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November 22, 2016
Tsunami Safety Tips

With the recent earthquake in Japan and the possibility of a tsunami occurring, understanding what a Tsumani is and how best to prepare is key information.  

• A tsunami is a series of ocean waves caused by an underwater earthquake, landslide, or volcanic eruption. More rarely, a tsunami can be generated by a giant meteor impact with the ocean. These waves can reach heights of over 100 ft.

• About 80% of tsunamis happen within the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire.”

• The first wave of a tsunami is usually not the strongest, successive waves get bigger and stronger.

• These waves travel together and can be up to one hour apart. 

• Tsunamis can travel at speeds of about 500 miles or 805 kilometers an hour, almost as fast as a jet plane.

• They can be as wide as 60 miles and cross entire oceans without losing momentum.

• When a tsunami is traveling, it may be less than a foot in height. This causes it to be unnoticed by sailors who are at sea. As the tsunami approaches land, it hits shallow water and begins to slow down

• If caught by a tsunami wave, it is better not to swim, but rather to grab a floating object and allow the current to carry you.

• Tsunamis retain their energy, meaning they can travel across entire oceans with limited energy loss.

• Tsunami means “harbor wave” in Japanese (tsu = harbor + nami = wave), reflecting Japan’s tsunami-prone history.

• Scientists can accurately estimate the time when a tsunami will arrive almost anywhere around the world based on calculations using the depth of the water, distances from one place to another, and the time that the earthquake or other event occurred.

• In deep ocean, tsunami waves may appear only a foot or so high. But as they approach shoreline and enter shallower water they slow down and begin to grow in energy and height. The tops of the waves move faster than their bottoms do, which causes them to rise precipitously.

• A tsunami’s trough, the low point beneath the wave’s crest, often reaches shore first. When it does, it produces a vacuum effect that sucks coastal water seaward and exposes harbor and sea floors. This retreating of sea water is an important warning sign of a tsunami, because the wave’s crest and its enormous volume of water typically hit shore five minutes or so later. Recognizing this phenomenon can save lives.

• The best defense against any tsunami is early warning that allows people to seek higher ground. The Pacific Tsunami Warning System, a coalition of 26 nations headquartered in Hawaii, maintains a web of seismic equipment and water level gauges to identify tsunamis at sea. Similar systems are proposed to protect coastal areas worldwide.


Tsunami-specific planning should include the following:

• 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.

• Your evacuation route should be about an area 100 feet above sea level or go up to two miles inland, away from the coastline. 

• 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.

• Use a radio to keep informed of local watches and warnings.

• Review flood safety and preparedness measures with your family. Discussing tsunamis ahead of time will help reduce fear and anxiety, and let everyone know how to respond. 


At a minimum, you should have the basic supplies listed below if you will be in an area that has Tsunami warning:

•  Water: one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
•  Food: non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home).
•  Flashlight
•  Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible) 
•  First aid kit
•  Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
•  Sanitation and personal hygiene items
•  Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
•  Cell phone with chargers
•  Family and emergency contact information
•  Extra cash
•  Emergency blanket 
•  Map(s) of the area


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Sources: National Geopgrahic, Wikipedia, Cwarn, Red Cross


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