A tsunami is a series of waves that may be dangerous and destructive. When you hear a tsunami warning, move at once to higher ground and stay there until local authorities say it is safe to return home.
Find out if your home is in a danger area. Know the height of your street above sea level and the distance of your street from the coast. Evacuation orders may be based on these numbers.
Be familiar with the tsunami warning signs. Because tsunamis can be caused by an underwater disturbance or an earthquake, people living along the coast should consider an earthquake or a sizable ground rumbling as a warning signal. A noticeable rapid rise or fall in coastal waters is also a sign that a tsunami is approaching.
Make sure all family members know how to respond to a tsunami.
Make evacuation plans. Pick an inland location that is elevated. After an earthquake or other natural disaster, roads in and out of the vicinity may be blocked, so pick more than one evacuation route.
Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water.
Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1, police or fire department, and which radio station to listen for official information.
Tsunamis What You Should Do
Tsunamis that strike coastal location in the Pacific Ocean Basin are most always caused by earthquakes. These earthquakes might occur far away or near where you live.
Some tsunamis can be very large. In coastal areas their height can be as great as 30 feet or more (100 feet in extreme cases), and they can move inland several hundred feet.
All low lying coastal areas can be struck by tsunamis. A tsunami consists of a series of waves. Often the first wave may not be the largest. The danger from a tsunami can last for several hours after the arrival of the first wave.
Tsunamis can move faster than a person can run.
Sometimes a tsunami causes the water near shore to recede, exposing the ocean floor. The force of some tsunamis is enormous. Large rocks weighing several tons along with boats and other debris can be moved inland hundreds of feet by the tsunami wave activity. Homes and other buildings are destroyed.
All this material and water move with great force and can kill or injure people.
Tsunamis can occur at any time, day or night.
Tsunamis can travel up rivers and streams that lead to the ocean.
What You Should Do
Be aware of tsunami facts. This knowledge could save your life! Share this knowledge with your relatives and friends. It could save their lives!
If you are in school and you hear there is a tsunami warning, you should follow the advice of teachers and other school personnel. If you are at home and hear there is a tsunami warning, you should make sure you entire family is aware of the warning. Your family should evacuate your house if you live in a tsunami evacuation. Move in an orderly, calm and safe manner to the evacuation site or to any safe place outside your evacuation zone. Follow the advice of local emergency and law enforcement authorities.
If you are at the beach or near the ocean and you feel the earth shake, move immediately to higher ground. DO NOT wait for a tsunami warning to be announced. Stay away from rivers and streams that lead to the ocean as you would stay away from the beach and ocean if there is a tsunami. A regional tsunami from a local earthquake could strike some areas before a tsunami warning could be announced. Tsunamis generated in distant locations will generally give people enough time to move to higher ground. For locally generated tsunamis, where you might feel the ground shake, you may only have a few minutes to move to higher ground.
High, multi-story, reinforced concrete hotels are located in many low-lying coastal areas. The upper floors of these hotels can provide a safe place to find refuge should there be a tsunami warning and you cannot move quickly inland to higher ground. Local Civil Defense procedures may, however, not allow this type of evacuation in your area. Homes and small buildings located in low lying coastal areas are not designed to withstand tsunami impacts. Do not stay in these structures should there be a tsunami warning.
Offshore reefs and shallow areas may help break the force of tsunami waves, but large and dangerous waves can still be threat to coastal residents in these areas. Staying away fro all low-lying coastal areas is the safest advice when there is a tsunami warning.
If You Are on a Boat or Ship
Since tsunami wave activity is imperceptible in the open ocean, do not return to port if you are at sea and a tsunami warning has been issued for your area. Tsunamis can cause rapid changes in water level and unpredictable dangerous currents in harbors and ports. If there is time to move your boat or ship from port to deep water (after you know a tsunami warning has been issued), you should weigh the following considerations: Most large harbors and ports are under the control of a harbor authority and/or a vessel traffic system. These authorities direct operations during periods of increased readiness (should a tsunami be expected), including the forced movement of vessels if deemed necessary. Keep in contact with the authorities should a forced movement of vessels be directed.
Smaller ports may not be under the control of a harbor authority. If you are aware there is a tsunami warning and you have time to move your vessel to deep water, then you may want to do so in an orderly manner, in consideration of other vessels. Owners of small boats may find it safest to leave their boat at the pier and physically move to higher ground, particularly in the event of a locally generated tsunami. Concurrent severe weather conditions (rough seas outside of safe harbor) could present a greater hazardous situation to small boats, so physically moving yourself to higher ground may be the only option. Damaging wave activity and unpredictable currents can effect harbors for a period of time following the initial tsunami impact on the coast. Contact the harbor authority before returning to port making sure to verify that conditions in the harbor are safe for navigation and berthing.
As dangerous as tsunamis are, they do not happen very often. You should not let this natural hazard diminish your enjoyment of the beach and ocean. But, if you think a tsunami may be coming, the ground shakes under your feet or you hear there is a warning, tell your relatives and friends, and move quickly to higher ground.
Have disaster supplies on hand.
Flashlight and extra batteries.
Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries.
First aid kit and manual.
Emergency food and water.
Nonelectric can opener.
Cash and credit cards.
Develop an emergency communication plan.
In case family members are separated from one another during a tsunami (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.
Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact." After a disaster, often it's easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.
Contact your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter for more information on tsunamis.
Listen to a radio or television to get the latest emergency information, and be ready to evacuate if asked to do so.
If you hear an official tsunami warning or detect signs of a tsunami, evacuate at once. Climb to higher ground. A tsunami warning is issued when authorities are certain that a tsunami threat exists.
Stay away from the beach.
Never go down to the beach to watch a tsunami come in. If you can see the wave you are too close to escape it.
Return home only after authorities advise it is safe to do so. A tsunami is a series of waves. Do not assume that one wave means that the danger over. The next wave may be larger than the first one. Stay out of the area.
Stay tuned to a battery-operated radio for the latest emergency information.
Help injured or trapped persons.
Give first aid where appropriate. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help.
Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance--infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities.
Stay out of damaged buildings. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
Enter your home with caution.
Use a flashlight when entering damaged buildings. Check for electrical shorts and live wires. Do not use appliances or lights until an electrician has checked the electrical system.
Open 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 and test drinking water.
Fresh food that has come in contact with flood waters may be contaminated and should be thrown out. Have tap water tested by the local health department.
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.