INSIDE THE EYE OF THE STORM: THE CAL OES/NOAA TSUNAMI EXERCISE


(peaceful music) – [Narrator] As the sun
begins to peek through the morning fog, the water is calm in and around Eureka, California. Boats are secure in their slips, and wildlife casually
poke around for breakfast. But life on the Pacific coast comes with an undercurrent of danger, especially if the people here
aren’t prepared. – We need to understand where the water could potentially go in order to build a plan around that for
potentially evacuating people who may be in harm’s way. – [Narrator] The water Kevin
Miller is talking about would come from a potential tsunami, and that’s why the National
Weather Service here in Eureka, along with its partner
agencies, are conducting their annual tsunami
communications exercise. – With that kind of test, that last mile of how the information gets
to the public on the coast should there be a tsunami coming our way. – [Narrator] Miller is
the Tsunami Program Lead for the California Office
of Emergency Services. As such, he’s also the incident commander for this exercise. The players are gathered
here at the weather service, and at various points
along the California coast, in Del Norte, Humboldt
and Mendocino counties. – [Kevin] Everything’s
looking good for us. The weather is really
cooperating with us here, so I think we’re a go. – [Narrator] All partner
agencies, from federal, state, local, and tribal governments, as well as educational
institutions and the media, communicate with conference calls. At 11:00 a.m., the weather service will sound the tsunami
alarm and activate the drill using live codes that indicate an actual tsunami is on the way. – The reason for using
the live tsunami codes is to make sure that the entire system, including all the automated aspects of the notification system
will work as intended for a real tsunami emergency. – [Narrator] So, they have
to treat it as the real deal. From the people and the
planning, outreach and education, to computers and the equipment. – Something as simple
as a corroded connector that we were able to
find through this test, and then work with, work with our
partner agencies and get those things fixed. It certainly has accomplished
that goal of making sure the entire tsunami warning
system works properly. – [Narrator] And because of that, communities and their
citizens and government have to know that it’s only a test. – I mean, we really, we’re all committed to making sure that everyone
understands what’s happening. – [Narrator] Dr. Lori Dengler
is a geology professor at Humboldt State University, and one of California’s
foremost experts on tsunamis and natural hazard mitigation. An active participant in the exercise, Dr. Dengler says there’s
always the possibility of the public’s
misinterpretation of the drill for the real thing. – It was also a huge
motivation to make sure that we really got the
education message out there. (sirens blaring) – [Narrator] It’s 11 a.m.
The alarms are sounded. – Repeat, this is only a test. – [Narrator] The message is broadcast to all coastal communities,
in Spanish too. – (speaking in Spanish) – [Narrator] The message is also announced to people along
waterfronts, by planes flown by the Civil Air Patrol. – [Announcer] This is a
test of the Civil Air Patrol public address system. Please provide feedback to
the National Weather Service at 443-6484. – [Narrator] This is what
would actually happen if there were a real tsunami warning. It is a critical communications test to ensure the safety of
all in the path of waves with the potential of
destroying entire towns. The sleeper benefit of the test was the preparedness
activity leading up to it. – I think it really
strengthened everything about the technical side
of the warning system and the human side, which is
sometimes just as important. – I hope that we are all
improving our educational message, that we’re learning to listen, we’re learning to process information, we’re learning to incorporate
that sense of the structure of the world and our hazards
in a rational, logical way that will make us all much more prepared for the next inevitable disaster. – [Announcer] This is a test of the Civil Air Patrol
public address system.

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