Public Policy Issues Associated with Tsunami Hazard Mitigation, Response and Recovery: Transferable Lessons from Recent Global Disasters

Monday, 15 December 2014: 8:00 AM
Laurie Johnson, Self Employed, Washington, DC, United States
Since 2004, a sequence of devastating tsunamis has taken the lives of more than 300,000 people worldwide. The path of destruction left by each is typically measured in hundreds of meters to a few kilometers and its breadth can extend for hundreds even thousands of kilometers, crossing towns and countries and even traversing an entire oceanic basin. Tsunami disasters in Indonesia, Chile, Japan and elsewhere have also shown that the almost binary nature of tsunami impacts can present some unique risk reduction, response, recovery and rebuilding challenges, with transferable lessons to other tsunami vulnerable coastal communities around the world. In particular, the trauma can motivate survivors to relocate homes, jobs, and even whole communities to safer ground, sometimes at tremendous social and financial costs. For governments, the level of concentrated devastation usually exceeds the local capacity to respond and thus requires complex inter-governmental arrangements with regional, national and even international partners to support the recovery of impacted communities, infrastructure and economies. Two parallel projects underway in California since 2011—the SAFRR (Science Application for Risk Reduction) tsunami scenario project and the California Tsunami Policy Working Group (CTPWG)—have worked to digest key lessons from recent tsunami disasters, with an emphasis on identifying gaps to be addressed in the current state and federal policy framework to enhance tsunami risk awareness, hazard mitigation, and response and recovery planning ahead of disaster and also improve post-disaster implementation practices following a future California or U.S. tsunami event.