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Tsunami Disaster Advice



A tsunami is not one ocean wave, but a series, created during an earthquake or other underwater seismic event. The earthquake causes a rapid displacement of ocean water, generating a "wave train" that quickly moves across the ocean. While the tsunami waves are hardly detectable out at sea, the waves begin to slow down and gain energy. By the time the first wave strikes, it can be many feet high and carry immense force.

Most tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean, which is known for its seismic activity, but any coastline can be affected by tsunamis. Tsunamis can strike far from an earthquake's epicenter.

Surviving Tsunamis

It's possible to survive a tsunami, but you need to know what to do in advance so that you can move quickly if you find yourself at risk. Your first task is to prepare for earthquake survival, since nearly all tsunamis are caused by earthquakes. You should then take some extra precautions, particularly if you are traveling to a developing nation without an extensive tsunami warning system.

Before the Tsunami

  • Prepare in advance if you are traveling to an earthquake-prone coastal area. Sign up for text message earthquake notifications. Bring a battery-powered radio (and batteries) along on your trip.

  • Create an evacuation plan so you know where to go; you must get to a place at least 50 feet above sea level in order to be safe.

  • Pay attention if an earthquake occurs. Turn on your radio and listen for tsunami watches or warnings. If a watch or warning is issued, you may have only 20 – 30 minutes to evacuate to higher ground.

  • If you need extra time to get to safety, evacuate right away. Do not wait for warnings.

During the Tsunami

  • Heed warnings, even if you think you are too far away to be affected.

  • Get to higher ground immediately.

  • Do not watch the tsunami. If you stay to see it, you may not survive.

  • Help others evacuate.

  • If you can't get to higher ground, go to the top floor of a tall building. If no buildings are available, climb a tree.

  • If you are in a large boat and do not receive information from local officials, get to deep water as soon as possible.

  • If you are in a small boat near shore, get to land quickly and immediately move to higher ground.

  • Follow all directions given by local officials.

Awareness Information

The West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WC/ATWC) is responsible for tsunami warnings for California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) is responsible for providing warnings to international authorities, Hawaii, and U. S. territories within the Pacific basin. The two Tsunami Warning Centers coordinate the information being disseminated. 

The WC/ATWC and PTWC may issue the following bulletins:


A tsunami was or may have been generated, which could cause damage; therefore, people in the warned area are strongly advised to evacuate.


A tsunami was or may have been generated, but is at least two hours travel time to the area in watch status. Local officials should prepare for possible evacuation if their area is upgraded to a warning.


An earthquake has occurred in the Pacific basin, which might generate a tsunami. WC/ATWC and PTWC will issue hourly bulletins advising of the situation.


A message with information about an earthquake that is not expected to generate a tsunami. Usually only one bulletin is issued.

Be familiar with the tsunami warning signs. A strong earthquake lasting 20 seconds or more near the coast may generate a tsunami. A noticeable rapid rise or fall in coastal waters is also a sign that a tsunami is approaching.

Tsunamis most frequently come onshore as a rapidly rising turbulent surge of water choked with debris. They are not V-shaped or rolling waves, and are not "surfable."

Tsunamis may be locally generated or from a distant source. In 1992, the Cape Mendocino, California, earthquake produced a tsunami that reached Eureka in about 20 minutes, and Crescent City in 50 minutes. Although this tsunami had a wave height of about one foot and was not destructive, it illustrates how quickly a wave can arrive at nearby coastal communities and how long the danger can last.

In 1957, a distant-source tsunami generated by an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska struck Hawaii, 2,100 miles away. Hawaii experienced $5 million in damages from that tsunami.

Plan for a Tsunami

Develop a Family Disaster Plan.

Please see the "Family Disaster Plan" section for general family planning information. Tsunami-specific planning should include the following:

Learn about tsunami risk in your community.

Contact your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter. Find out if your home, school, workplace or other frequently visited locations are in tsunami hazard areas. Know the height of your street above sea level and the distance of your street from the coast or other high-risk waters. Evacuation orders may be based on these numbers.

If you are visiting an area at risk from tsunamis,

check with the hotel, motel, or campground operators for tsunami evacuation information and how you would be warned. It is important to know designated escape routes before a warning is issued.
If you are at risk from tsunamis, do the following:

Plan an evacuation route from your home, school, workplace,

or any other place you'll be where tsunamis present a risk. If possible, pick an area 100 feet above sea level or go up to two miles inland, away from the coastline. If you can't get this high or far, go as high as you can. Every foot inland or upwards may make a difference. You should be able to reach your safe location on foot within 15 minutes. After a disaster, roads may become impassable or blocked. Be prepared to evacuate by foot if necessary. Footpaths normally lead uphill and inland, while many roads parallel coastlines. Follow posted tsunami evacuation routes; these will lead to safety. Local emergency management officials can help advise you as to the best route to safety and likely shelter locations.

Practice your evacuation route.

Familiarity may save your life. Be able to follow your escape route at night and during inclement weather. Practicing your plan makes the appropriate response more of a reaction, requiring less thinking during an actual emergency situation.

Use a NOAA Weather Radio with a tone-alert feature

to keep you informed of local watches and warnings. The tone alert feature will warn you of potential danger even if you are not currently listening to local radio or television stations.

Talk to your insurance agent.

Homeowners' policies do not cover flooding from a tsunami. Ask about the National Flood Insurance Program.

Discuss tsunami with your family.

Everyone should know what to do in case all family members are not together. Discussing tsunamis ahead of time will help reduce fear and anxiety, and let everyone know how to respond. Review flood safety and preparedness measures with your family.

Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit Please see the section "Disaster Supplies Kit" for general supplies kit information. Tsunami-specific supplies should include the following:

-Evacuation Supplies Kit in an easy-to-carry contanier (backpack) near your door.
   - Disaster Suplies Kit basics. 

How to Protect Your Property

Avoid building or living in buildings within several hundred feet of the coastline. These areas are more likely to experience damage from tsunamis, strong winds, or coastal storms.

Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a tsunami. A list will help you remember anything that can be swept away by tsunami waters.

Elevate coastal homes. Most tsunami waves are less than 10 feet. Elevating your house will help reduce damage to your property from most tsunamis.

Follow flood preparedness precautions. Tsunamis are large amounts of water that crash onto the coastline, creating floods.

Have an engineer check your home and advise about ways to make it more resistant to tsunami water. There may be ways to divert waves away from your property. Improperly built walls could make your situation worse. Consult with a professional for advice.

What to Do After a Tsunami

  • Continue listening to a NOAA Weather Radio, Coast Guard emergency frequency station, or other reliable source for emergency information.
  • The tsunami may have damaged roads, bridges, or other places that may be unsafe.

Help injured or trapped persons.

  • Give first aid where appropriate. Call for help. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.

Help a neighbor who may require special assistance –

  • Infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities. Elderly people and people with disabilities may require additional assistance. People who care for them or who have large families may need additional assistance in emergency situations.

Use the telephone only for emergency calls.

  • Telephone lines are frequently overwhelmed in disaster situations. They need to be clear for emergency calls to get through.
  • Stay out of the building if waters remain around it.
  • Tsunami waters, like flood waters, can undermine foundations, causing buildings to sink, floors to crack, or walls to collapse.
  • When re-entering buildings or homes, use extreme caution.
  • Tsunami-driven flood waters may have damaged buildings where you least expect it. Carefully watch every step you take.
  • Wear sturdy shoes.
  • The most common injury following a disaster is cut feet.
  • Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights when examining buildings.
  • Battery-powered lighting is the safest and easiest, preventing fire hazard for the user, occupants, and building.
  • Examine walls, floors, doors, staircases, and windows to make sure that the building is not in danger of collapsing.
  • Inspect foundations for cracks or other damage.
  • Cracks and damage to a foundation can render a building uninhabitable.

Look for fire hazards.

There may be broken or leaking gas lines, flooded electrical circuits, or submerged furnaces or electrical appliances. Flammable or explosive materials may come from upstream. Fire is the most frequent hazard following floods.

Check for gas leaks.

If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas using the outside main valve if you can, and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.

Look for electrical system damage.

If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell burning insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice. Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service.

Check for sewage and water line damage.

If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water from undamaged water heaters or by melting ice cubes.

Use tap water if local health officials advise it is safe.

Watch out for animals, especially poisonous snakes, that may have come into buildings with the water.

Use a stick to poke through debris. Tsunami flood waters flush snakes and animals out of their homes.

Watch for loose plaster, drywall, and ceilings that could fall.

Take pictures of the damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance claims.

Open the windows and doors to help dry the building.

Shovel mud while it is still moist to give walls and floors an opportunity to dry.

Check food supplies. Any food that has come in contact with flood waters may be contaminated and should be thrown out.



Feel free to contact us if you would like to see, or advertise any further advice for a Tsunami


The SW Team.............