Preparation cuts risk when tsunami hits


POSTED: Saturday, April 04, 2009

RECOLLECTIONS of tsunamis from the past century indicate how little people knew about the devastating waves. Hawaii residents are now far more aware of the dangers, and research and technology have greatly improved monitoring and warning systems, but getting the public to react appropriately remains a hurdle.

When earthquakes generate tsunamis elsewhere, such as Chile or Alaska, sophisticated data collection and information transmission warn Hawaii several hours ahead. But when quakes occur locally, that time is cut to minutes and quickly sounding the alarm becomes challenging.

Scientists are constantly improving equipment and building networks to promptly assess earthquakes and their potential to cause big waves, but they're slowed by funding shortages and site leases for data stations. At the same time, Civil Defense agencies are looking into getting the word out through cell phones or computers as well as through traditional broadcasting.

Despite persistent education campaigns, many people still don't know what to do when disaster is imminent. Some even foolishly rush toward shorelines to look at the waves instead of evacuating.

People should be ready to leave homes, businesses or schools that are in inundation zones when sirens or radio and television broadcasts warn of a tsunami. Families should have plans about where they will go when a warning comes.

Unlike hurricanes, tsunamis have no “;seasons,”; periods when they are more likely to develop. All the more reason for residents to be ready for them.