Our View: Awareness campaign needed yearly

December 08, 2006 12:00 am

We're glad to hear that a public awareness campaign about what to do should another tsunami strike is being planned.

Certainly the reaction of some area residents to the Nov. 15 tsunami that left $1.1 million in damage is cause enough for a new campaign. Some downtown businesses sent employees home while others didn't. Some people drove into the damaged harbor and along the beaches to gawk. Others were confused about the lack of sirens and how they would be warned.

But those responses, which could have proven deadly in a larger tsunami, indicate that every year is a good time for a public awareness campaign.

Consider that each year new people move to Del Norte County, often from inland areas where tsunamis are only something occasionally read about in their old newspaper's "world" section. Each year, more than 200 children enter grade school, likely having only heard of a tsunami if their parents talked about one. Each year, thousands of tourists come to Crescent City beaches, many of them having little understanding of what they should do if a tsunami strikes.

A public awareness campaign, of course, shouldn't be about scaring anyone, as some might fear would happen. But none of us should forget that an informed public is a secure public. And let us also remember that hurricanes don't stop people from visiting Florida or earthquakes from traveling to Southern California.

The danger of any annual public awareness campaign is that people will tune out the message. By focusing on different aspects of public awareness – one year about how the warning system works, the next about evacuation routes, the following about keeping an emergency kit – the problem can be avoided yet create a tsunami-savvy population.

Until a public awareness campaign is launched, we hope the information provided in this week's front-page "No Warning: 2006 Tsunami" series will help fill the gap. We encourage readers to cut out the sections on emergency kits and evacuation routes and keep them posted.

Meanwhile, we look forward to 2007's public awareness campaign – and the one the year after that, and the year after that and ...