How can I protect myself from a tsunami?
If you are in a coastal community and feel the shaking of a strong earthquake, you may have only minutes until a tsunami arrives. Do not wait for an official warning. Instead, let the strong shaking be your warning, and, after protecting yourself from falling objects, quickly move away from the water and to higher ground. If the surrounding area is flat, move inland. Once away from the water, listen to a local radio or television station or NOAA Weather Radio for information from the Tsunami Warning Centers about further action you should take. Even if you do not feel shaking, if you learn that an area has experienced a large earthquake that could send a tsunami in your direction, listen to a local radio or television station or NOAA Weather Radio for information from the Tsunami Warning Centers about action you should take. Depending on the location of the earthquake, you may have a number of hours in which to take appropriate action.
If you are in an area at risk from tsunamis, you should:
- 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. Also find out the height above sea level and the distance from the coast of outbuildings that house animals, as well as pastures or corrals.
- Plan evacuation routes from your home, school, workplace, or any other place you could be where tsunamis present a risk. If possible, pick areas 100 feet (30 meters) above sea level or go as far as two miles (3 kilometers) inland, away from the coastline. If you cannot get this 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 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 advise you on the best route to safety and likely shelter locations.
- If your children’s school is in an identified inundation zone, find out what the school evacuation plan is. Find out if the plan requires you to pick your children up from school or from another location. Telephone lines during a tsunami watch or warning may be overloaded and routes to and from schools may be jammed.
- Practice your evacuation routes. 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 or stay tuned to a local radio or television station to keep informed of local watches and warnings.
- 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.
- Discuss tsunamis with your family. Everyone should know what to do in a tsunami situation. Discussing tsunamis ahead of time will help reduce fear and save precious time in an emergency. Review flood safety and preparedness measures with your family.
Before a Tsunami
- Turn on your radio to learn if there is a tsunami warning if an earthquake occurs and you are in a coastal area.
- Move inland to higher ground immediately and stay there.
- 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.
- CAUTION - If there is noticeable recession in water away from the shoreline this is nature's tsunami warning and it should be heeded. You should move away immediately.
After a Tsunami
- Stay away from flooded and damaged areas until officials say it is safe to return.
- Stay away from debris in the water; it may pose a safety hazard to boats and people.
- Save yourself - not your possessions
- Continue using a NOAA Weather Radio or staying tuned to a Coast Guard emergency frequency station or a local radio or television station for updated emergency information. The tsunami may have damaged roads, bridges, or other places that may be unsafe.
- Check yourself for injuries and get first aid if necessary before helping injured or trapped persons.
- If someone needs to be rescued, call professionals with the right equipment to help. Many people have been killed or injured trying to rescue others in flooded areas.
- Help people who require special 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.
- Avoid disaster areas. Your presence might hamper rescue and other emergency operations and put you at further risk from the residual effects of floods, such as contaminated water, crumbled roads, landslides, mudflows, and other hazards.
- 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.