Perceptions of Earthquake and Tsunami Issues in U.S. Pacific Northwest Port and Harbor Communities

November 2005 (VOL. 23, NO. 3)

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Although there is considerable energy focused on assessing natural hazards associated with earthquakes and tsunamis in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, little has been done to understand societal vulnerability to these hazards. Part of understanding societal vulnerability includes assessing the perceptions and priorities of public sector individuals with traditional emergency management responsibilities and of private citizens who could play key roles in community recovery. In response to this knowledge gap, we examine earthquake and tsunami perceptions of stakeholders and decision makers from coastal communities in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, focusing on perceptions of (1) regional hazards and societal vulnerability, (2) the current state of readiness, and (3) priorities for future hazard adjustment efforts. Results of a mailed survey suggest that survey participants believe that earthquakes and tsunamis are credible community threats. Most communities are focusing on regional mitigation and response planning, with less effort devoted to recovery plans or to making individual organizations more resilient. Significant differences in expressed perceptions and priorities were observed between Oregon and Washington respondents, mainly on tsunami issues. Significant perception differences were also observed between private and public sector respondents. Our results suggest the need for further research and for outreach and planning initiatives in the Pacific Northwest to address significant gaps in earthquake and tsunami hazard awareness and readiness.