Risk and Vulnerability to Natural Hazards

The 2004 Indian Ocean, 2010 Chilean, and 2011 Tohoku disasters have shown how tsunamis are significant threats to coastal communities. To help U.S. coastal communities prepare for future tsunamis, we’ve completed projects related to population exposure and sensitivity, pedestrian evacuation modeling, and vertical-evacuation decision support.

A recent article of ours in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences captures many aspects of our tsunami-related research. Focusing on tsunamis associated with a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, the article integrates GIS methods to identify the number and characteristics of people in hazard zones, evacuation modeling to estimate travel times to safety, and cluster analysis to classify communities with similar vulnerability. Results can be used to enhance general tsunami-awareness efforts with targeted interventions, such as education and outreach tailored to local demographics, evacuation training, and/or vertical evacuation refuges.

Link to the article: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1420309112

(click a question for an answer)

How many people live and work in tsunami-hazard zones in my community?

Will people have enough time to evacuate before tsunami waves arrive?

If people don’t have enough time to evacuate to high ground, where can vertical-evacuation refuges be built?

How can GIS be used to map hot-spots of community exposure to tsunami hazards?

Can we identify and map certain types of people that may have greater difficulty preparing, responding, and recovering from tsunamis?

How can technical expertise be integrated with local input to better understand how coastal communities are vulnerable to tsunami hazards?

How do people perceive the risks posed by tsunami hazards along the Pacific Northwest coast?

How prepared is the nation for future tsunamis, in terms of the tsunami warning system and community readiness?

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