Warning and Response to the Mount St. Helens Eruption

By Thomas F. Saarinen & James L. Sell

Subjects: Environmental Studies
Series: SUNY series in Environmental Public Policy
Paperback : 9780873959162, 240 pages, June 1985
Hardcover : 9780873959155, 240 pages, June 1985

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

List of Figures

List of Maps

List of Tables


1 Introduction

2 The Geologists

3 The United States Forest Service

4 The State of Washington Department of Emergency Services and the Statewide Warning

5 The Response of Local Officials: West of the Cascades

6 The Response of Local Officials: East of the Cascades

7 The Role of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Other Federal Agencies

8 Summary of Aggregate Data

9 Conclusions and Recommendations


A. DES Warning Messages, May 18, 1980
B. List of Agencies Represented in the Mount St. Helens Warning and Response Survey (June–September, 1980)
C. List of Technical Information Network Bulletins
D. Mount St. Helens Warning and Response Questionnaire




This comprehensive book traces the warning, planning, and response to the eruption of Mount St. Helens in May 1980, as seen through the eyes of key actors in the emergency. Based on first-hand accounts by 130 officials of government, private industry, and volunteer organizations—individuals who played prominent roles in preparing for and dealing with the eruption—it represents a unique overview of the problems and procedures involved in learning about, planning for, and dealing with a major disaster.

Ironically, the first official warning had come as early as two years previously. More warnings came several months before the explosion. Yet many persons involved either ignored them or remained unaware that they could be affected. The book shows how this happened, suggesting steps that can be taken to insure future preparedness for large-scale emergencies.

Thomas F. Saarinen is Professor of Geography at The University of Arizona. James L. Sell is Vice President of Sun Belt Research in Tucson, Arizona.