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How to Survive a Tsunami

Updated on April 17, 2013

Surviving a Tsunami 101

When vacationing near the ocean in many parts of the world, earthquakes and resulting tsunamis are something to be aware of. Quick action can mean the difference between survival or an untimely death.

There are two type of tsunamis, local and distant. A local tsunami is generated when there is an earthquake just a few miles off the coast and it will give you less time, sometimes only minutes to seek safety. A distant tsunami can be caused by an earthquake across the ocean and these can give you many more hours to prepare and are generally less destructive.

The first rule of surviving a tsunami is when you are near the coastline and feel the earth shaking, immediately head for higher ground. When a tsunami hits, it is not just the force of the water but all the debris that is in the water that can cause injury and harm. If finding higher ground is not an option, look for a taller commercial building and try to get up on the roof or an upper floor.

Also be aware, many times a series of tsunami waves can come ashore. A common mistake people make, is they wait for the first wave to pass only to be swept away when another wave comes ashore.

Many areas of the coast that are prone to tsunamis, have an early warning detection system in place. Loud sirens will blast when a tsunami threat is immanent. Heed the warning and seek higher ground immediately. If you can not drive due to traffic congestion, get out and walk. Many local authorities even recommend you use vehicle when seeking safety rather they recommend walking to higher ground to avoid traffic congestion.


Places to Avoid During A Tsunami Threat

Places hit hardest when a tsunami wave comes ashore are low lying areas like harbors, and rivers that flow into the sea. A tsunami wave can often flow up rivers and creeks and cause flooding for miles.

A local tsunami will often cause the ocean to recede before it comes in. Many times people will be tempted to go out and play in the tide pools unaware of what is in store. Something to keep in mind next time vacationing at the beach.

Harbors are also dangerous places due to their low elevation and a powerful tsunami can throw boats around like they are play toys. During the march 2011 tsunami caused by the earthquake in Japan, an 8 foot wave surge caused millions of dollars in damage to the harbor in Crescent City California.

Tsunami Prepardness

When visiting or staying in a tsunami zone, familiarize yourself with the best routes for escape. Many times there will be tsunami evacuations signs placed near roads and highways. These signs are there to warn you of the potential danger and also direct you to safety.

Check with the local Chamber of Commerce, they often have maps that show Tsunami Hazard Zones with safe evacuation areas of higher ground in the event of a tsunami.

It is also a good idea to have a small backpack or bag with emergency rations, water and a portable radio. Keep in a location where it is easy to grab on the way out the door. For ideas on what to place in your bug out bag see my huge: Survival Gear List.


A little preparation, planning and common sense, can go a long way and make all the difference in surviving a tsunami or any other natural disaster for you and your family.

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      Maancy 3 years ago

      its wonderful helping me a lot!

    • profile image

      Kate 5 years ago

      The New Madrid fault line is so sexy

    • brennawelker profile image

      brennawelker 6 years ago

      Great advise. I'll try this. Thanks for providing this info.

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