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A Year Later, Tsunami Impacts Information Sharing

Educating residents about disasters became a priority in the wake of the March 11, 2011 tsunami.

They live safely outside of the low-lying areas at risk during a wave event.

But early-morning news reports that a wall of water powered by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated Japan was heading to California struck fear in thousands of county residents.

Frightened families, many of them from South County, packed their cars in the middle of the night and drove to higher ground to escape the flooding they expected.

Others called 911—1,000 people between 5-8 a.m.—to ask what they should do. The truth? Most were fine where they were.

After the tsunami waters receded, public officials got to work on educating residents about natural disasters and other emergencies so people would be better-prepared for whatever incident happens next.

Throughout the county, . One, in Capitola, drew more two dozen people interested in learning more about and how to protect themselves.

“The main thing we want people to take away is that common sense is your best ally,” Laurie Lang, health educator for Santa Cruz County Health Services, told the crowd at the time. “If you’re at the beach and you feel an earthquake for 20 seconds, leave the beach and go to higher ground.”

Some low areas were threatened during the tsunami: and Beach Flats in Santa Cruz, Capitola Village, Rio Del Mar and Pajaro Dunes.

Getting the correct information is also key. County residents can stay updated on emergency proceedings by dialing 211, an emergency information line. They also can register their cell phones with emergency dispatchers so they will receive automated calls should their be an evacuation in their neighborhood. Visit scr911.org to sign up for the free service. Hundreds signed up after the tsunami.

 After the tsunami, police department, city officials and school district staff teamed to improve lines of communication with the city's large Spanish-speaking population. They reached out to Spanish-language radio and TV to modify procedures because it was widely believed shoddy translations of the tsunami reports led to panic and the mass evacuation of the city.



A year later, a lot has changed.

"Channel 70 is running—right now—the flood preparedness video in English and Spanish," Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano said this week.

The city also introduced , a program that had proven successful in Santa Cruz. About 11,000 people have registered for cell phone and email alerts, the most recent of which was used for.

To register for Nixle service in either Santa Cruz or Watsonville, got to Nixle.com.

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