An Integrated Engineering-Economic Vulnerability Assessment Tool to Increase Tsunami Preparedness in Rural Coastal Counties (2012-2014)

Yong Chen
Oregon State University
Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics
219B Ballard Extension Hall
Corvallis, Oregon 97331
Phone: 541-737-3176

Co-PIs: Patrick Corcoran, Oregon Sea Grant; Bruce Weber, OSU Agriculture & Resource Economics.

How economically vulnerable are communities to a major tsunami event? How would various preparedness strategies affect that vulnerability? These are the kinds of questions Dr. Chen’s research team will address.

Many coastal Oregon communities are at risk to significant damage and loss of life from a major Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and resulting tsunami. The likelihood of such an event has been estimated at 14% in the next 50 years with recent research suggesting that the probability is much higher. Existing models to predict the extent of the tsunami inundation have been focused on reducing casualties; however, there has been little effort to consider economic consequences across geographic areas. This project is the first to couple tsunami modeling with assessments of damage to infrastructure and economic vulnerability across a county.

Using Clatsop County, Oregon as a test case, the research team developed an innovative tool for estimating economic vulnerability inside and outside tsunami inundation zones. The tool will be broadly applicable to other tsunami-vulnerable rural communities and regions.  Researchers engaged local business, government and civic leaders in a structured process to develop these tools.

Results have been shared with local, state and federal economic development and emergency management officials, and will help them design emergency management strategies that more fully reflect the extent of physical and economic damages from tsunamis. Clatsop County business and government leaders better understand their economic vulnerability, and have a tool and a structured process they can use to make the county more resilient - physically and economically - when a tsunami occurs.