Sea Grant Extension teaches coastal employees to educate customers about tsunami preparedness

A sign directs people to seek higher ground on Safe Haven Hill in Newport in the event that an earthquake might cause a tsunami.

Scientists predict there is about a 37% chance that an earthquake of at least 8.0 magnitude will strike off the Pacific Northwest coast in the next 50 years. The Oregon State University Extension Service is playing a critical role in helping Oregon's people and communities prepare for this predicted natural disaster. If the epicenter is just off offshore, the quake will trigger a tsunami that will inundate Oregon’s coastal communities within minutes.

As tourism grows along Oregon’s coast, employees at places such as hotels, restaurants and visitor centers can play a key role in educating customers about what to do if an earthquake and tsunami occur. In response, Oregon Sea Grant Extension staff developed a curriculum on tsunamis that was added to a customer service training program for employees of coastal businesses. The project developed learning objectives, taught employees how to use a tsunami inundation zone app on their smartphones, and provided messaging for instructing customers on where to evacuate.

The tsunami education module was delivered to 45 frontline employees and managers at seven workshops on the Oregon coast in 2019. Participants included visitor center staff and volunteers, lodging business managers, public facility staff and workforce education staff.

As a result, some coastal library staff became aware that their facility was not in a tsunami inundation zone, so they prepared to serve as an emergency public shelter. A coastal representative of WorkSource Lane, an organization that seeks to improve the workforce in Lane County, requested more trainings in customer service and tsunami response. Based on evaluations, future customer service programs are planned and will continue to include tsunami education.

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