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Tsunamis are large ocean waves generated by major earthquakes beneath the ocean floor or major landslides into the ocean. Rising to several feet or higher, they can strike the coast with devastating force. People on beaches or in low coastal areas, such as estuaries and rivers, need to be aware that a tsunami could arrive within minutes of a severe earthquake – and the danger period can continue for many hours. Tsunamis can occur any time of year, day or night.

Top Tip

  • To escape a tsunami, go as high and as far as you can – ideally to a spot 100 feet above sea level or 2 miles away.
  • Every foot inland or upward may make a difference!
  • If you can see the wave, you are too close for safety.
  • Know the difference!

  • A Tsunami WARNING means a tsunami may have been generated and could be close to your area.
  • A Tsunami WATCH means a tsunami has not yet been verified but could exist and may be as little as an hour away. [Recommendation: Create unique infographic]
  • Before a Tsunami


    Prepare in Advance

    If you do nothing else:

    Be sure you’re Red Cross Ready. That means:

    1. Assembling an emergency preparedness kit .

    2. Creating a household evacuation plan that includes your pets.

    3. Staying informed about your community’s risk and response plans.

    Make sure your family knows how to use the Red Cross Safe and Well website.

    Download the FREE American Red Cross Emergency App.

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  • Talk about tsunamis with your family so that everyone knows what to do in a tsunami situation. Discussing ahead of time helps reduce fear, particularly for younger children.
  • Check at your workplace and your children's schools and day care centers to learn if they are in a tsunami hazard area or inundation zone. Learn about their evacuation plans, especially the designated spot where you will pick up your children.
  • Plan evacuation routes from your home, school, workplace and other places you could be where tsunamis present a risk.
  • - If possible try to pick areas 100 feet above sea level or 2 miles inland.
  • - If you cannot get that high or far, go as high or far as you can. Every foot inland or upward may make a difference. You should be able to reach the highest ground possible on foot within 15 minutes.
  • Practice your evacuation routes. Familiarity may save your life. Be able to follow your escape route at night and during inclement weather.
  • Ensure that every member of your family carries a Safe and Well wallet card.
  • Talk to your insurance agent. Homeowners' policies do not cover flooding from a tsunami. Ask about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) (www.fema.gov/nfip). NFIP covers tsunami damage, but your community must participate in the program.
  • Make sure you have access to NOAA radio broadcasts:
  • - Find an online NOAA radio station
  • - Search for a NOAA radio app in the Apple Store >> or Google Play>>
  • - Purchase a battery-powered or hand-crank NOAA radio in the Red Cross Store
  • • Prepare a pet emergency kit for your companion animals.

    • Ensure that any outbuildings, pastures, or corrals are protected in the same way as your home. Fence lines should enable your animals to move to higher ground in the event of a tsunami.

    • 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. For more information, check out the Institute for Business and Home Safety at www.ibhs.org.

    • If you do live in a coastal area, elevate your home to help reduce damage. Most tsunami waves are less than 10 feet (3 meters).

    • Take precautions to prevent flooding.

    • 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.

    • Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a tsunami watch or warning being issued for your area. But remember, you may need to evacuate immediately – don’t risk your safety to save your belongings.

    During a Tsunami


    If You Feel a Strong Coastal Earthquake

    • Drop, cover, and hold on to protect yourself from the earthquake.

    • When the shaking stops, gather members of your household and review your evacuation plan. A tsunami may be coming within minutes.

    • Use a NOAA Weather Radio or stay tuned to a Coast Guard emergency frequency station, or a local radio or television station for updated emergency information.

    • Follow instructions issued by local authorities. Recommended evacuation routes may be different from the one you planned, or you may be advised to climb higher.

    • If you hear an official tsunami warning or detect signs of a tsunami, evacuate at once. A tsunami warning is issued when authorities are certain that a tsunami threat exists, and there may be little time to get out.

    • Take your emergency preparedness kit. Having supplies will make you more comfortable during the evacuation.

    • If you evacuate, take your animals with you. If it is not safe for you, it is not safe for them.

    • Get to higher ground as far inland as possible. Watching a tsunami from the beach or cliffs could put you in grave danger. If you can see the wave, you are too close to escape it.

    • Avoid downed power lines and stay away from buildings and bridges from which heavy objects might fall during an aftershock.

    • Stay away until local officials tell you it is safe. A tsunami is a series of waves that may continue for hours. Do not assume that after one wave the danger is over. The next wave may be larger than the first one.

    • If you evacuate, take your animals with you. If it is not safe for you, it is not safe for them.

    • Get to higher ground as far inland as possible. Watching a tsunami from the beach or cliffs could put you in grave danger. If you can see the wave, you are too close to escape it.

    • Avoid downed power lines and stay away from buildings and bridges from which heavy objects might fall during an aftershock.

    • Stay away until local officials tell you it is safe. A tsunami is a series of waves that may continue for hours. Do not assume that after one wave the danger is over. The next wave may be larger than the first one.

    After a Tsunami


    Staying Safe After a Tsunami

    Staying Safe After a Tsunami

    If you do nothing else:

    1. Let friends and family know you’re safe.

  • Register yourself as safe on the Safe and Well website
  • 2. If evacuated, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so.

    3. Continue listening to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions.

    4. If people around you are injured, practice CHECK, CALL, CARE. Check the scene to be sure it’s safe for you to approach, call for help, and if you are trained, provide first aid to those in need until emergency responders can arrive.

    After a Tsunami

  • Avoid disaster areas. Your presence might hamper rescue and other emergency operations and put you at further risk from the residual effects of the tsunami, such as contaminated water, crumbled roads, landslides, mudflows, and other hazards.
  • Expect aftershocks if the earthquake was very large (magnitude 8 to 9+ on the Richter scale) and located nearby. Some aftershocks could be as large as magnitude 7+ and capable of generating another tsunami. It may take days, weeks, or months for the aftershocks to subside.
  • Pay attention to how you and your loved ones are experiencing and handling stress. Promote emotional recovery by following these tips.
  • Watch animals closely and keep them under your direct control.
  • Help people who require additional assistance—infants, elderly people, those without transportation, large families who may need additional help in an emergency situation, people with disabilities, and the people who care for them.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings and those surrounded by water. Tsunami water, like floodwater, can undermine foundations, causing buildings to sink, floors to crack, or walls to collapse.
  • Check food supplies. Any food that has come in contact with floodwater may be contaminated and should be thrown out.
  • Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report them to the utility company immediately. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and get everyone outside quickly. Turn off the gas using the outside main valve if you can, and call the gas company from a neighbor's home.
  • Follow these tips for inspecting your home’s structure and utilities & systems after a tsunami.
  • Take pictures of home damage, both of the buildings and its contents, for insurance purposes.

  • Wear protective clothing, including long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and sturdy shoes, and be cautious.
  • If your home has been flooded:
  • - Shovel out any mud before it solidifies.
  • - Open the windows and doors to help dry the building.
  • Learn more about how to clean up after a tsunami, including the supplies you’ll need and how to handle fire hazards such as gas, electricity and chemicals.
  • Check your home and advise about ways to make it more resistant to tsunami water or even divert waves away from your property.
  • Tsunami Fact vs Fiction


    Tsunami Fact vs Fiction

    Fiction

    Tsunamis are giant walls of water.

    Fact

    Occasionally, tsunamis can form walls of water (known as tsunami bores) but tsunamis normally have the appearance of a fast-rising and fast-receding flood. They can be similar to a tide cycle occurring in just 10 to 60 minutes instead of 12 hours.

    Fiction

    A tsunami is a single wave.

    Fact

    A tsunami is a series of waves. Often the initial wave is not the largest. In fact, the largest wave may not occur for several hours. There may also be more than one series of tsunami waves if a very large earthquake triggers local landslides which in turn trigger additional tsunamis.

    Fiction

    Boats should move to the protection of a bay or harbor during a tsunami.

    Fact

    Tsunamis are often most destructive in bays and harbors, not just because of the waves but because of the violent currents they generate in local waterways. Tsunamis are least destructive in deep, open ocean waters.

    Fiction

    A tsunami is the same thing as a tidal wave.

    Facts

    Tidal waves are regular ocean waves, and are caused by the tides. These waves are caused by the interaction of the pull of the moon’s gravity on the earth. A “tidal wave” is a term used in common folklore to mean the same thing as a tsunami, but is not the same thing.

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