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Tsunami Preparedness: Get to High Ground

A tsunami is one of the few emergency events where it’s necessary to evacuate your home. If you’re well-prepared, you can “bunker down” in your house to wait out many emergencies, such as power blackouts, thunderstorms or extreme heat waves. However, when a massive wall of water is heading toward your community, it’s time to leave.

Tsunamis are most common around the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire” - the west coast of the U.S., Alaska and Hawaii. Regardless of this, a tsunami can potentially strike any coastal community that’s near an ocean. Also known as a “tidal wave”, a tsunami happens when an earthquake strikes beneath the ocean. A massive amount of water is displaced by the earthquake, and it results in waves that can be up to 100 feet high.

Portable Emergency Kit

Since you can’t take all of your emergency supplies with you in a disaster, you need to prepare a portable kit. When a tsunami warning and evacuation occurs, you’ll have to move quickly. Here are some items you should include in a portable emergency kit:

  • A portable water purifier
  • Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs)
  • A first aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Hand cranked portable radio
  • A supply of emergency cash
  • Tube tent and blanket or sleeping bag

Everything in your portable kit should be able to fit in a backpack or a duffel bag, and it should be light enough for you to carry without straining. Make sure you have an emergency kit with enough supplies for every member of your family, for at least 3 days. If you have older children, they can each have their own emergency kit. With smaller children, the adult kits will have to be a bit heavier, to carry enough for everyone.

Develop an Evacuation Plan

There may not be enough time to plan your escape route once a tsunami warning has been sounded. Make plans ahead of time and map out the roads you’ll take to evacuate your town or city. Take out time on the weekends to drive the route, and have several alternate routes in mind. Roads could actually be blocked by a traffic jam if too many people panic during an evacuation, so you’ll want to know several ways to get out of town.

Practice with your family. You can make a game out of it with the children, and time yourselves on how long it takes to gather the emergency kits and make it to a safe zone.

When evacuating during an actual tsunami warning, drive away from the ocean. Get to higher ground as soon as possible, and don’t go back home until emergency officials have declared the area safe once again.

You can’t simply hide out in your home in the event of a tsunami. The tsunamis in Southeast Asia in recent years have highlighted the potential damage and destruction that these waves are capable of. If you live in an area where there’s a potential threat of a tsunami, familiarize yourself with evacuation routes, and purchase the supplies you’ll need for portable emergency kits.