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Experts fielding tsunami vertical evacuation questions in Ocean Shores


Experts fielding tsunami vertical evacuation questions in Ocean Shores June 12

Should Ocean Shores invest in tsunami vertical evacuation structures?

National experts will discuss the issue and take public questions during a panel discussion from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, June 12 at the Ocean Shores Convention Center. There will be plenty of time for the public to ask questions about tsunami engineering, funding, siting and modeling of wave heights and inundation.

The panelists are national experts in their fields representing: Degenkolb Engineering, the Washington Geological Survey, the University of Washington, and the Washington State Emergency Management Division.

In April, scientists and preparedness experts visited Ocean Shores and spoke about tsunami science, risk, preparedness and mitigation, with more than 300 residents attending their public presentation. Many Ocean Shores residents and visitors are aware of their tsunami risks and understand that Ocean Shores lacks natural high ground in the event of a major Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake generated tsunami.

“This is exciting not just for Ocean Shores, but for the entire state,” said Maximilian Dixon, Earthquake Program Manager for the Washington State Emergency Management Division. “The more vertical evacuation structures we can build in the most vulnerable locations along our coast, the more lives we will save when a tsunami eventually hits. This is just a start, though. We need many more discussions and many more of these structures built up and down the coast.”

Ocean Shores city officials have heard from residents, who have specific questions about vertical evacuation approaches and would appreciate the opportunity to talk to a panel of experts. This panel has been assembled at the city’s request to provide in-depth information on tsunami risks and vertical evacuation refuges.  

In 2016, the first tsunami vertical evacuation refuge in North America was built in Westport, as part of the new Ocosta Elementary School. Other refuges are being considered along the Washington coast.

“History was made when what was once thought of as an unachievable, vertical evacuation project in the Ocosta School District, became a reality,” said Chuck Wallace, deputy director of Grays Harbor County Emergency Management. “Ocosta Elementary School and Gymnasium is North America’s first, vertical evacuation, tsunami engineered, Safe Haven building.”

Six years ago, there were a series of meetings in Ocean Shores to discuss the types and locations of tsunami vertical evacuation refuges. These efforts were referred to as Tsunami Project Safe Haven. Planning reports were assembled from this collaboration between Washington State Emergency Management Division and the University of Washington.

Later this year, the Washington State Emergency Management Division will be publishing a new Roadmap Manual. The manual will help coastal communities better plan for and build tsunami vertical evacuation refuges. This Ocean Shores panel is part of the Roadmap project.

The National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation (NTHMP) is funding these efforts. NTHMP is also providing funding for tsunami inundation studies, improved signage and other projects related to tsunami planning and safety.

The panel meeting is hosted by the city of Ocean Shores, Washington State Emergency Management Division, Grays Harbor Emergency Management and the University of Washington Institute for Hazard Mitigation Planning and Research.

More information about the Washington coast tsunami risk and vertical evacuation can be found at

Maximilian Dixon, Washington EMD earthquake program manager,, (253) 512-7017