The TsunamiReady Program

TsunamiReady is an initiative that promotes tsunami hazard preparedness as an active collaboration among Federal, state and local emergency management agencies, the public, and the NWS tsunami warning system. This collaboration functions for the purpose of supporting better and more consistent tsunami awareness and mitigation efforts among communities at risk. Through the TsunamiReady program, NOAA’s National Weather Service gives communities the skills and education needed to survive a tsunami before, during and after the event. TsunamiReady was designed to help community leaders and emergency managers strengthen their local tsunami operations.  (NOAA, N/D)

 

The TsunamiReady program is based on the NWS StormReady model (which can be viewed by accessing http://www.stormready.noaa.gov/).  The primary goal of TsunamiReady is the improvement of public safety during tsunami emergencies.  As stated above, TsunamiReady is designed for those coastal communities that are at known risk of the tsunami hazard (tsunami hazard risk maps can be seen by accessing http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/tsunami/time/). 

 

Traditionally, tsunami hazard planning along the U.S. West Coast and Alaska has been widely neglected because of the statistically-low incidence of tsunamis.  As result of that perceived ‘rarity’, many individuals and communities have not worked to become as "tsunami-aware" as they could and should be.  Among those communities that are considered to be prepared, that level of exhibited preparedness varies significantly (NWS, N/D).

 

However, as is true with the earthquakes and other rare events that generate tsunamis, avoidable casualties and property damage will only continue to rise unless these at-risk communities become better prepared for tsunamis.  As previously mentioned, readiness involves two key components: awareness and mitigationAwareness involves educating key decision makers, emergency managers, and the public about the nature (physical processes) and threat (frequency of occurrence, impact) of the tsunami hazard, while mitigation involves taking steps before the tsunami occurs to lessen the impact (loss of life and property) of that event when it does occur. Like is true with earthquakes, there is no question tsunamis will strike again.

The National Weather Service (NWS) TsunamiReady program was designed to meet both of the recognized elements of a useful readiness effort: it is designed to educate local emergency management officials and their public, and to promote a well-designed tsunami emergency response plan for each community.

Program Objectives

 

TsunamiReady promotes tsunami hazard readiness as an active collaboration among Federal, state and local emergency management agencies, the public, and the NWS tsunami warning system. This collaboration supports better and more consistent tsunami awareness and mitigation efforts among communities at risk. The main goal is improvement of public safety during tsunami emergencies. To meet this goal, the following objectives need to be met by the community:

 

  • Create minimum standard guidelines for a community to follow for adequate tsunami readiness
  • Encourage consistency in educational materials and response among communities and states
  • Recognize communities that have adopted TsunamiReady guidelines
  • Increase public awareness and understanding of the tsunami hazard
  • Improve community pre-planning for tsunami disasters

Program Methodology

 

The processes and guidelines used in the TsunamiReady program were modeled to resemble those of the National Weather Service “StormReady” program. TsunamiReady established minimum guidelines for a community to be awarded the TsunamiReady recognition, thus promoting minimum standards based upon expert knowledge rather than subjective considerations.  Communities that accept the challenge to become TsunamiReady, and are deemed to have met these requirements set by the NWS TsunamiReady program, are designated as “TsunamiReady Communities.”  Guidelines to achieve TsunamiReady recognition are given in the following table, and discussed in detail in the pages immediately following. Four community categories (based upon the population of the community, and provided in the table’s heading) are used to measure tsunami readiness. 

 

Note the Guideline 3 has been skipped as it refers exclusively to the StormReady program, which shares these guidelines with the TsunamiReady program.  This is a key factor to consider, as it ensures by default that all communities that are StormReady will also be TsunamiReady (as of 2002).  As such, all communities being certified for TsunamiReady also must pass all StormReady criteria.  StormReady requires access to local weather monitoring equipment (Guideline 3) and some further administrative requirements (Guideline 6). Other than that, the requirements are identical.

 

Guidelines Population

 

  < 2,500 2,500 - 14,999 15,000 - 40,000 >40,000
1: Communications and Coordination        
24 hr Warning Point (WP) X X X X
Emergency Operations Center   X X X
2: Tsunami Warning Reception        
Number of ways for EOC/WP to receive NWS tsunami messages (If in range, one must be NWR with tone-alert, NWR-SAME is preferred) 3 4 4 4
4: Warning Dissemination        
Number of ways for EOC/WP to disseminate warnings to public 1 2 3 4
NWR tone-alert receivers in public facilities (where available) X X X X
For county/borough warning points, county/borough communication network ensuring information flow between communities X X X X
5: Community Preparedness        
Number of annual tsunami awareness programs 1 2 3 4
Designate/establish tsunami shelter/area in safe zone X X X X
Designate tsunami evacuation areas and evacuation routes, and install evacuation route signs X X X X
Provide written, locality specific, tsunami hazard response material to public. X X X X
Schools: encourage tsunami hazard curriculum, practice evacuations, and provide safety material to staff and students X X X X
6: Administrative        
Develop formal tsunami hazard operations plan X X X X
Yearly meeting/discussion by emergency manager with NWS X X X X
Visits by NWS official to community at least every other year X X X X

 

Guideline 1: Communications and Coordination Center

 

It is well known that key to any effective hazards management program is effective communication. This could not be truer when considering tsunami-related emergencies, since the arrival of the giant waves can occur within minutes of the initial precipitating event. These so-called "short-fused" events, therefore, require an immediate, but careful, systematic and appropriate response. To ensure such a proper response, TsunamiReady requires that communities establish the following:

 

  1. 24-Hour Warning Point. It is the NWS, not the community, which determines a Tsunami threat exists.  Therefore, in order to receive recognition under the TsunamiReady Program, an applying agency needs to establish a 24-hour warning point (WP) that can receive NWS tsunami information in addition to providing local reports and advice to constituents. Typically, the functions of this type of facility are merely incorporated into the existing daily operation of a law enforcement or fire department dispatching (Emergency Communications Center (ECC)) point.

 

For cities or towns without a local dispatching point, a county agency could act in that capacity for them. In Alaska, where there may be communities that have populations of less than 2,500 residents and no county agency to act as a 24-hour warning point, the community is required to designate responsible members of the community who are able to receive warnings 24 hours per day, and who have the authority to activate local warning systems. Specifically, the warning point is required to have:

  • 24-hour operations.
  • Warning reception capability.
  • Warning dissemination capability.
  • Ability and authority to activate local warning system(s).
  1. Emergency Operations Center. Agencies serving jurisdictions larger than 2,500 people are required to have the ability to activate an emergency operations center (EOC). It must be staffed during tsunami events to execute the warning point's tsunami warning functions. The following list summarizes the tsunami-related roles required of the EOC:
  • Activate, based on predetermined guidelines related to NWS tsunami information and/or tsunami events.
  • Staff with emergency management director or designee.
  • Establish warning reception/dissemination capabilities equal to or better than the warning point.
  • Maintain the ability to communicate with adjacent EOCs/Warning Points.
  • Maintain the ability to communicate with local NWS office or Tsunami Warning Center.

Guideline 2: Tsunami Warning Reception

 

Warning points and EOCs each need multiple ways to receive NWS tsunami warnings. TsunamiReady guidelines to receive NWS warnings in an EOC/WP require a combination of the following, based on population:

  • NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) receiver with tone alert. Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) is preferred. Required for recognition only if within range of transmitter.
  • NOAA Weather Wire drop: Satellite downlink data feed from NWS.
  • Emergency Managers Weather Information Network (EMWIN) receiver: Satellite feed and/or VHF radio transmission of NWS products.
  • Statewide Telecommunications System: Automatic relay of NWS products on statewide emergency management or law enforcement system
  • Statewide warning fan-out system: State authorized system of passing message throughout warning area
  • NOAA Weather Wire via Internet NOAAport Lite: Provides alarmed warning messages through a dedicated Internet connection
  • Direct link to NWS office: e.g. amateur or VHF radio
  • E-mail from Tsunami Warning Center: Direct e-mail from Warning Center to emergency manager
  • Pager message from Tsunami Warning Center: Page issued from Warning Center directly to EOC/WP
  • Radio/TV via Emergency Alert System: Local Radio/TV or cable TV
  • US Coast Guard broadcasts: WP/EOC monitoring of USCG marine channels
  • National Warning System (NAWAS) drop: FEMA-controlled civil defense hotline

Guideline 4: Warning Dissemination

 

  1. Upon receipt of NWS warnings or other reliable information suggesting a tsunami is imminent, local emergency officials must be able to communicate this threat information with as much of the population as possible. This is fundamental to making the preparedness program effective.  As such, receiving TsunamiReady recognition requires that communities have one or more of the following means of ensuring timely warning dissemination to their citizens (based upon population, as described in the table above):
  • A community program that subsidizes the purchase of NWR. (NWR receiver with tone alert. SAME is preferred. Required for recognition only if within range of transmitter.)
  • Outdoor warning sirens.
  • Television audio/video overrides.
  • Other locally-controlled methods, e.g. local broadcast system or emergency vehicles.
  • Phone messaging (dial-down) systems.
  1. It is required that at least one NWR, equipped with a tone alert receiver, be located in each critical public access and government-owned building, and must include 24 hour warning point, EOC, School Superintendent office or equivalent.  Critical public access buildings are defined by each community's tsunami warning plan. Locations that are recommended for inclusion by the NWS include: all schools, public libraries, hospitals, fairgrounds, parks and recreational areas, public utilities, sports arenas, Departments of Transportation, and designated shelter areas. (SAME is preferred. This is required for recognition only if the community exists within range of a transmitter.)
  2. Counties/Boroughs only: a county/borough-wide communications network ensuring the flow of information among all cities and towns within those administrative borders. This would include provision of a warning point for the smaller towns, and fanning out of the message as required by state policy.

Guideline 5: Community Preparedness

 

Public education is vital in preparing citizens to respond properly to tsunami threats. An educated public is more likely to take the steps required to receive tsunami warnings, recognize potentially threatening tsunami events when they exist, and respond appropriately to those events. Therefore, communities that are seeking recognition in the TsunamiReady Program must be able to:

  • Conduct or sponsor tsunami awareness programs in schools, hospitals, fairs, workshops, and community meetings (the actual number of talks that must be given each year is based upon the community’s population).
  • Define tsunami evacuation areas and evacuation routes, and install evacuation route signs.
  • Designate a tsunami shelter/area outside the hazard zone.
  • Provide written tsunami hazard information to the populace, including:
    • Hazard zone maps
    • Evacuation routes
    • Basic tsunami information

These instructions can be distributed through mailings (utility bills, for example), within phone books, and posted at common meeting points located throughout the community, such as libraries, supermarkets, and public buildings.

  • Local schools must meet the following guidelines:
    • Encourage the inclusion of tsunami information in primary and secondary school curriculums. NWS will help identify curriculum support material.
    • Provide an opportunity biennially for a tsunami awareness presentation.
    • Schools within the defined hazard zone must have tsunami evacuation drills at least biennially.
    • Written safety material should be provided to all staff and students.
    • Have an earthquake plan.

Guideline 6: Administrative

 

No program can be successful without formal planning and a proactive administration. The following administrative requirements are necessary for a community to be recognized in the TsunamiReady Program:

 

  1. A tsunami warning plan must be in place and approved by the local governing body. This plan must address the following:
  • Warning point procedures.
  • EOC activation guidelines and procedures.
  • Warning point and EOC personnel specification.
  • Hazard zone map with evacuation routes.
  • Procedures for canceling an emergency for those less-than-destructive tsunamis.
  • Guidelines and procedures for activation of sirens, cable TV override, and/or local system activation in accordance with state Emergency Alert System (EAS) plans, and warning fan-out procedures, if necessary.
  • Annual exercises.
  1. Yearly visits or discussions with local NWS Forecast Office Warning Coordination Meteorologist or Tsunami Warning Center personnel must be conducted. This can include a visit to the NWS office, a phone discussion, or e-mail communication.

 

  1. NWS officials will commit to visit accredited communities, at least every other year, to tour EOCs/Warning Points and meet with key officials.
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