SM BEACH — Santa Monica received the TsunamiReady and StormReady designation from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service for the first time, affirming citywide safety efforts.
Mark Jackson, the meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service forecast office in Oxnard, was scheduled to present city officials with the recognition letters on Tuesday.
“Like all areas along the West Coast, a tsunami could strike Santa Monica,” Jackson said in a press release. “Preparing for disaster is everyone’s responsibility.”
City Hall’s Office of Emergency Management initially applied for the TsunamiReady designation but completed the necessary steps for the StormReady recognition as well, said Paul Weinberg, City Hall’s emergency services coordinator.
Among the strict criteria needed to qualify, city officials had to fill out an application verifying they had a fully functional 24-hour emergency operations and dispatch center staffed with police officers and firefighters, a community notification system called SM Alerts, appropriate signage clearly marking emergency evacuation routes along the beach, and provide a tour of the safety signs to representatives from the National Weather Service.
Alexia Casio, a tourist visiting the Santa Monica Pier for the second time, said the news of the national safety recognition made her feel like she can come visit again.
“There’s no thing in the back of my head that there’s going to be a tsunami and we’re going to die because apparently they’re protected,” Casio said.
First time visitor to the pier Jannie Vanasseldomk, however, still acknowledges a potential natural treat.
“I think that if there really is a tsunami you can prepare all you want, but then half of the city will probably be gone anyway,” Vanasseldomk said.
Despite citywide efforts to prepare for tsunamis, Weinberg affirmed there has been no history of tsunamis affecting Santa Monica.
He said that while tsunami alerts were sent out all along the West Coast nine to 10 hours after a 9.0 earthquake hit Japan in 2011, only northern cities such as Santa Cruz were affected. In Santa Monica, Weinberg recalled having only seen odd tide pool effects in the ocean that did not reach the shore.
“We just have different geological conditions,” Weinberg said.
The northern 100 foot bluff and the length of the beach from the shoreline to development make it naturally difficult for a tsunami to cause damage, he added.
Regardless, in the last couple of years the city used homeland security grants to post signage designating both tsunami hazard zones and evacuation routes, Weinberg said.
Tsunami hazard zone signs are posted along the beach and its parking lots. The blue and white evacuation route signs designate that visitors north of the pier should head for the bluff. If visitors are south of the pier, in an abundance of caution, they are directed to head east of Fourth Street, Weinberg said.
Kevin Kim, owner of the Ocean View Active Wear & Souvenir shop located at the base of the pier, said that City Hall’s efforts to be prepared for a tsunami are good, but there is still a twinge of concern for other potential natural disasters.
“I still feel a little bit worried,” Kim said. “We might have an earthquake and a tsunami but I feel safe most of the time.”
Weinberg added that while City Hall has been recognized for its official efforts to prepare for an emergency, there are still opportunities for community members to lend a hand and prepare themselves.
“It’s something we’re proud of, but really it’s just the first step,” Weinberg said.
He cited the Community Emergency Response Team as an example with over 100 trained community members ready to assist in times of need, given that professionals are understaffed with only about 30 firefighters on hand.
In general, Weinberg recommended residents have an emergency kit available, coordinate a safety plan including making the decision to communicate through text messages rather than phone calls — given the possibility of fallen phone lines — and to stay informed by signing up to SM Alerts and taking part in the upcoming free safety courses from the community response team in August.
For more information on emergency preparedness, visit www.smgov.net/Departments/OEM or call (310) 458-8411.