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The Role of Education in the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program

Tsunami education activities, materials, and programs are recognized by the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP) as the essential tool for near-source tsunami mitigation. Prior to the NTHMP, there were no state tsunami education programs outside of Hawaii and few earthquake education materials included tsunami hazards. In the first year of the NTHMP, a Strategic Plan was developed providing the framework for mitigation projects in the program. The Strategic Plan identifies education as the first of five mitigation strategic planning areas and targets a number of user groups, including schools, businesses, tourists, seasonal workers, planners, government officials, and the general public. In the 6 years of the NTHMP tsunami education programs have been developed in all five Pacific States and include print, electronic and video/film products, curriculum, signage, fairs and workshops, and public service announcements. Multi-state education projects supported by the NTHMP include TsuInfo, a bi-monthly newsletter, and Surviving a Tsunami, a booklet illustrating lessons from the 1960 Chilean tsunami. An additional education component is provided by the Public Affairs Working Group (PAWG) that promotes media coverage of tsunamis and the NTHMP. Assessment surveys conducted in Oregon, Washington, and Northern California show an increase in tsunami awareness and recognition of tsunami hazards among the general population since the NTHMP inception.

This paper reviews:

1) educational efforts of the NTHMP

2) assessments of the effectiveness of those efforts.

 During the first 6 years of the program, all five states developed a variety of education materials either supported by NTHMP funds or through contact with NTHMP projects and personnel. Prior to the program, there were few tsunami education materials outside of Hawaii and almost none that addressed the near-source tsunami hazard. Assessment surveys in three of the states suggest the program has succeeded in increasing awareness of tsunamis. However, these surveys were limited in scope. Each used different instruments and methodologies. Only one study was repeated and addressed changing attitudes over time. The existing assessments cannot be used to compare the effectiveness of different state programs or different educational products. The Washington study suggests that although awareness has increased, the public has taken relatively few actions to reduce their tsunami risk and still views tsunami hazard mitigation as a government activity rather than a personal one.


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