Population vulnerability and evacuation challenges in California for the SAFRR tsunami scenario

Open-File Report 2013-1170-I
By: , and 



The SAFRR tsunami scenario models the impacts of a hypothetical yet plausible tsunami associated with a magnitude 9.1 megathrust earthquake east of the Alaska Peninsula. This report summarizes community variations in population vulnerability and potential evacuation challenges to the tsunami. The most significant public-health concern for California coastal communities during a distant-source tsunami is the ability to evacuate people out of potential inundation zones. Fatalities from the SAFRR tsunami scenario could be low if emergency managers can implement an effective evacuation in the time between tsunami generation and arrival, as well as keep people from entering tsunami-prone areas until all-clear messages can be delivered. This will be challenging given the estimated 91,956 residents, 81,277 employees, as well as numerous public venues, dependent-population facilities, community-support businesses, and high-volume beaches that are in the 79 incorporated communities and 17 counties that have land in the scenario tsunami-inundation zone. Although all coastal communities face some level of threat from this scenario, the highest concentrations of people in the scenario tsunami-inundation zone are in Long Beach, San Diego, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, and San Francisco. Communities also vary in the prevalent categories of populations that are in scenario tsunami-inundation zones, such as residents in Long Beach, employees in San Francisco, tourists at public venues in Santa Cruz, and beach or park visitors in unincorporated Los Angeles County. Certain communities have higher percentages of groups that may need targeted outreach and preparedness training, such as renters, the very young and very old, and individuals with limited English-language skills or no English-language skills at all. Sustained education and targeted evacuation messaging is also important at several high-occupancy public venues in the scenario tsunami-inundation zone (for example, city and county beaches, State or national parks, and amusement parks). Evacuations will be challenging, particularly for certain dependent-care populations, such as patients at hospitals and children at schools and daycare centers. We estimate that approximately 8,678 of the 91,956 residents in the scenario inundation zone are likely to need publicly provided shelters in the short term. Information presented in this report could be used to support emergency managers in their efforts to identify where additional preparedness and outreach activities may be needed to manage risks associated with California tsunamis.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Population vulnerability and evacuation challenges in California for the SAFRR tsunami scenario
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2013-1170
Chapter I
DOI 10.3133/ofr20131170I
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher U.S Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Volcano Science Center, Western Geographic Science Center
Description vi, 50 p.
Larger Work Type Report
Larger Work Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Larger Work Title The SAFRR (Science Application for Risk Reduction) Tsunami Scenario (Open File Report 2013-1170)
Country United States
State California
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details