Protect Vulnerable Communities From Destructive Tsunamis

Target: Gina Marie Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of Commerce

Goal: Invest in tsunami alert and warning systems to prevent widespread loss of property and life.

When an underwater volcano erupted near Tonga, seaside communities thousands of miles away were supposed to receive tsunami alerts warning them of possible massive tidal waves. Unfortunately, many of these communities never got the alerts because of outdated systems. Sirens were not activated in some cases, and in others they could not be heard: a routine occurrence even during testing, according to residents of these communities.

While these areas may have dodged a bullet then, their luck may not always be so consistent. The west coast of the United States in particular has been the source of scientific forecasts predicting a large-scale earthquake for years, and these predictions have recently ramped up. When the so-called “Big One” does hit, will these at-risk communities be prepared?

While much investment has poured into earthquake-proofing buildings, the threat of tsunamis (which are typically spurred by earthquakes) is equally pressing. Yet as the above incidents demonstrate, funding for important tsunami safeguards has not been as robust. In addition to more modernized sirens and wide-spread access to texting alert systems, much benefit could derive from promising technologies that can better predict these natural disasters and lead to earlier warnings.

Sign the petition below to urge investment in these life-saving measures before the next disaster strikes.


Dear Secretary Raimondo,

Imagine a nightmare scenario where waves towering nearly a hundred feet sweep over a community, eradicating buildings, cars, roads…and lives. As the recent Tonga volcanic explosion reminds us, such images are not relegated to blockbuster disaster films. They are an all-too-real threat, and according to a growing number of scientists a threat that could soon transform into a waking nightmare on the Pacific coast.

Investments can and should come immediately. The town of Seaside, Oregon is a clear-cut example of why. This coastal community has endured weeks and months of siren drills they cannot hear. When they were in the path of danger from the Tonga eruption, many citizens reported receiving no warning at all. Meanwhile, in labs across America, scientists are honing technologies utilizing artificial intelligence algorithms and digital signal processing to analyze and predict the deep ocean activity that precedes tsunamis. These tools, combined with updated and efficient alert systems, could mark the difference between life and death for so many at imminent risk.

As the leader of an agency devoted to economic growth and the overseer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, please recognize the economic and humanitarian dangers of these disasters and realize the potential of our best means of mitigating them. Support comprehensive and committed investment in tsunami warning systems that work.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: AusAID

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