Stories From The Field

Assessing Potential Hazard Risk in Tutuila, American Samoa

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The U.S. territory of American Samoa, comprising seven islands in the South Pacific Ocean, is at risk from a variety of natural hazards. Often these hazards occur simultaneously, resulting in damage to property, resources, and life. To help prepare for and mitigate the effects of these hazards through land use planning, the main island of American Samoa needed a mapping application that would help residents and businesses to identify potential multi-hazard risk areas.


To fulfill this need, NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management and Pacific Islands regional office worked with the American Samoa Coastal Management Program to develop an online tool to help assess hazards in Tutuila. The tool is a lightweight Internet mapping application that displays floods, landslides, earthquakes, and tsunami data from American Samoa’s hazard mitigation plan (collected from the Pacific Disaster Center) and the American Samoa’s GIS user group. Base data including villages, roads, buildings, and the island’s shoreline were also included in the tool so users could locate their area of interest. Users can zoom in to a village, select a hazard to identify, and receive a potential hazard risk for that location.


While the original tool developed has been retired, it provided the idea behind the current viewer, which has been enhanced with new data and technology. The current technology for the tool was selected to allow additional modules to be easily incorporated, thus advancing the coastal management program’s capacity to employ geospatial technologies in decision making. With these new additions and enhancements, the current tool helps the American Samoa Coastal Management Program and its constituents evaluate potential hazard risks and plan for the effects of hazards when managing the coast. The tool uses a portable method that, with appropriate GIS data, can be implemented in other coastal communities.


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