Developing Warning and Disaster Response Capacity in the Tourism Sector in Coastal Washington, USA

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Purpose - There has been a considerable effort over the last decade to increase awareness of the tsunami risk in coastal Washington, USA. However, contemporary research on warning systems spawned by the recent Indian Ocean tsunami tragedy highlights the need for development of an effective tsunami warning system for both residents and transient populations, including visitors and tourists. This study sets out evaluate staff training for emergencies, emergency management exercises (including drills and evacuation), and hazard signage within motels and hotels in Ocean Shores, Washington, USA. Design/methodology/approach - Data were collected from interviews with reception staff and managers at 18 hotels, motels, and other accommodation establishments. Findings - Levels of staff training and preparedness for tsunami and other hazards were found to be generally very low, although examples of "best practice" were found at a select few establishments. Larger hotels already had orientation or general training programmes set up which had the potential to incorporate future tsunami and hazard training, while smaller "owner-operator" businesses did not. Research limitations/implications - Suggestions on how to improve preparedness are discussed, including undertaking training needs analyses and conducting workshops, simulations and employee training to empower both businesses and employees. Originality/value - This case study provides an insight into the challenges faced by emergency managers and the tourism sector in improving the effectiveness of warning systems in areas with high transient populations.