TsunamiClear: Visual standards for public-facing tsunami maps to improve spatial knowledge and risk literacy for those living in tsunami hazard communities.

Visual Standards for tsunami evacuation information originated from examining the taxonomy of semiotics and visualization currently used in two approaches of evacuation information; 1) city evacuation instructions and 2) airline evacuation cards. These two formats provided a comparison of visual representation and effectiveness, the influence of regulation (or lack thereof), and the assessment of path-knowledge for the people who access the information.

The application of cognitive phenomena was considered in assessing current models of information and the potential of a redesign. Cognitive phenomena include collective behavior, tunnel vision, and issues in temporary cognitive paralysis. A cognitive recall study was completed in order to measure performance outcomes between audio, written, and visual presentation of information.

Looking at original public-facing evacuation instructions provided by Emergency Management agencies in the United States. The first thing I noticed was that they are all maps. My next question was why. To the everyday person, maps require a specific and higher level skillset to decode and gain meaningful information. The maps were also inconsistent in how they looked and how they were made. They varied in density, color coding, typography, hierarchy, and overall symbology.

After redesigning the map with TsunamiClear visual standards, we tested it in a cognitive recall study. We tested audio, written, and visual (TsunamiClear map) formats of information. Participants were able to remember information with more accuracy and for a longer period of time with maps compared to the other formats.

TsunamiClear maps below demonstrate the “branding” of tsunami evacuation information. The “look” of these public-facing maps stay consistent throughout coastal cities in California and does not require the public to learn a new visual language for each city. TsunamiClear maps are also schematic diagrams not based on GIS data. This approach prioritizes relative positions of main landmarks and directional evacuation routes as opposed to geographic accuracy. This concept was adopted from Harry Beck’s London Tube map in 1931 and used widely for public-facing applications such as transportation maps.

TsunamiClear Maps transform data-driven and content-heavy GIS maps that are traditionally used for internal decision-making to evidence-supported public-facing maps that are useful and memorable for community members to plan for a tsunami evacuation, identify alternative evacuation routes, and discover routes that are not part of their everyday routine.

TsunamiClear considers how design supports cognitive variables including collective behavior, tunnel vision, and issues in temporary cognitive paralysis. The objective is to encourage cognitive recall of tsunami risk for residents, tourists, students, commuters, and employees.

TsunamiClear creates and distributes information and education that is coherent, cohesive, and memorable.

Disclaimer: Tsunami information and inundation area is reviewed and revised regularly by CalOES and CGS. The maps below do not reflect the most recent and updated changes. Please do not refer to these maps in an emergency situations. Refer to your local emergency management department in your city for updates.