Maps play important role in tsunami safety

Posted: Monday, June 24, 2002

Some 7,200 people living in and around lower Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay communities from Anchor Point to Nanwalek are considered at-risk when it comes to tsunamis, according to the Center for Tsunami Inundation Mapping Efforts.

The center, created as part of the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program, is mapping the country's Pacific coast, identifying areas of potential tsunami flooding.

Among other things, those maps will help emergency managers designate evacuation routes and aid in long-term planning for vulnerable communities, according to information available on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Web site. For mapping purposes, people considered at-risk are generally those living within a mile of the coastline.

Such mapping can be an important tool for communities seeking designation as TsunamiReady Communities under a national program begun a few years ago. Seward is the only community in Alaska to have achieved that designation so far, but Homer is expected to join the list soon.

The Washington state communities of Long Beach, Ocean Shores and Quinault are the only others so designated on the west coast of the United States, but coastal communities in Oregon, California and Hawaii are working toward the designation, as well.

TsunamiReady is an initiative of the National Weather Services meant to promote tsunami hazard preparedness in Pacific Ocean coastal communities. The program is a collaboration of the weather service's tsunami warning system and federal, state and local emergency management agencies.

To become a TsunamiReady Community, a community must establish an emergency operations center, have the ability to disseminate tsunami warnings, such as sirens and local radio, have a tsunami hazard plan and have a community awareness program.

The addition of a new satellite emergency data system, while not necessary for purposes of the designation application, would nevertheless demonstrate the city's redundant capability to receive and disseminate tsunami warning information, according to Homer Fire Chief Robert Painter. See related story

The city is awaiting the arrival of informational brochures now being printed before submitting its final application for the TsunamiReady Community designation, he said.

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