Changing Channels: Communicating Tsunami Warning Information in Hawaii

 On the morning of February 27, 2010, a potentially destructive tsunami reached the Hawaiian Islands, followinga powerful 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Chile the prior evening. In the approximately 15 hours between the time of the earthquake and thetsunami making landfall, information to warn the populations at risk was communicated through multiple official and unofficial channels, including social media networks. Focusing on the cityof Hilo on the Island of Hawaii, the authors examine the strategies usedto warn the public and the methods employed to gather and disseminate information and monitor public response. Emergency managers and news media that created and disseminatedwarning products were among those interviewed.(Follow-up interviews were conducted in March 2011 following the Japan earthquake and subsequent tsunami.) Key findings from this study showed that (1)traditional news media, especially local radio stations, continue to play a vital role in communicating emergency public information; (2)the use of new technology, such as social media, is widespread in a crisis, but only as part of a larger information-sharing strategy; and(3)pre-existing networks and community partnerships are the foundation for information sharing in an emergency.The authors argue that it is critical that responsible organizations use multiple channels to ensure warning messages are effectively communicatedto the public. 

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