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Tsunami Preparedness Guidebook

Developed a road map for people who want to organize, educate, and lead local tsunami preparedness campaigns. Includes earth science, social science and emergency planning.


The Problem

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck off the west coast of the Indonesian Island of Sumatra on December 26, 2004 was the fourth largest earthquake in the world since 1900. It generated a tsunami wave that spread across the Indian Ocean and devastated the coasts of Indonesia, south Asia, eastern Africa, and Madagascar. The U.S. Geological Service estimates that 227,898 people were killed or were missing and presumed dead and about 1.7 million people were displaced by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Many high-risk coastal communities around the world, especially those in developing countries, currently have no system in place to warn their populations of the imminent occurrence of a tsunami. People living in these areas urgently need to prepare their communities. They need to educate the public about when and how to evacuate, help their local governments to be prepared to mobilize and coordinate evacuations, and work to change their community’s development so that tsunamis will cause less damage.

GHI's Response

GHI developed a Guidebook, Preparing Your Community for Tsunamis, which strives to improve tsunami safety in developing countries. The Guidebook was expressly created to help non-experts to learn about, prepare for and educate their community regarding tsunamis. This project was funded by personal contributions of the staff of the National Research Council and by matching funds from the National Academy of Science, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.

GHI assembled a multi-disciplinary team of experts to advise GHI staff on the Guidebook. The team explored how their collective knowledge and experience from a variety of disciplines could be combined to help local non-technical people to prepare their communities for tsunamis. The manual compiled the best available earth science, social science and emergency preparedness information for use around the world.

The guidebook was made available online, free of charge, at and other websites, and was shared with interested organizations in electronic format.


Long-Term Outcomes

  • The Tsunami Preparedness Guidebook provides a comprehensive road map for people who want to organize and lead local tsunami preparedness campaigns, whether as concerned citizens, as government officials or as staff at non-government organizations.

  • The Guidebook has been widely distributed and gone through several revisions that incorporate feedback from users worldwide.

  • GHI continues to work on tsunami preparedness in the area that was most devastated by the 2004 tsunami. Its current project studying the Feasibility of Vertical Evacuation Structures in Sumatra builds on relationships with local NGOs that were first established through the Tsunami Preparedness Guidebook project.


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