Bipartisan Tsunami Bill Unanimously Passes Senate, Strengthens Coastal Disaster Preparedness

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Brian Schatz (D-HI) announced their tsunami detection and warning systems legislation unanimously passed the Senate. The bill reauthorizes and enhances tsunami preparedness and increases investment in research to protect coastal communities.

The Tsunami Warning, Education and Research Act of 2015 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 response.

“In the tradition of Senators Ted Stevens and Dan Inouye, I am pleased to see this bill unanimously pass the Senate,” said Sen. Sullivan.  “In the event of the next tsunami, adequate warning for Alaska’s coastal communities is essential.  This legislation will ensure that important monitoring centers, vital research advancements and community based mitigation programs continue in a cost effective manner.”

“With more than 300,000 Washingtonians living along the Cascadia fault in a tsunami danger zone, we must prepare our coastal communities. This legislation improves our emergency warning infrastructure, provides funding to our state-based emergency management programs, and bolsters readiness assessments for coastal areas at-risk,” said Sen. Cantwell.

"The earthquake in Chile earlier this month showed the strength of NOAA's tsunami network.  NOAA’s quick response to identify a minimal risk to Hawaii avoided the costs and panic of an unnecessary evacuation.  The bill we passed today lays the foundation for even higher standards for NOAA’s warning products so that coastal communities can better prepare for the specific impacts they are likely to face on their harbors and ports, downtown districts, and evacuation routes,” said Sen. Schatz.

The Tsunami Warning, Education and Research Act of 2015 would:

  • Advance new research related to improving tsunami detection, forecasting, notification and response;
  • Enhance tsunami preparedness for ports and harbors by directing the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program and the U.S. 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 fault;
  • Require tsunami warning centers to work with local weather forecasting offices to ensure timely and accurate delivery of warnings.