In many areas, the Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19) has overwhelmed humanitarian organisations and disaster management agencies. A critical question in natural disaster response in the backdrop of a concurrent pandemic is how to manage evacuations for tsunamis, cyclones, floods, volcanic eruptions, etc.
At the time of a disaster caused by natural hazards, people will tend to be in close proximity either due to limited space, such as evacuation shelter, or to get a sense of security and comfort. This is generally contrary to COVID-19 directives that request people to keep physical distance. Disregard for physical distancing may turn an evacuation site into COVID-19 infection epicentre.
Most tsunamis in Indonesia are local tsunamis caused by tectonic earthquakes. A local source tsunami can arrive in minutes. It is important to recognise the natural warning signs and evacuate quickly without waiting for official warning or evacuation orders from the authorities. Natural warning signs can include a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand or a long earthquake that lasts more than a minute. During a tsunami emergency the community must evacuate immediately to a safe place (a designated evacuation site, elevated plateau, or away from the coast), even during this COVID-19 situation.
In conducting (self) evacuation, as much as it is possible, communities are required to continue to pay attention to the physical distancing, wearing masks, and for communities living in regions that have implemented Large-Scale Social Restriction policy (PSBB) to follow the PSBB guidance whenever possible.
This guide addresses evacuation during a tsunami emergency time span – shortly after an earthquake (or submarine landslide or volcanic eruption in sea) is observed until the tsunami warning emergency is declared over.
This guide serves as a reference and can be adapted for evacuation and emergency response associated with other natural disasters in the backdrop of COVID-19.