The Need for a Responsive Tsunami Preparedness Program a Case Sudy of Seaside City Oregon Case Study

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Seaside Tsunami Awareness Program


Saving an indefinite and undeterminable number of lives has proven to depend on effective education and emergency management in tsunami events in the U.S. -- and likely, everywhere else (NAS, 2011). Safety and survival ultimately depend on communities and individuals at risk with the precise knowledge and capability to decide correctly and act promptly and preferably before the event. This knowledge and this capability can only be gained and developed through education before the event. Prolonged shaking of the ground and the drawing down of the shoreline are the natural indications, especially in local communities. These are hints of arriving waves within minutes. No assistance is likely in the early moments or even days, so knowledge and capability are the only things to rely on. There are better opportunities for those communities and individuals at risk to distant tsunamis. Official warnings may be able to reach them to give them sufficient preparation time. These warnings will tell them what to do (NAS).

Triggered by recent tsunami events and their consequences, education efforts and programs have been extended to those at risk (NAS, 2011). These have been aimed at preparing communities, creating and transmitting messages, coordination between people and agencies. However, current outcomes suggest that more effective and improved coordination, more assessments of targets, program effectiveness, the teaching of best practices ad the use of evidence-based approaches, warnings, and emergency management systems are still needed. Major gaps exist between emergency program goals and outcomes. Recommendations include

Evidence-based evaluation research, which shows expected positive results from the program; the results actually proceed from the program itself and not from outside factors or events; peer-reviewed evaluation by experts; and endorsement of the program by a federal agency or reputable research organization in the field (NAS).

The Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA

FEMA (2015) programs and services include community preparedness through its citizen corps, donations and volunteer information, disaster assistance from the government, emergency lodging assistance programs, the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program, Emergency Planning Exercises, an Industry Liaison Program, the Flood Map Assistance, regulatory materials, fire administration, the Freight Rail Security Grant Program, Intercity Bus Security Grant Program, Small Business Program, Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program, National Dam Safety Program, National Incident Management System, National Response Framework, and others (FEMA).

FEMA offers education and training through its Center for Domestic Preparedness, National Training and Education Division, Community Emergency Response Team, Emergency Management Institute Independent Study Program, and its National Training and Education Division (FEMA 2015).

The Program

Ths Oregon coast landscape is always a sight that draws crowds for a walk or a dip in any season (Connor, 2005). But its very location makes it a threat to residents and hikers who are not prepared for disasters like tsunamis. Storms, strong rains, power failures and fires occasionally occur in coastal communities. Less frequently, coastal regions, like Oregon's are also at risk for severe earthquakes, tsunamis, and effects like landslides. What makes the Oregon Coast the most vulnerable to tsunamis are the number of jobs, homes, and services found in the location exposed to possible surges of waves (Connor).

In an effort at preparing for eventual tsunamis, the city government evolved programs and other resources to address the risk (Connor, 2005). These are an earthquake and tornado preparedness and awareness program, a tsunami barrel program, emergency warning systems, NOAA weather radios, text and email alerts, tsunami evacuation maps and brochures, and a tsunami public library (Connor).

General Principles of Evaluation

These should address four questions. These are the frequency of evaluation, the individuals who should conduct the evaluation, what should be evaluated and how the evaluation should be conducted (FEMA, 2015). The evaluation should be done at least once a year. The persons who should conduct it are the emergency manager, members of the local emergency management agency or LEMA and local emergency management committee or LEMC, and elected and appointed local officials occupying higher-level positions. Performance on certain data is the object of evaluation. These data should meets three conditions, namely availability at the time of evaluation, relevance to organizational performance, and comprehensiveness. And emergency managers should assure the measurement of performance based on the full range of organizational responsibilities (FEMA).

Criteria for Risk Assessment

Many managers project and evaluate the success of their training and risk communication programs on the bases of inputs and outputs (FEMA, 2015). Inputs include the number of training participants, training hours and the coverage percentage of the community.

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Inputs of risk communication programs include the number of distributed brochures, community presentations, and the published media stories. The more important basis is output. This means the extent with which the program actually influenced or changed the target population's attitudes and behavior. The best procedures for evaluating these programs are, thus, vastly different from older types. These new ones evaluate the effects of a given initiative on a particular population as distinct from a large group (FEMA).

The criteria for measuring he success of a community risk communication program are similar to that used for training programs (FEMA, 2015). These are reaction, learning, behavior, and results. The reaction criterion refers to the participants' response to the speaker, setting, medium of communication, and theme or message. Learning criterion refers to participants' beliefs on the hazard and hazard adjustments. Behavior criterion measures households' and businesses' implementation of hazard adjustments. And results criterion focuses on the reduction in mortality, morbidity, damage and disruption caused by disasters (FEMA).

Of the four, the easiest to gather are reaction criteria (FEMA, 2015). The hardest to gather are the learning and behavior criteria. Results criteria are very difficult to gather because disasters do not frequently happen. It is also quite difficult to derive logical conclusions from the impact of a single disaster (FEMA).

Evaluation of the Seaside Tsunami Awareness Program

Overview of Seaside City

The city's 6,000 permanent population grows to 40,000 in summer because of its proximity to the edge of Oregon Coast, which is 80 miles from Portland (Seaside, 2015). Because a very large portion of the city is in the tsunami run-up zone, leaders of the community waged an information campaign to prepare its residents for the probable event. The campaign consists of a website, awareness brochures and maps and distributed these to public places like the city hall, grocery stores, the post office, the library and other popular areas. Five outreach events complement their efforts. These are neighborhood education projects, business workshops, school outreach programs, public workshops, and tsunami evacuation drills (Seaside).

The evaluation of the awareness program addressed the financial cost, activity measures outreach event evaluation and surveys (Seaside, 2015). The financial cost was only $50 per month and for supplies. The low financial cost was made possible by 51 volunteers who worked for 1,300 hours and donations of materials and services by citizens. Outreach event evaluations were based on reactions to five outreach events. These were the Neighborhood Educator Project, Business Workshop, School Outreach Program, Public Workshop, and Tsunami Evaluation Drill. Responses to the questionnaires revealed the strengths and weaknesses of the separate events. Mail surveys were also conducted by volunteers before and after the conduct of the program. The volunteers managed to secure the response of approximately 2,300 participants in these outreach activities. The survey also documented program success in achieving learning criteria. These were the identification of tsunami risk areas, cues for evacuation, the proper way of evacuating, and the identification of safe zones (Seaside).

It also rated the program as effective in raising the percentage of households with emergency plans (Seaside, 2015). The highest level of participation was in the Neighborhood Educator Program at 44% and the Tsunami Evacuation Drill at 30%. Low-level participation was found in public workshop at 7%, school outreach at 11%, news media coverage at 5%, business workshops at 3% and website at only 2%. The evaluation showed the negative impact of the School Outreach Program for targeting children who could not properly fill out questionnaires. It also underestimated the impact of business workshops for the limited number of target population. The survey also noted the opinion of 14% of the respondents who felt that the program was not helpful. About 7% of the respondents were furthermore not aware of the program. And the survey concluded with the identification of areas of improvement (Seaside).

Key Components

The National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program tied up with the National Weather Service in 2000 in creating the Tsunami Ready Community Program (Scott, 2014). These programs were meant to help residents and other individuals present in coastal areas plan and respond to tsunamis. In order to do so, these communities and individuals must meet the criteria for emergency planning and management actions. These actions are categorized into mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery (Scott).

A study was conducted on 50 participants to test the acceptability and use of key components of tsunami-ready.....

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