The Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group: Promoting Earthquake and Tsunami Resilience on California’s North Coast

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 3:25 PM
Lorinda A Dengler, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA, United States, Cindy Henderson, Del Norte County Office of Emergency Services, Crescent City, CA, United States, Dan Larkin, Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services, Eureka, CA, United States, Troy Nicolini, NOAA - NWS Eureka Forecast Office, Eureka, CA, United States and Vicki Ozaki, Redwood National and State Parks, Arcata, CA, United States
In historic times, Northern California has suffered the greatest losses from tsunamis in the U.S. contiguous 48 states. 39 tsunamis have been recorded in the region since 1933, including five that caused damage. This paper describes the Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group (RCTWG), an organization formed in 1996 to address the tsunami threat from both near and far sources. It includes representatives from government agencies, public, private and volunteer organizations, academic institutions, and individuals interested in working to reduce tsunami risk. The geographic isolation and absence of scientific agencies such as the USGS and CGS in the region, and relatively frequent occurrence of both earthquakes and tsunami events has created a unique role for the RCTWG, with activities ranging from basic research to policy and education and outreach programs. Regional interest in tsunami issues began in the early 1990s when there was relatively little interest in tsunamis elsewhere in the state. As a result, the group pioneered tsunami messaging and outreach programs. Beginning in 2008, the RCTWG has partnered with the National Weather Service and the California Office of Emergency Services in conducting the annual “live code” tsunami communications tests, the only area outside of Alaska to do so. In 2009, the RCTWG joined with the Southern California Earthquake Alliance and the Bay Area Earthquake Alliance to form the Earthquake Country Alliance to promote a coordinated and consistent approach to both earthquake and tsunami preparedness throughout the state. The RCTWG has produced and promoted a variety of preparedness projects including hazard mapping and sign placement, an annual “Earthquake – Tsunami Room” at County Fairs, public service announcements and print material, assisting in TsunamiReady community recognition, and facilitating numerous multi-agency, multidiscipline coordinated exercises, and community evacuation drills. Nine assessment surveys from 1993 to 2013 have tracked preparedness actions and personal awareness of tsunami hazards. Over the twenty-year period covered by the surveys, respondents aware of a local tsunami hazard increased from 51 to 90 percent and awareness of the Cascadia subduction zone increased from 16 to 60 percent.