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Our Story

In Harm's Way was born out of a passion to reduce losses to nature through implementation of preparedness strategies.  Since its founding in 2005, In Harm's Way has saved thousands of lives.

Humble Beginnings

Dr. Ron Harris went on his first geological expedition to Indonesia in 1987, where he learned the local language and lived among the people for several months.  It was obvious many residents were in harm's way of dangerous natural hazards. It was also obvious that there was no mechanism in place to provide the education necessary for them to implement risk reduction strategies. In 1998 Harris and his family lived in Indonesia as part of a Fulbright Research Fellowship to identify communities most at risk and provide institutional and local support for effective preparedness.


"Geology influences everyone on the planet everyday, especially in Indonesia, where more than one hundred million people live in harms way of explosive volcanoes, and gigantic earthquakes and tsunamis... Finding a way to connect my passion for geological research more directly with the needs of others was not a difficult stretch."

- Ron Harris, 2016


Sumatra 2004

Years prior to 2004, geoscientists forecasted a massive earthquake and tsunami event in the Sumatran region.  They were right; a 9.2 magnitude earthquake devastated the region on December 26th, 2004.  The ground shook violently for 12 minutes. The quake produced the largest regional tsunami in recorded history.  230,000 people died.

Most of those who died were unaware that the earthquake itself is the most reliable warning system for a possible tsunami. They did not act because they did not understand what was happening. There was time for many to move to high, safe ground but lack of knowledge and preparedness resulted in the largest tsunami tragedy in history. The forecast was right, but nothing was done to educate and prepare those in harm's way. 

This epic tragedy revealed that disaster mitigation is everyones responsibility, especially preparedness. Harris was one of the geoscientists to forecast this colossal event. His son once quipped that his dad was a doctor who didn't help people. He was right, forecasting the event was not enough, the most important aspects of disaster mitigation, the warning and practice on how to respond was lacking. Harris and the geoscience community were not involved  in delivering the warning or the necessary preparedness strategies to the last mile, those most at risk.  He decided to act by founding In Harm's Way non-profit organization.

In Harm's Way

The massive 2004 Sumatra earthquake started a regional seismic storm; seismic events and volcanic eruptions  are now happening more frequently in the region.  In the seven years following the 2004 event, four earthquakes larger than magnitude of 8.5, and accompanying tsunami, have slammed western Indonesia alone.

The islanders with the highest survival rates are those inhabited by indigenous peoples. These communities have oral traditions about past earthquakes and the killer waves that follow. Most inhabitants living along the coast were spared because of a coastal evacuation practice they implement every time they feel an earthquake. This is also the focus of In  Harm's Way; to prevent losses through not only accurate risk assessment, but geohazards education and preparedness at the grassroots level.

In Harm’s Way bridges the disconnect between what scientists forecast could happen and what the people most at risk know and are prepared for. These efforts have already saved thousands of lives that would otherwise be lost.

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