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Oregon Coast better prepared for emergencies, thanks to safety signs

May 8, 2015

Beachgoers should watch for new numbered signs along the shore, part of a beach safety project coordinated by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) to help emergency personnel respond quic kly.

Since 2008, OPRD has installed bright yellow signs with bold black letters 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, OPRD has also installed more than 200 beach safety signs 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 OPRD. "Our goal was to clearly convey information that will keep visitors safe, like staying back from cliff edges and staying off logs. At the same time, we also aimed to reduce sign clutter and create a consistent and professional message from north to south."

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.

A committee of representatives from OPRD, North Lincoln Fire & Rescue, local coastal communities and members of the public began meeting in 2004 to discuss beach safety signs. OPRD installed the first signs in November 2008 in Lincoln City and Devils Lake. To date, the department has installed 424 signs 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 currently working with the USFS to resolve archaeological and other issues on federal land before proceeding with the project.

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.