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South California Tsunami and Disaster Response Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 30th, 2022


On 1 February 2021, an earthquake that occurred 50 miles west of South California’s coastline caused a tsunami that hit cities such as San Clemente, Dana Port, Laguna Beach, and Newport Beach (see Table 1). This paper provides the report’s estimate figures in terms of human casualties and the structures affected by the wave. The study also highlights some of the sectors that have been involved in responding to the devastation. The estimation of figures was done through the Hazus program, a software pioneered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (Felsenstein et al., 2021). However, some other methods could have been used by the data collection teams.

Table 1: South California Tsunami Report.

City Human Injured Human Dead Human Total Structure Damaged Structure Destroyed Structure Total
Clemente 198 83 281 20 26 46
Dana 212 82 294 51 0 51
Laguna 200 35 235 24 10 34
Newport 315 87 402 45 14 59
Total 925 287 1,212 140 50 190
South California Tsunami Casualties.
Figure 1. South California Tsunami Casualties.


The Figure 1 represents the graphical representation of the data collected. The report revealed that not less than 1,212 people were affected by the sea wave, out of which 287 people died while 925 sustained injuries. A total of 190 structures were devastated, of which 140 were damaged while the rest were destroyed. In terms of injuries, Newport recorded the highest number of about 315, whereas Clemente had the least-198. Although there were no structures destroyed in Dana, it had the most cases of structure damage: 51. There were 59 buildings hit by the tsunami, the greatest figure among the four cities. The city of Clemente registered the most incidences of a structure damaged at 26.

Private Sector’s Interventions

Partners from the following sectors were actively involved in the disaster management process in different ways:

  • Transportation
  • Telecommunication systems
  • Utilities
  • Banking
  • Hospitals
  • Retail

Transport Sector Involvement

Since the tsunami had hit four cities, it required an extensive intervention of the transport sector. Activities that involved the use of either train, planes, or emergency vehicles including but not limited to:

  • Evacuation during or after the catastrophe: People were rescued from various locations such as buildings and beaches. The casualties were transferred to the morgues while the injured victims were ferried in emergency vehicles to health facilities from medical assistance.
  • Delivery of emergency supplies and services such as water, food, medical help, utility maintenance, and law maintenance, among other necessities. Most of these could be delivered through planes since the destruction hindered other means of transport such as the roads and trains. However, the latter means were also used in some instances, for example, places which could not be accessed by airplanes.
  • Search and rescue operations: The aircraft was helpful in this activity since many people were stuck and stranded in various places across the four cities, such as in the collapsed buildings, vehicles, and seashores. These victims needed to be located and evacuated to safer grounds or healthcare facilities to reduce injuries and mortality.

Telecommunication Sector Contribution

Communication is one of the most aspects of disaster response and management. Some of the critical modes of telecommunication used include a mobile phone, email, radio, television, and social media. Emergency telecommunication was also used since the tsunami interfered with telephone and electricity lines and the general network coverage was poor, including satellite phones and solar chargers (Fajardo, 2019). During the response, telecommunication was applied as follows:

  • Information sharing and public awareness: Using their phones and computers, people shared information about the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami through common social sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Sharing this information helped create awareness among people who were likely to be affected and the rest of the world. Others sent emails and text messages to alert their loved ones and to know their whereabouts during the incident. The actions served to reduce anxiety and the chances of more injuries and fatalities.
  • Coordination of operations: On the part of the disaster management authorities, communication was used in coordinating their groups in the response programs. In areas with poor network coverage, satellite phones were used to ensure the organization’s response activities amongst various teams.

Utility Sector Contribution

Utilities such as electricity, food, water source, medical supply, and others are also an essential aspect of disaster response as it ensures continuity of life of the survivors and the rescuers. Since the number of people affected was large, utility-allied companies needed to distribute the supplies in large quantities. Because the tsunami had destroyed electricity lines, other power companies partnered with the disaster management team to provide the victims with solar panels and chargers to use for lighting and power their devices. These supplementary power sources were also used in essential institutions such as medical facilities. Waste management firms also contributed, for example, by releasing their garbage trucks and providing the victims with bags for temporary collection bags to assist in managing the deteriorating sanitation levels. Food processing industries with goodwill provided relief food to needy and starving families during the response period to contain the side effects of the emergency.

Banking Sector Intervention

The banking sector joined the disaster management course by allowing credit demands of the locals. They encouraged borrowing by lowering the interest rates and extending the settlement period. Since the residents’ purchasing power had dramatically gone down after the devastation, acquiring low-interest loans would help them meet their daily needs as they consider investing the money in their desired ways. Furthermore, banks also considered increasing credit card limits for creditworthy account holders, raising the daily ATM withdrawal limits, and waiving ATM and late loan repayment fees for their customers affected by the emergency. The banks’ customer service was also instrumental in offering advisory services to the clients regarding the latter’s spending and investment. All these measures were aimed at maintaining and increasing their client base.

Hospitals’ Contribution

Hospital systems are key players in emergency response operations. Since disasters are usually unforeseen, it is incumbent for health institutions to be proactively prepared for any pandemic (Ceferino et al., 2020). During the South California tsunami, the hospitals participated in the following ways:

  • Treatment of causalities: The hospitals within South California offered care to victims transferred to the health facility. Some institutions deployed paramedics to provide emergency to patients at the disaster scenes before the latter could be moved to safer places or the hospital. This sector’s response helped minimize fatalities and injuries since the healthcare workers were well-coordinated and professional in their work.
  • Information sharing: There was the need for the hospitals to enhance public awareness of the residence in so far as the emergency was concerned. They did so through guidance and counseling, mass media, publications, and so on. The sensitization programs helped to reduce anxiety and hopelessness among the affected groups.
  • Accommodation of patients: Healthcare institutions had to create more space to accommodate the large population of victims who were taken continuously for emergency treatment, guidance, and counseling. In case of overpopulation, measures were created to have some survivors moved to other hospitals to reduce overcrowding.
  • Procurement of essential equipment: With a proactive preparedness strategy, health institutions which had acquired vital machines used them in the crisis response. Critical cases which depended on such technologies’ availability were well-attended, thus reducing mortality and further injuries.

Retail Sector Contribution

Retail businesses such as supermarkets need to restock their shelves during emergencies regularly. Since most shops were closed, products became scarce supply, so the retail sector was expected to ensure a steady supply of goods. Supermarkets had to provide fresh and nutritious food to the locals since others do not value relief food which some do not get it. These stores did not hike the prices to take advantage of the shortage because that would be affordable to needy families. Furthermore, supermarkets and other food retailers have partnered with shoppers and collected millions of dollars as contributions toward relief efforts through fund-raisers, auctions, and donations.


The report was done to examine the impact of the earthquake which caused a tsunami at the coast of South California. The research sought to identify major findings from the data collected by first responders. From the data, 287 people died while 925 were injured whereas 140 and 50 structures were damaged and destroyed respectively. This paper also determined the private sectors which were involved in the disaster response, and they included transport, telecommunication, and hospital among others. Although eventualities such as earthquakes are unforeseeable, it is imperative for concerned institutions to undertake proactive disaster preparedness initiatives which can help in responding to emergencies effectively to minimize casualties and property damage.


Ceferino, L., Mitrani-Reiser, J., Kiremidjian, A., Deierlein, G., & Bambarén, C. (2020). Nature Communications, 11(1), 1-12. Web.

Fajardo, C. A. B. (2019). Natural Hazards-Risk, Exposure, Response, and Resilience, 185. Web.

Felsenstein, D., Elbaum, E., Levi, T., & Calvo, R. (2021). Post-processing HAZUS earthquake damage and loss assessments for individual buildings. Natural Hazards, 105(1), 21-45. Web.

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