On August 21, 2017, the first total solar eclipse since 1979 will be visible from the continental United States. Even more exciting, the path of totality will go right through Oregon. Eclipse chasers from across the country and world have already made their travel plans for this event. Hotels and campgrounds within the path of totality have been sold out – some for years. It has been said that Oregon should expect one million visitors for this unique opportunity. The next total solar eclipse to reach Oregon will be in 2169.

With this anticipated influx of people, members need to think of safety practices to mitigate losses. The following are suggestions from SDAO: 

• If your district is renting property to someone, use a facility use agreement that specifies your expectations. The SDAO Pre-Loss Department can review these. (Park and recreation and port districts)
• Ensure campers do not block fire lanes.
• Remind all employees to have patience and practice defensive driving.
• Enact fire control measures due to hot August temperatures.
• Use security guards to protect your property.
• Provide adequate lighting for people at night to reduce trip hazards.
• Use the TULIP Program, if possible.
• Stock up on extra supplies.

Some members have considered renting out their property similar to a campground for this event. If this is the case for your district, please understand that there are only two types of special districts authorized to operate a campground – park and recreation and port. If your district is not either of these two types, you may not have coverage under the SDIS Liability Coverage Document.

The State Fire Marshal and State Police are working with counties to have ready-response stations at strategic traffic points along the path of totality and major routes. They plan to have more dispatchers and medics on staff that weekend and will be placing signage and trailers to help move traffic. If there are any events being planned in your district, it is wise to have an exit plan or plans to keep viewers at their location after the event to eliminate high levels of traffic on the road.

Please also remember that you must use special eye protection to look at the sun. The only time you can remove your protective eyewear is if you are in the path of totality and the sun is totally eclipsed. NASA recommends wearing glasses with a special filter or using a DIY pinhole projector.

Tips from Oregon Office of Emergency Management

Suggestions for residents:

• Be prepared for crowds, lines and traffic. Be patient.
• Have snacks, water and first-aid supplies on hand in case crowds/lines/traffic become paramount.
• Become aware of the beauty, splendor and hazards that are all part of Oregon. Know what to do and where to go in the event of severe heat, wildfires, earthquakes and other natural disasters.
• Have an emergency kit and an emergency plan; make sure family members or friends back home know your schedule, when you are expected to return and your plan if something happens.

Suggestions for employers:

• Prepare for a big jump in customers. Grocery stores, gas stations, hotels, restaurants, transportation services, coffee shops, retail stores, urgent care clinics and many other establishments will experience a jump in business. We encourage them to order goods and schedule staff accordingly.
• Be aware that many visitors will be camping in both authorized and unauthorized locations; expect customers who may be primarily interested in using rest rooms.
• Encourage employees to have a full tank of gas prior to the time visitors begin to arrive in the area. Lines for fuel may occur and you’ll want staff to be able to get to work.
• Be prepared for more cash transactions and potential challenges with credit/debit card transactions taking longer than usual because of increased volumes. Consider having tills set up to accommodate more cash transactions.
• Be prepared for cell service overloads; there may be service disruptions due to the increase in visitors using networks. Visitors may have urgent requests to use your business telephone line if they are having trouble with cell service. Decide
how you want to handle these requests and make sure employees know what to do.
• Talk to suppliers. Some suppliers may be considering delivery schedule changes due to the event(s). Suppliers may also be looking at how the increased traffic on rural roads may impact delivery times.

A total eclipse in Oregon is a once or twice-in-a-lifetime event. It is key to be prepared for all possible scenarios. If you have any questions about the above information, please contact us at sdao@sdao.com.

Tips from the Oregon State Fire Marshal