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Pedestrian evacuation modelling of a Canadian West Coast community from a near-field Tsunami event


Large near-field tsunamis pose a significant threat to the Canadian West Coast due to its proximity to the circum-Pacific belt where a significant tsunami-inducing earthquake event from the Cascadia subduction zone is expected. This study investigated the risks associated with such an event in terms of pedestrian evacuation needs and plans for the Town of Tofino, a small community located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. The population-at-risk within the hazard zone and its ability to evacuate to safety is evaluated using anisotropic path-distance modelling. Mitigation measures, such as vertical evacuation buildings, are quantitatively evaluated. Site-specific inundation modelling was not performed as part of this study; tsunami hazard and safe zones were computed using a range of run-ups varying between 3 and 25 m. It was established that up to 80% of the population is within the maximum hazard zone considered. This evacuation modelling exercise indicates that a maximum of 13% of the population would have insufficient time to reach safety when using a mobility-impaired ambulatory speed. The use of three vertical evacuation buildings can reduce the risk of losing population in this category by 99%. Although some conservative assumptions were used (vertical datum at higher high water, reductions in safe zones by generalization process and mobility-impaired evacuation speeds), the evacuation potential is likely overestimated due to the coarseness of the topographic data used in the evacuation modelling and from an overestimated first wave arrival time. This is the first Canadian study which used anisotropic evacuation modelling to evaluate the vulnerability of a Canadian community to tsunami inundation.

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(adapted from Tiling et al. (1987))

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(adapted from District of Tofino (2016))

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Correspondence to Isabelle Cheff.

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Cheff, I., Nistor, I. & Palermo, D. Pedestrian evacuation modelling of a Canadian West Coast community from a near-field Tsunami event. Nat Hazards 98, 229–249 (2019).

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  • Pedestrian evacuation
  • Anisotropic modelling
  • Near-field Tsunami