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Of all the potential disasters, tsunamis are probably pretty low on your list. And for those living in the U.S., that’s a justified analysis. In fact, the East Coast of the United States is at very low risk of ever seeing a tsunami, and even the West Coast isn’t a significant threat, with the exception of Hawaii and Alaska.
However, more and more Americans are living abroad these days. So, if you happen to be living in Central America or Mexico, you are at a much higher tsunami risk. The same is true for the west coast of South America. There is also the so-called “Pacific Rim of Fire,” including Indonesia, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
We also live in an age when a tsunami doesn’t necessarily have to be an act of nature. Sure, the majority of tsunamis are triggered by volcanoes or earthquakes occurring near coastal areas or underwater, but they can also be generated by man-made explosions.
So, how does one prepare for one of these terrifying disasters, you ask?
We’ll tell you. Keep reading for the ultimate guide on how to survive a tsunami.
Despite what you may have watched in your favorite cartoons or the latest doomsday thriller on Netflix, tsunamis don’t look like giant versions of the type of perfect curling waves that surfers crave. Instead, tsunamis more closely resemble flash floods—powerful and intense flash floods.
When waters from the tsunami hit the beach, they may only be as high as ten feet, but as that water surges inland, it can grow to a height of up to one-hundred feet and travel for many miles. This fast-moving wave wreaks havoc on everything and anything in its path, uprooting trees, breaking windows, and snapping power poles in half. The resulting soup of debris is likely to kill anything and anyone who is pulled in. Surviving these disasters requires a combination of good preparation, quick thinking, and decisive action.
Here are some tsunami terms you should be familiar with:
Tsunami: The term tsunami literally means “harbor wave.” It is a series of massive waves that occur after a significant displacement in the Earth. Earthquakes and volcanoes are the largest culprits— typically the ones that occur in coastal areas and underwater. They can also be caused by large meteors crashing into the ocean, as well as massive rockslides, icebergs, landslides, and even underwater nuclear explosions.
The average height of a tsunami wave is thirty-three feet, but there are records of tsunamis having produced one-hundred-foot waves—so anything is possible.
Tidal Wave: A tidal wave—not to get confused with a tsunami—is a massive wave that is caused by the gravitational interactions between the earth, moon, and sun. The terms ‘tidal wave’ and ‘tsunami’ are oftentimes used interchangeably, but they really shouldn’t be. One is caused by gravitational forces, while the other is caused by a coastal or underwater displacement of the Earth.
Tsunami Watch: A watch is issued by the National Tsunami Warning Center or the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. These two organizations are run by the National Weather Service, and each of them is responsible for monitoring volcanic activity and earthquakes below the sea in their respective regions. A watch means that there is the probability of a tsunami reaching land, but there is no guarantee.
If you do live in a coastal area and receive an alert for a tsunami watch, you should grab your emergency supply kit and your family, review your evacuation plans and stay tuned to the radio for updates.
Tsunami Advisory: An advisory is issued when a tsunami is inevitable or approaching a specific region. If you receive an advisory alert, you should begin executing your evacuation plans. Tsunami waves can cause strong tidal surges with enough strength to sweep away vehicles, boats, and anything along their path. They cause major flooding near coastal regions and travel quickly.
Don't attempt to watch the tsunami from the comfort of your home. Leave coastal beaches immediately. Move inland, get to high ground, and wait there until the threat has passed.
Tsunami Warning: A warning is an escalated version of a tsunami advisory. This means that a tsunami is definitely expected in the area, and evacuations must occur immediately. Stay far away from low-lying areas and the beach. A tsunami warning may last for hours after the initial waves have made landfall, so don’t return to your home until you're told it is safe to do so.
Tsunamis are scary and dangerous. Make sure you are prepared by following our tips below:
Know Your Risk
If you happen to live in a coastal area or a low-lying area somewhere near the beach, you are probably in a high-risk zone. Learn the warning systems used in your specific city and what they mean.
Learn The Signs of a Tsunami
Don’t rely solely on warning systems because sometimes the tsunami arrives before a warning can even reach the public. Know what an approaching tsunami looks and feels like.
Retrofit Your Home
If you live close to the beach, have a contractor or inspector check your home for vulnerabilities and ways to strengthen the infrastructure. If you're able to elevate your home above the projected rush of water, you might be able to save it from flooding. This could be costly but may be well worth the investment.
Have an Evacuation Plan
This step is critical for your survival. If you don’t know where it is safe to go, you will be running around like a chicken with their head cut off the moment the disaster strikes. Find where the tsunami safe areas or shelters are in your community and map them out. Become familiar with getting there using side roads since the highways and main roads could be closed or congested. Don't rely on your map app to get you to safety during a tsunami. Learn three different escape routes leaving from the places you frequent the most, such as your home, office, and the local market.
Build Your Emergency Kit
If you do, in fact, live in a high-risk area and are at home during a tsunami warning, your best bet is to keep an evacuation supply kit ready to go for every family member in your household.
This should include the minimum tools and supplies needed to survive for three days without assistance, such as water, food, and first aid. Don't forget to include your furry family members in the preparedness process as well. You can either put together an emergency kit ahead of time or purchase a great pre-made kit like the ones found at Stealth Angel Survival.
A tsunami is a terrifying disaster that can come without any notice, destroying everything and anything in its path. Although tsunamis are not as common as other disasters, the hard truth is that they can happen at any time, and those who are unprepared, are unlikely to survive.
Don’t get caught unprepared for a tsunami. Put together an emergency plan now and start stockpiling supplies. Put together a 72-hour emergency kit for each family member, fully stocked with the essentials such as water, food, and medical aid.
When purchasing supplies, be sure to purchase from a top-notch company like Stealth Angel Survival—the leader in emergency preparedness kits, supplies, and survival products. Stealth Angel Survival has everything you’ll need to keep you and your loved ones safe in the event of an emergency.