Communicating Volcanic Hazards in the North Pacific

Friday, 19 December 2014
Jonathan Dehn, Peter Webley and Keith W Cunningham, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Geophysical Institute, Fairbanks, AK, United States
For over 25 years, effective hazard communication has been key to effective mitigation of volcanic hazards in the North Pacific. These hazards are omnipresent, with a large event happening in Alaska every few years to a decade, though in many cases can happen with little or no warning (e.g. Kasatochi and Okmok in 2008). Here a useful hazard mitigation strategy has been built on (1) a large database of historic activity from many datasets, (2) an operational alert system with graduated levels of concern, (3) scenario planning, and (4) routine checks and communication with emergency managers and the public. These baseline efforts are then enhanced in the time of crisis with coordinated talking points, targeted studies and public outreach. Scientists naturally tend to target other scientists as their audience, whereas in effective monitoring of hazards that may only occur on year to decadal timescales, details can distract from the essentially important information. Creating talking points and practice in public communications can help make hazard response a part of the culture. Promoting situational awareness and familiarity can relieve indecision and concerns at the time of a crisis.