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Tsunami Warning and Preparedness: An Assessment of the U.S. Tsunami Program
findings on the composition and delivery of effective warning messages, especially with regard to the importance of delivering a consistent and clear message when there are multiple information sources. A range of remedies is discussed in the report, from harmonizing message content to changing the organizational structure, such as merging the centers.
Previous reports have called for a national tsunami risk assessment to allocate funding based on the number of people, their vulnerability, or economic assets at risk. The committee endorses this concept and finds that progress is slow toward the completion of such an assessment and is limited by several factors:
incomplete knowledge of tsunami sources;
inconsistent access to high-quality bathymetric and topographic data;
differences in inundation modeling approaches and choice of source parameters for the same event between states; and
lack of vulnerability assessments that inventory the number, type, awareness, levels of preparedness, and evacuation potential of populations in tsunami-prone areas.
This report recommends stronger NOAA and NTHMP leadership in assessing tsunami sources, developing national guidelines and metrics for creating consistent evacuation maps, identifying vulnerable populations, and inventorying and evaluating education and preparedness efforts. Also, it is important to design effective interagency exercises, use professional emergency-management standards to prepare communities, and prioritize funding based on tsunami risk.
In addition, the report describes areas of research and development that would improve tsunami education, preparation, and detection:
metrics to assess progress in education and preparedness efforts;
inundation and forecast models that include an open validation and accreditation process, as well as post-event data validation;
improved reliability, station coverage, and operations of the newly deployed DART network;
periodic and comprehensive vulnerability assessments;
coordination for post-tsunami event reconnaissance; and
new tsunami detection techniques and analysis.
Regular, independent scientific review of the various elements of the tsunami program would be valuable in identifying and addressing research needs and in ensuring the effective implementation of new technologies and protocols.
Minimizing future losses to the nation from tsunamis requires persistent progress across the broad spectrum of efforts the report reviews: risk assessment, public education, government coordination, detection and forecasting, and warning-center operations. Sustained efforts in all these areas will be needed for communities to prepare for an event that may occur years to decades in the future, but only affords minutes or hours for people to respond.