Community understanding of tsunami risk and warnings in Australia

Douglas Paton, David Johnston, Katelyn Rossiter, Petra Buergelt, Andrew Richards, Sarah Anderson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The development of the Australian Tsunami Warning System (ATWS) was in recognition of the fact that the Australian coastline faces some 8000 km of active tectonic plate boundary capable of generating a tsunami that could reach Australia in two to four hours. The work reported in this paper complements an earlier questionnaire study (Paton, Frandsen & Johnston 2010) with detailed interview data to inform understanding of respondents' awareness of tsunami risk and their willingness (or lack of) to respond to a rare but possible natural hazard. A belief that no tsunami events had occurred in Australia (at least since colonial times) and that major causes (e.g. seismic and volcanic) were absent, supported the view of participants that tsunami is a non-existent or a very lowprobability hazard for Australia. This view was reinforced by the lack of discussion of tsunami by government or in the media. The ensuing sense of 'risk rejection' resulted in respondents believing that no resources or effort should be directed to tsunami risk reduction. The data raises the possibility that the ATWS may not be fully effective unless action is taken to increase tsunami risk acceptance and readiness. Recommendations for doing so draw on participant discussions of how to localise risk reduction activities. Their suggestions for increasing tsunami readiness in coastal communities included integrating it with community-based, localised discussions around frequent flash floods, coastal storms, bushfires and climate change hazards. These concepts are discussed, as well as the use of local volunteer resources to develop preparedness activities.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)54-59
    Number of pages6
    JournalAustralian Journal of Emergency Management
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


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