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Tsunami Watch Leads To 'Serious Breach Of Public Trust'

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network

Emergency managers along Washington’s southwest coast said they have fixed a significant glitch in their emergency alert systems. That’s after some residents there did not receive news of a tsunami watch after a recent earthquake.

When a 7.9 earthquake hit off the coast of Alaska earlier this month, it triggered evacuations along the Alaskan coast, and it sparked a tsunami watch in Washington, Oregon and California.

But many people in Pacific County, which includes the popular tourist town of Long Beach, never received the news.

A tsunami watch is less urgent than a warning, and it does not set off sirens.

According to an after-action report released Monday, the county’s emergency alert system requires residents to opt-in to receive messages on their phones. More than 2,000 people failed to do that.

The report also said there was a lack of accurate information from the National Tsunami Warning Center, and what little information there was wasn’t well disseminated.

The report called the notification issue “a serious breach of public trust” but said it has now been fixed. And officials said it was a good opportunity for training for an actual tsunami.

Deborah is an award–winning radio and television journalist whose career spans more than three decades. As the recipient of a 2018-2019 Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellowship, Deborah is currently focusing her reporting on adolescents and mental health.