Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Santa Monica newspaper picks up our tsunami sign terror story; finds local disaster unlikely

Our coverage of the sudden proliferation of TSUNAMI HAZARD signs on and around the Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles has spread throughout the Los Angeles media and been picked up by several news outlets.

The Santa Monica Daily Press newspaper today takes the reportage in a new direction. In a Page One story, Reporter Melanie Hanatani finds that the signs are part of a "public education campaign" by various city and state agencies, including the city of Santa Monica, although "the likelihood of a disastrous tsunami is highly unlikely because much of the city is protected by the bluffs.

"According to Paul Weinberg, the emergency services coordinator for the SMFD: 'The worst we would expect in the city of Santa Monica is ankle-deep water at Main Street.'"

Santa Monica Daily Press
December 2, 2008

Tsunami warning signs posted along PCH


Daily Press Staff Writer

Burt Kearns was enjoying a walk to Will Rogers State Beach with his two young children recently when an unfamiliar sign put a damper on the trip.

Illustrating a giant wave, the sign informed the trio that they were entering a Tsunami Hazard Zone.

The placement of the sign was perplexing to say the least for the Pacific Palisades resident.

“I was upset my son was suddenly worried to go walking on the beach,” Kearns said.

The Los Angeles Emergency Management Department began posting the signs along Pacific Coast Highway between the Santa Monica and Malibu borders and in Venice last week to warn of the possibilities that a natural disaster could strike. The signs identify tsunami hazard areas and point out evacuation routes.

The signs are part of a public education campaign being undertaken by coastal cities up and down the state to prepare residents for how to survive a tsunami, which is a series of waves usually brought on by an earthquake.

Many had no idea of the dangers posed by tsunamis until the catastrophic 2004 Sumatra Tsunami in Southeast Asia that killed more than 225,000 people.

“Any time an earthquake happens out in the western seas away from us, it could have an impact on us and the coastal communities,” Richard Deppisch,the emergency preparedness coordinator for the city of Los Angeles, said. “I think a lot ofthe public realizes that it could be dangerous if they live close to the water.

“Whether or not it happens in our lifetime, you can’t say.”

The city of Los Angeles and Santa Monica City Hall are among 14 Los Angeles County cities in the Operational Areas Tsunami Task Force, which formed in 1999 after several studies suggested that agencies formulate an emergency preparedness strategy much like they do for earthquakes.

The task force is currently waiting for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to complete a new map that identifies the tsunami hazard zones.The map,which is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2009, will allow the task force and its member cities to identify where warning signs should be posted, according to Jeff Terry, who heads the multiagency group.

The L.A. Emergency Management Department is the only member that decided to move ahead with its sign program, Terry said.

Once the map is completed, the task force will launch a demonstration project in several cities to gauge residents’ response to the signs.

The project is estimated to cost about $250,000. In the event of an emergency,the National Weather Service would send a tsunami warning to Sacramento, which would forward the notice to all local counties, which in turn would contact its coastal cities. Each city would then set into motion its own emergency response plan.

In Santa Monica,that plan would entail collaboration between the Santa Monica Fire and Police departments who would send out a mass notification for all affected residents to evacuate.

The impacted areas in Santa Monica include Palisades Beach Road,which is located north of the Santa Monica Pier, and the neighborhood west of Fourth Street in Ocean Park.

But the likelihood of a disastrous tsunami is highly unlikely because much of the city is protected by the bluffs, according to Paul Weinberg, the emergency services coordinator for the SMFD. “The worst we would expect in the city of Santa Monica is ankle-deep water at Main Street,” he said.

“About 99.9 percent of the city is absolutely protected.”

Weinberg said he expects to see similar evacuation and warning signs posted in Santa Monica. The signs could be covered by federal funds.

The office of L.A. Councilmember Bill Rosendahl contributed about $4,000 for the signs that were posted in Los Angeles.

Rosendahl said he has not heard any complaints from residents about the signs.

“The ocean is right there, it’s in our immediate presence,”he said.“It’s a precaution to do this.”

But some residents have wondered whether the signs are necessary.

Kearns, who runs the blog Tabloidbaby.com, commented about the new signs on his site, upset about the impact their presence would have on visitors.

“What’s next? A shark hazard zone, a fat people in Speedos zone?” Kearns said. “Everyone knows that we live in an earthquake area and that there’s the possibility of a tsunami.

“It seems to be an anti-tourist move.”

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