2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 303-6
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM

LESSONS LEARNED FROM A BI-NATIONAL EXCHANGE BETWEEN COLOMBIA AND THE UNITED STATES: REAL-LIFE EMERGENCY PLANNING AND PREPAREDNESS FROM A WORST-CASE SCENARIO


BEASON, Scott R.1, DRIEDGER, Carolyn L.2, LOCKHART, Andrew B.2, SCHELLING, John D.3, GIBSON, Zane D.4, BURKHART, Frances5, BANKS, Dan C.3, BUSTAD, Kyle D.6, ALLEN, Robert H.7 and SCOTT, Marci R.8, (1)Mount Rainier National Park, 55210 238th Ave E, Ashford, WA 98304, (2)Cascade Volcano Observatory, U.S. Geological Survey, Bldg 10, Suite 100, 1300 SE Cardinal Court, Vancouver, WA 98683, (3)Washington State Military Department's Emergency Management Division, 20 Aviation Drive, Building 20, Cam Murray, WA 98430, (4)Orting Valley Fire and Rescue, PO Box 386, Orting, WA 98360, (5)Whatcom County Sheriff's Office Division of Emergency Management, 311 Grand Ave, Bellingham, WA 98225, (6)Pierce County Department of Emergency Management, 2501 S 35th St, Suite D, Tacoma, WA 98409, (7)Pierce County Economic Development Department, 950 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, WA 98402, (8)Emergency Response Training, 25324 217th Pl SE, Maple Valley, WA 98038, scott_beason@nps.gov

On 13 November 1985, after almost a year of increased activity, Nevado del Ruiz volcano in Colombia’s Cordillera Central range of the Andes erupted violently. Pyroclastic flows swiftly melted glacial ice and snow to generate lahars (volcanic mudflows) that swept down river valleys through urban and rural areas tens of kilometers from the volcano. Despite several hours of warning and potential evacuation time, lahars caused more than 23,000 casualties, largely due to an uninformed populace and ineffective emergency protocols. Since the event, Colombian geologists, emergency planners, and elected officials have greatly improved community education and emergency evacuation systems near multiple active volcanoes and these new systems have proven highly effective during subsequent eruptions.

As an opportunity to learn from the Nevado del Ruiz disaster and the subsequent planning by Colombian authorities, a ten-member delegation from Washington State representing Federal, state, and local emergency managers, planners, and scientists visited Colombia in August 2013 as part of a bi-national exchange with their Colombian counterparts. Participants viewed effects of the 1985 eruption and the Colombians’ more recent mitigation efforts. The most striking lessons learned by US participants concerned the importance of pre-designated and well publicized evacuation routes, information hubs, community involvement in all aspects of planning and preparedness, and frequent exercising of notification devices and evacuation. Subsequently, ten Colombians visited Washington State in September 2013 to learn from our efforts in volcano preparedness and mitigation.

Using new knowledge about effective eruption preparations, U.S. bi-national exchange participants are expanding efforts for preparedness and mitigation in communities at risk. Some examples include: preliminary development of a statewide volcano awareness/preparedness plan in Washington, and upgraded Pierce County evacuation maps, information kiosks placed around the county; development of new Mount Rainier Volcano Hazards website (http://www.piercecountywa.org/activevolcano); local FEMA-USGS Volcano Crisis Awareness trainings and plan exercises; and almost two dozen public presentations during the 2014 Volcano Preparedness Month.

Handouts
  • gsa_colombia_poster.pdf (3.5 MB)