Special Oregon Sea Grant funding: Social Science and Human Dimensions Research

Building resilient coastal communities: A social assessment of mobile technology for tsunami evacuation planning (2014-2016)

Lori Cramer
Sociology Program, School of Public Policy
307 Fairbanks Hall
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331Phone: 541-737-5382

Co-PIs: Dan Cox and Haizhong Wang, OSU

Tens of thousands of people live, work, and recreate in tsunami hazard zones in the Pacific Northwest. Severe loss of life in coastal Oregon is a real threat for several reasons: limited warning time for near-field tsunamis, evacuations will be self-initiated, and Oregon’s coastal population may be especially vulnerable. Our coastal citizens are at risk to natural disasters due to factors such as age and socio-economic status, and visitors face the challenge of unfamiliarity.

This project uses a social science approach to improve coastal resilience by understanding how area residents and tourists can adapt to and prepare for tsunamis. The team will examine social factors affecting tsunami evacuation and the role mapping technology can play in decreasing loss of life. Using a smart-phone application, the team tracks volunteers during tsunami evacuation drills. The app maps each volunteer’s real-time position along with the projected leading edge of the modeled tsunami to enhance the evacuee’s perception of risk. After the evacuation drill, all participants will be mapped with the hazard at community scale. Using a web-portal, participants can replay the evacuation and identify their place in the evacuation. Ultimately, by receiving more accurate interpretations of evacuation ability, local communities and emergency managers will be able to respond appropriately and cost-effectively to coastal hazards while minimizing lives lost.

This project brings together the expertise and experience of OSU faculty and Sea Grant specialists in sociology, engineering, community engagement, and informal science education with partner agencies and organizations to evaluate new evacuation plans and technology, particularly with regard to socially vulnerable populations. Project outcomes include scholarly research on disaster planning as well as specific policy recommendations and outreach materials for the benefit of all people living, working and recreating on the Oregon coast.

Strategic Plan Focus Area: Resilient Communities and Economies

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