Cantwell’s Tsunami Preparedness and Response Heads to President’s Desk for Signature into Law

Legislation will improve tsunami forecasting and preparedness to protect communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a resounding win for coastal communities in Washington state and across the country, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) tsunami detection and warning legislation has passed the House of Representatives and is on its way to the president’s desk. Cantwell originally introduced the legislation and passed it out of the Senate earlier this year.

Cantwell’s bill was included as an amendment to the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017, Cantwell’s provision would strengthen the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) tsunami warning system and advance new research related to improving tsunami detection, forecasting, notification, and emergency response.

“Thousands of people in Washington state live in tsunami danger zones. These communities work hard to prepare for emergencies, but they can’t do it all on their own. This bill helps us protect coastal communities by boosting our emergency warning infrastructure, helping fund emergency management, and determining which areas need more preparation,” said Senator Cantwell. 

Nationwide, more than 120 million people live on or near coastlines. Washington state’s coastal economy supports 165,000 jobs and produces $30 billion in economic activity each year. Better preparation for tsunamis and improved detection capabilities will save lives and help minimize economic damage.

The Tsunami Warning, Education and Research Act of 2017 would:

  • Advance new research to improve tsunami detection, forecasting, notification and response.
  • Enhance tsunami preparedness for ports and harbors by directing NOAA and the Coast Guard to evaluate and recommend procedures for communication and response plans.
  • Ensure supercomputing resources are available for tsunami forecast models and that guidelines and metrics for evaluating and improving tsunami models are disseminated.
  • Direct NOAA, the National Guard, and the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a readiness assessment for areas at-risk for a near-shore tsunami such as the Cascadia Subduction Zone.
  • Require NOAA to work with local communities planning vertical evacuation infrastructure.
  • Require tsunami warning centers to work with local weather forecasting offices to ensure timely and accurate delivery of tsunami warnings.

Cantwell has been a leader in improving tsunami preparedness in the Pacific Northwest. In 2006, Cantwell coauthored and championed the Tsunami Warning and Education Act (TWEA) that enabled Washington state to improve tsunami evacuation routes, update maps, and increase the number of DART warning buoys worldwide. Cantwell also secured funding to purchase additional warning sirens for coastal areas in Washington state.