What triggers a tsunami evacuation in San Francisco

By Lisa Carmack

A potential tsunami warning would go through a complicated process of assessing the risk and possible damages that the tsunami could cause, before the Department of Emergency Management will issue an evacuation order to areas in immediate danger.

The first warning would come to the DEM from a state or federal warning system, be verified on multiple levels and assessed by the city’s emergency brain trust. If an evacuation is deemed necessary, a multi-step process will begin.

First, speakers placed strategically around the city will issue warnings in English, Spanish or Cantonese depending on the area (for a map of speaker locations, see the DEM website.) This system has 104 speakers — 22 of which are devoted to tsunami warning — in each significant area of San Francisco (including on campus at SFSU) in order to ensure the most effective distribution of the emergency alert.

The DEM will then alert the media to broadcast warnings via TV or radio to tell people to walk to higher ground. Finally, if time permits, San Francisco Police and National Park Service police will begin cruising coastal areas broadcasting orders to evacuate over their public address speakers.
— John Baker contributed to this post.

A map showing the locations of 104 emergency sirens in the City of San Francisco.

A map from the city's Department of Emergency Management showing the locations of 104 emergency sirens in the City of San Francisco.

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