Ka La staff writer
This article was published in the Ka La’s April/May 2014 printed edition.
What do you do if you are out at sea and a tsunami hits?
Stay put. It’s the safest place to be.
That’s just one of the things students in Michelle Smith’s Oceanography Lab class learned when they went for a visit to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach last month.
Ten students got a firsthand tour of the center from Oceanographer Nathan Beckar, who explained what instruments the center uses to detect signs of earthquakes and tsunamis and what action to take when a warning is issued.
Beckar also pointed out the phones the center used to keep in touch with many stations across the Pacific, including the weather station.
“Whether at sea or on land, the best place to survive a tsunami is away from the shore,” he said.
Beckar has been with the center since January 2006 and was happy to help the students learn about its operations.
“This tour hit the message of what tsunamis really are and they are nothing to think lightly of,” Smith said. It is an important part of her curriculum for students to have a hands-on or an eyewitness experience in order to make learning more relevant.
Student Clayton Ham said he enjoyed learning about tsunami and earthquakes because he has never seen or experienced a natural disaster first hand.
Gerard J. Fryer, a senior geophysicist at the center, said its primary responsibility is to issue warnings and then improve their systems.
He said the biggest challenge PTWC faces is public education. For instance, when the 8.1 magnitude earthquake occurred in American Samoa, there were no sirens installed at the time, but school officials and church members rang their bells as a warning sign.
Its offices are located on the ground floor of Building 2, just around the corner from the book store.