Evidence-Based Support for the Characteristics of Tsunami Warning Messages for Local, Regional and Distant Sources

Monday, 15 December 2014: 9:45 AM
Chris E. Gregg1,2, David Moore Johnston2,3, John Howard Sorensen4, Barbara Vogt Sorensen4 and Paul Whitmore5, (1)East Tennessee State University, Department of Geosciences, Johnson City, TN, United States, (2)University of Hawaii at Manoa, Geology and Geophysics, Honolulu, HI, United States, (3)Joint Centre for Disaster Research, Wellington, New Zealand, (4)Hazards, Inc, Knoxville, TN, United States, (5)NOAA National Tsunami Warning Center, Palmer, AK, United States
Many studies since 2004 have documented the dissemination and receipt of risk information for local to distant tsunamis and factors influencing people’s responses. A few earlier tsunami studies and numerous studies of other hazards provide additional support for developing effective tsunami messages. This study explores evidence-based approaches to developing such messages for the Pacific and National Tsunami Warning Centers in the US. It extends a message metric developed for the NWS Tsunami Program.

People at risk to tsunamis receive information from multiple sources through multiple channels. Sources are official and informal and environmental and social cues. Traditionally, official tsunami messages followed a linear dissemination path through relatively few channels from warning center to emergency management to public and media. However, the digital age has brought about a fundamental change in the dissemination and receipt of official and informal communications. Information is now disseminated in very non-linear paths and all end-user groups may receive the same message simultaneously.

Research has demonstrated a range of factors that influence rapid respond to an initial real or perceived threat. Immediate response is less common than one involving delayed protective actions where people first engage in “milling behavior” to exchange information and confirm the warning before taking protective action. The most important message factors to achieve rapid response focus on the content and style of the message and the frequency of dissemination.

Previously we developed a tsunami message metric consisting of 21 factors divided into message content and style and receiver characteristics. Initially, each factor was equally weighted to identify gaps, but here we extend the work by weighting specific factors. This utilizes recent research that identifies the most important determinants of protective action. We then discuss the prioritization of message information in the context of potentially limited space in evolving tsunami messages issued by the warning centers.