave another 2.5 million in need of food and water.
“Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast,” said Kenneth Murphy, the head of the FEMA division responsible for the Cascadia Region.
Nulty agreed with Murphy’s position, adding the prediction might be a little harsh.
“The agency expects to see seriously damaged or destroyed 88 percent of ports and potable water sources; 77 percent of fire stations and wastewater treatment plants; two-thirds of all airports, hospitals, railways and schools; and almost half of all highway bridges, police stations and emergency command centers,” he said.
There is also the strong possibility that almost 3,000 miles of natural gas pipelines, nearly 750 electric power facilities and a million residential buildings will be significantly damaged or destroyed by a major Cascadia event.
“The FEMA Region 10 Director clearly indicates that virtually every residence located between the I-5 Corridor and the Pacific Ocean, will be plunged into third world conditions during a Cascadia Earthquake/Tsunami,” Nulty said.
An estimated eight million people live along the Cascadia Fault.
WLEOG works with civic entities that are trusted with ensuring public safety, like emergency response agencies and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), to assist in preparing for a natural disaster. To those professional preppers, there is clear information that residents will not have taken the proper precautions to ensure they have the basics — food, water and shelter — to survive 72 or more hours without power or outside assistance.
That lack of prep is one of the main reasons Nulty is glad Olson has finished work on his project and delivered the systems.
“We want all community members to prepare in advance for providing their own safe water and safe sanitation equipment,” Nulty said, adding that Olson’s chosen model, the Sawyer .02 Micron Water Purification unit, can be easily utilized for families.
“Essentially, Daniel, with his Eagle Scout Project, has ensured 55 gallons of drinking water for three areas when we have a catastrophic event,” Dickerson said. “The three filtration and storage systems will be strategically placed where we can distribute clean water for the citizens and responders. Daniel did a great job, and WLEOG and Siuslaw Valley are very grateful.”
The determination of the final placement of the three filtration systems will be made by WLEOG.
Olson is preparing to graduate from Siuslaw High School and enlist in the U.S. Air Force. Afterwards, he plans to attend college on the G.I. Bill.
For more information on local emergency preparedness suggestions, visit wleog.org.