Norfolk only city in Hampton Roads that is TsunamiReady

Posted at 7:36 PM, Apr 02, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-02 19:48:37-04

Hampton Roads, Va. - Norfolk says it is TsunamiReady, the only city in the Commonwealth of Virginia to have that certification, meaning Virginia Beach is not.

"Based upon our assessment of the risk...we feel we would be looking at possibly a couple of foot wave coming ashore that we feel raising the community's awareness or concern about that threat wasn't a high priority," said Mark Marchbank, Deputy Coordinator of Emergency Management for the City of Virginia Beach.

Marchbank says even without the TsunamiReady certification from the National Weather Service, the city could respond to a tsunami threat.

"We would rather focus on dealing with a hurricane, other types of flooding and general preparedness as really our strategy of communicating with the public," said Marchbank.

To be recognized as TsunamiReady, a community must:

1) Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center
2) Have more than one way to receive tsunami warnings and to alert the public
3) Promote public readiness through communication education and the distribution of information
4) Develop a formal tsunami plan, which includes holding emergency exercises
5) Comply with TsunamiReady guidelines

While some say the risk of a tsunami happening here in Hampton Roads is relatively low, others think differently, like the City of Norfolk. In fact, Norfolk has been a TsunamiReady community since 2006. Still, emergency managers in Norfolk understand why other cities are not since other weather hazards affect us more often.

"We needed to focus on the hurricane, the nor'easter, those types of things - snowstorms - are much more critical to us and where we wanted to put our emphasis in terms of our program," said Marchbank.

Marchbank says regardless of the TsunamiReady designation, the City of Virginia Beach would use every means necessary to get the word out if a tsunami affected the area, using the Emergency Alert System, the reverse 911 call system, police and fire rescue and the lifeguard service.