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Preparing for Community Tsunami Evacuations, From Inundation to Evacuation Maps, Response Plans, and Exercises

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Manual and Guideline
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Background

In July 2014, the Steering Committee of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (PTWS-SC) endorsed the recommendation of Working Group 3 (Disaster Management and Preparedness) that the next priority of the PTWS was to focus on ‘preparedness’. The primary focus was for communities to know ‘what to do’ and ‘where to go’ when a tsunami warning alert is issued.

The International Tsunami Information Center (ITIC) recommended a capacity building focus on evacuation and proposed a new course, Tsunami Evacuation Maps, Plans, and Procedures (TEMPP), that was accepted by the PTWC Steering Committee, and then affirmed by Member States at the Twenty-sixth session of the ICG/PTWS in April 2015. ITIC enlisted a Course Development Team with practicing expertise in tsunami inundation modelling, scenario identification for evacuation mapping, emergency planning, response and exercising, and community preparedness to help develop the course.

An ICG/PTWS-XXVI (2015) Task Team on Evacuation Planning and Mapping, and an ICG/PTWS-XXVII (2017) Task Team on TEMPP and Tsunami Ready, provided guidance. At the global level, the IOC/TOWS Inter-ICG Task Team on Disaster Management and Preparedness and international experts provided the final review.

The TEMPP training course is intended to be a standardized course and process for the production of reliable and practical community-level tsunami evacuation maps. Targeted trainees were Tsunami National Contacts, National Tsunami Warning Centres and Tsunami Warning Focal Points, staff from Disaster Management Agencies and other governmental institutions (local and national) and leaders from civil society organizations. Tsunami modelling training targeted physical scientists and oceanographers in governmental institutions and universities. The direct outcomes for the participating country include:

  • Communities that know what to do and where to go when a tsunami warning is issued, or when self-responding to the natural warning signs of a tsunami, and

  • Country capability and tools to replicate the community evacuation map process elsewhere.

From July 2015 to February 2017, the ITIC, NOAA Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program (CTWP), and the IOC collaborated to develop and pilot the course in Honduras, inviting Central America and Mexico to participate. The TEMPP course and process built upon previous efforts, and consisted of a linked set of five 1-week training workshops, each building upon the previous, that applied global standardized tools and methodologies on:

  • Inundation Modelling and Inundation Map Development (TEMPP 1 and 2)

  • Evacuation Map Development and Evacuation Planning (TEMPP 3)

  • Tsunami Warning and Emergency Response Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). (TEMPP 4)

  • Conducting Community Tsunami Exercises (including evacuation) (TEMPP 5)

Altogether, 34 participants attended the trainings that were supported by 11 instructors; 8 experts participated in the Seismic Tsunami Sources Expert meeting. Evaluations or feedback sessions at the end of each training workshop provided valuable advice for finalizing the course. In addition, a “Tsunami Ready” pilot was conducted for the town of Cedeño, Honduras, and the community was recognized as Tsunami Ready in February 2017 (http://www.tsunamiready-international.org)

In February 2017, after the completion of the last TEMPP training, the TOWS-WG noted with satisfaction the progress made during the intersessional period on Tsunami Evacuation Mapping, specifically that:

  • PTWS had successfully completed the TEMPP pilot over two years in Honduras

  • ITIC, CTWP, and IOC are ready to provide guidance to countries that want to implement similar projects

  • Existing best practice and evacuation mapping guidelines have been identified

  • PTWS will finalise project documentation and make it available to other regional tsunami Intergovernmental Coordination Groups, noting the interest of Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWMS) and Tsunami and other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (CARIBE-EWS).

This guide concludes the above-mentioned courses and aims to disseminate its methodologies widely.