More attention to tsunami threats along Washington’s Pacific coast

Vertical shelters
An example of where vertical shelters might be located to protect residents of a coastal community from a tsunami. Source: FEMA.

The Crosscut blog this week–Will Northwest miss a teachable moment on tsunamis, quakes?–calls attention to recent planning efforts aimed at reducing the human devastation that a tsunami along the Washington coastline could cause. The blog describes Project Safe Haven, a federally funded consortium that includes DNR and other Washington public agencies. The project brings together experts in geology, seismology, emergency management and other disciplines to meet with Washington coast residents in a series of meetings recently.

Focusing on communities, such as Ocean Shores, with scarce high ground to escape a tsunami and limited options for a quick evacuation, the project asks residents about building reinforced towers that could also be used as schools or public buildings, berms, and walls. Or, to put it another way: schools or public buildings, berms, and walls that could be easily accessible safety areas for residents when a tsunami hits.

Notice, the wording is when, not if, a tsunami hits our coast. See the UW Emergency Management web page to learn more about the threats and likelihood of earthquakes and tsunamis in Western Washington. Or view more information about earthquakes in Washington state on the DNR website. Scientists, including DNR’s hazard geologists, say a large earthquake and tsunami on the scale of those that hit Japan last month have occurred here in the past and will occur again.

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