Technical Rescue

TSUNAMI: A NEW CONCERN FOR RESPONDERS

Issue 12 and Volume 156.

BY LARRY COLLINS Despite their potential for huge life losses and the destruction of coastal cities, tsunamis remain a little-understood phenomenon to many emergency responders. Tsunamis (sometimes called seismic sea waves) are usually low on the priority list of public safety agencies along both coasts, even in some zones long identified as vulnerable. But those priorities may change in certain regions as emerging research and experience indicate many cities on the West Coast are vulnerable to “near-source” tsunamis that can wipe out large coastal tracts and kill tens of thousands of people within minutes of precipitating events such as offshore (and even on-shore) earthquakes and underwater landslides. For firefighters and chief officers, the information indicates a new danger when assessing post-earthquake damage along the coastlines and while attempting to suppress fire, rescue trapped victims in collapsed structures, treat the injured, and conduct other post-earthquake emergency operations. The danger may come…

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