Free Response Essay On Tsunami Warning

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Summary

A tsunami is a series of waves that can move on shore rapidly, but last for several hours and flood coastal communities with little warning. Tsunamis can be triggered by a variety of geological processes such as earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, or meteorite impacts. Since modern record keeping began in 1800, they have taken many lives in Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, California, Oregon, and American Samoa. The threat of a potentially catastrophic tsunami on U.S. soil looms in seismically active regions in the Pacific and Atlantic (Figure S.1). More recently, tsunamis generated by earthquakes in West Java (July 2006), Samoa (September 2009), and Chile (February 2010) have flooded some U.S. coastlines, highlighting the need for a focused and well-coordinated effort to minimize the loss of life and property.

In the wake of the catastrophic 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which caused more than 200,000 deaths and widespread destruction, Congress passed two laws intended to increase efforts to diminish the potential impact of a tsunami. The first P.L. 109-13 in 2005 was aimed at expanding the current tsunami detection system; and the second P.L. 109-424 in 2006 asked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP) to strengthen the nation’s tsunami detection, warning, education, and preparedness efforts.

At the same time, Congress charged the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to review the nation’s progress toward the ability to detect and forecast tsunamis. In particular, the committee was asked to review how the expansion of the sea level sensor network has improved the ability to detect and forecast tsunamis; how the tsunami program could be improved; and how well it is coordinated with other efforts. The NAS expanded the scope of the study to also review the nation’s ability to minimize the impact from future tsunamis by educating and preparing the American public. The complete statement of task is provided in Appendix B.

Overall, the committee found that the nation’s tsunami efforts have improved in several ways since 2004. For example, the expansion of the Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) sensor network has improved the ability to detect and forecast the size of tsunamis, the number and quality of hazard and evacuation maps has increased, and several states have assessed the number and types of vulnerable individuals in tsunami-prone areas. In addition, numerous tsunami education and awareness efforts have been initiated.

However, current capabilities are still not sufficient to meet the challenge posed by a tsunami generated close to land (see Box S.1). Near-field tsunamis can reach the coast just minutes after the triggering event—leaving little time to disseminate official warning messages. Tsunami education and preparation is necessary to ensure people are aware of the tsunami risk in their community and know how to recognize natural cues, such as the tremors of a tsunami-triggering earthquake, even if they do not receive an official warning. Communities at a

• Drop, cover, and hold on to protect yourself from the earthquake.

• When the shaking stops, gather members of your household and review your evacuation plan. A tsunami may be coming within minutes.

• Use a NOAA Weather Radio or stay tuned to a Coast Guard emergency frequency station, or a local radio or television station for updated emergency information.

• Follow instructions issued by local authorities. Recommended evacuation routes may be different from the one you planned, or you may be advised to climb higher.

• If you hear an official tsunami warning or detect signs of a tsunami, evacuate at once. A tsunami warning is issued when authorities are certain that a tsunami threat exists, and there may be little time to get out.

• Take your emergency preparedness kit. Having supplies will make you more comfortable during the evacuation.

• If you evacuate, take your animals with you. If it is not safe for you, it is not safe for them.

• Get to higher ground as far inland as possible. Watching a tsunami from the beach or cliffs could put you in grave danger. If you can see the wave, you are too close to escape it.

• Avoid downed power lines and stay away from buildings and bridges from which heavy objects might fall during an aftershock.

• Stay away until local officials tell you it is safe. A tsunami is a series of waves that may continue for hours. Do not assume that after one wave the danger is over. The next wave may be larger than the first one.

• If you evacuate, take your animals with you. If it is not safe for you, it is not safe for them.

• Get to higher ground as far inland as possible. Watching a tsunami from the beach or cliffs could put you in grave danger. If you can see the wave, you are too close to escape it.

• Avoid downed power lines and stay away from buildings and bridges from which heavy objects might fall during an aftershock.

• Stay away until local officials tell you it is safe. A tsunami is a series of waves that may continue for hours. Do not assume that after one wave the danger is over. The next wave may be larger than the first one.

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