Public Safety

High School Students Win Tsunami Preparedness PSA Contest

If you are ever in a situation where a Tsunami Advisory or Warning is issued, you’ll be glad to have watched a video created by three tenth graders for the County of San Diego’s Office of Emergency Services Tsunami Preparedness Week contest. It tells you what you need to do to survive.

County OES challenged high school age students earlier this month to create a public service announcement video with tsunami preparedness as a theme. Seven videos were submitted, all from a Digital Arts class at the Coronado School of the Arts. A panel of judges ultimately chose a PSA entitled “Surviving the Killer Waves“ by Lucy Greenberg , Ariane Ferrer and Tulasi Napolitani.

The students will get special County recognition, and the winning video will be shown on County News Center television in between programming and be featured on the County and OES social media channels.

Judges from OES, Cal OES, the California Geological Survey, the National Weather Service and county communications staff selected the best PSA based on accuracy of information, creativity and originality, style, video/audio quality, timing and video length.

“We were impressed with all the students who submitted videos because they were able to quickly turn out a quality video that will help us educate others including young people like themselves. And hopefully it was as fun for the students as it was for our judges,“ said OES Director Holly Porter. “While it is not a common hazard in our region, tsunami preparedness education can save lives.”

In 2004, a 10-year-old British girl named Tilly Smith was vacationing with her family in Thailand when the Indian Ocean earthquake occurred. She saw the water receding and remembered a recent geography lesson about tsunamis. She told her father and he notified officials, who warned beachgoers to evacuate the shore.

The three winning students created original animation and voiced the one-minute video themselves. All said they were surprised and grateful to learn their video project was selected. The sophomore girls worked on the script together and then each tackled a third of the project. They all hope to continue media studies and work in the field some day.

Three high school sophomore girls won the tsunami preparedness video contest.
High school sophomores Lucy Greenberg, Tulasi Napolitani and Ariane Ferrer created the winning tsunami preparedness PSA contest.

Lucy did the animation and voiced the “after a tsunami” part.

“I like the way it turned out and I thought the colors worked out well,” Lucy said of the finished project.

Tulasi, 16, created the first part about what to do if you receive advance warning of a tsunami.

“I wasn’t too well-versed in knowledge about tsunamis and so it was informational to me about what to do. I feel like we should all be informed,” Tulasi said. “I personally tried to make it a little bit humorous because I’m more interested when its humorous.”

The third student, Ariane, 15, focused on what to do with if you haven’t had time to evacuate.

“I really liked the character-designed parts of the story. They are happy and not too worried when they find themselves in a (tsunami) situation. Don’t worry if you haven’t had a time to evacuate, there are other solutions,” Ariane said.

“The personalities of the kids that put this together really came out in the videos. They speak the language of other kids and they can make a difference for others to take action in their own age group,” said Rick Wilson, a senior engineering geologist with the California Geological Survey, who was one of the judges. “I thought this was a great opportunity to have students research and develop a video that can help others prepare for tsunamis.”

Wilson adds that in San Diego, the tsunami hazard is not as severe in other parts of the world. In San Diego, the biggest waves are expected to be between 8-10 feet high, which would put people in harm’s way if they were on a low-lying beach. Typically, most tsunamis that would affect San Diego would be from a distant source, which would give people in affected areas plenty of time to evacuate inland.

All the judges agreed it was a difficult choice to pick just one.  Take a look at the other entries on our Tsunami Preparedness Week PSA Video Contest page.

In general, if people receive a tsunami warning, they should immediately evacuate inland at least one-quarter mile. But if in an urgent situation where there is no time to go inland, they can go up at least 30 feet. To learn more about tsunamis, visit for local tsunami maps or the California Department of Conservation’s tsunami page.

Yvette Urrea Moe is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact