T S U N A M I S

T S U N A M I S
F A C T
S H E E T
Federal Emergency Management Agency
T S U N A M I S
BEFORE
A tsunami is a series of waves that may be dangerous and destructive. When you hear a tsunami warning,
move at once to higher ground and stay there until local authorities say it is safe to return home.
Find out if your home is in a
danger area.
Know the height of your street
above sea level and the distance of
your street from the coast. Evacuation orders may be based on these
numbers.
Be familiar with the tsunami
warning signs.
Because tsunamis can be caused by
an underwater disturbance or an
earthquake, people living along the
coast should consider an earthquake
or a sizable ground rumbling as a
warning signal. A noticeable rapid
rise or fall in coastal waters is also a
sign that a tsunami is approaching.
Teach family members how and
when to turn off gas, electricity,
and water.
Teach children how and when to
call 9-1-1, police or fire department, and which radio station to
listen to for official information.
Have disaster supplies on hand.
• Flashlight and extra batteries
• Portable, battery-operated radio
and extra batteries
• First aid kit and manual
• Emergency food and water
Make evacuation plans.
Pick an inland location that is
elevated. After an earthquake or
other natural disaster, roads in and
out of the vicinity may be blocked,
so pick more than one evacuation
route.
In case family members are
separated from one another
during a tsunami (a real possibility during the day when adults
are at work and children are at
school), have a plan for getting
back together.
Ask an out-of-state relative or
friend to serve as the “family
contact.” After a disaster, it’s
often easier to call long distance.
Make sure everyone knows the
name, address, and phone
number of the contact person.
• Nonelectric can opener
• Essential medicines
• Cash and credit cards
Make sure all family members
know how to respond to a
tsunami.
Develop an emergency communication plan.
• Sturdy shoes
Contact your local emergency
management office or American
Red Cross chapter for more
information on tsunamis.
If you hear an official tsunami
warning or detect signs of a
tsunami, evacuate at once. Climb
to higher ground. A tsunami
warning is issued when authorities
are certain that a tsunami threat
exists.
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.
Return home only after
authorities advise it is safe to
do so.
A tsunami is a series of waves.
Do not assume that one wave
means that the danger is over.
The next wave may be larger than
the first one. Stay out of the area.
Mitigation
Mitigation includes any activities that
prevent an emergency, reduce the chance of
an emergency happening, or lessen
the damaging effects of unavoidable
emergencies. Investing in preventive
mitigation steps now, such as purchasing
flood insurance or building structures at
least several hundred feet away from the
coastline, will help reduce the impact of
tsunamis in the future. For more
information on mitigation, contact your
local emergency management office.
AFTER
DURING
Listen to a radio or television
to get the latest emergency
information, and be ready to
evacuate if asked to do so.
Stay tuned to a batteryoperated radio for the latest
emergency information.
Help injured or trapped persons.
Give first aid where appropriate.
Do not move seriously injured
persons unless they are in
immediate danger of further
injury. Call for help.
Remember to help your neighbors who may require special
assistance — infants, elderly
people, and people with
disabilities.
Stay out of damaged buildings.
Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
Enter home with caution.
Use a flashlight when entering
damaged buildings. Check for
electrical shorts and live wires.
Do not use any appliances or
lights until an electrician has
checked the electrical system.
Inspecting Utilities in
a Damaged Home
Check for gas leaks — If
you smell gas or hear a blowing or
hissing noise, open a window and
quickly leave the building. Turn off the
gas at the outside main valve if you can
and call the gas company from a
neighbor’s home. If you turn off the
gas for any reason, it must be turned
back on by a professional.
Look for electrical system damage — If you see
sparks, broken or frayed wires, or if you
smell hot insulation, turn off the
electricity at the main fuse box or circuit
breaker. If you have to step in water to
get to the fuse box or circuit breaker,
call an electrician first for advice.
Check for sewage and
water line damage — If you
suspect sewage lines are damaged,
avoid using the toilets and call a
plumber. If water pipes are damaged,
contact the water company and avoid
using water from the tap. You can
obtain safe water by melting ice cubes.
Open windows and doors to
help dry the building.
Shovel mud while it is still
moist to give walls and floors
an opportunity to dry.
Check food supplies and test
drinking water.
Fresh food that has come in
contact with flood waters may be
contaminated and should be
thrown out. Have tap water tested
by the local health department.
EMERGENCY PUBLIC INFORMATION
September 1993
B A C K G R O U N D E R
T
S
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EMERGENCY INFORMATION
1. Tsunamis are caused by an underwater disturbance —
usually an undersea earthquake. Landslides, volcanic eruptions, and even meteors can also generate a tsunami.
WHAT IS A TSUNAMI?
A tsunami (pronounced “soo-nahm’
-ee”) is a series of waves generated
by an undersea disturbance such as
2. Tsunamis can originate hundreds or even thousands of
miles away from coastal areas. Local geography may intensify
the effects of a tsunami. Areas at greatest risk are less than 50
feet above sea level and within 1 mile of the shoreline.
an earthquake. From the area of the
disturbance, the waves will travel
3. People who are near the seashore during a strong earth-
outward in all directions, much like
quake should listen to a radio for a tsunami warning and be
ready to evacuate at once to higher ground.
the ripples caused by throwing a
4. Rapid changes in the water level are an indication of an
approaching tsunami.
rock into a pond. The time between
5. Tsunamis arrive as a series of successive “crests” (high
wave crests may be from 5 to 90
water levels) and “troughs” (low water levels). These successive crests and troughs can occur anywhere from 5 to 90 minutes apart. They usually occur 10 to 45 minutes apart.
minutes and the wave speed in the
open ocean will average 450 miles
per hour. Tsunamis reaching
heights of more than 100 feet have
been recorded. As the waves
approach the shallow coastal
waters, they appear normal and the
speed decreases. Then as the
tsunami nears the coastline, it may
Hawaii, the highest risk area, averages one tsunami every year with a damaging occurrence every
7 years. Alaska, also at high risk, averages a tsunami every 1.75 years and a damaging event
every 7 years. The West Coast experiences a damaging tsunami every 18 years on average.
grow to great height and smash into
the shore causing much destruction.
HELP YOUR COMMUNITY GET READY
The media can raise awareness about tsunamis by providing important
information to the community. Here are some suggestions:
1. Publish a special section in your local newspaper with
emergency information on tsunamis. Localize the information by printing the phone numbers of local emergency
services offices, the American Red Cross, and hospitals.
2. Periodically inform your community of local public warning
systems.
3. Work with local emergency services and American Red
Cross officials to prepare special reports for people with mobility
impairments on what to do if an evacuation is ordered.
4. Interview local officials and the insurance community about
the proper types of insurance to cover a flood-related loss.
Include information on the economic effects of disaster.
DID
YOU
■ In 1964, an Alaskan earthquake
generated a tsunami with waves
between 10 and 20 feet high
along parts of the California,
Oregon, and Washington coasts.
This tsunami caused more than
$84 million in damage in Alaska
and 123 fatalities in Alaska,
Oregon, and California.
■ Although tsunamis are rare
along the Atlantic coastline, a
severe earthquake on November
18, 1929, in the Grand Banks of
Newfoundland generated a
tsunami that caused considerable
damage and loss of life at
Placentia Bay, Newfoundland.
K N O W. . .
■ In 1946, a tsunami with waves of
20 to 32 feet crashed into Hilo,
Hawaii, flooding the downtown
area and killing 159 people.
■ The Tsunami Warning Centers in
Honolulu, Hawaii, and Palme,
Alaska, monitor disturbances that
trigger tsunamis. When a tsunami is recorded, it is tracked
and a tsunami warning is issued
to the threatened area.
■ Most deaths during a tsunami are
a result of drowning. Associated
risks include flooding, polluted
water supplies, and damaged gas
lines.
HOW THE PUBLIC CAN HELP
AFTER A DISASTER
When disaster strikes, people
everywhere want to help
those in need. To ensure that
this compassion and generosity are put to good use, the
media can highlight these
facts:
Financial aid is an immediate need of
disaster victims. Financial contributions
should be made through a recognized
voluntary organization to help ensure
that contributions are put to their
intended use.
Before donating food or clothing, wait
for instructions from local officials.
Immediately after a disaster, relief
workers usually don’t have the time or
facilities to setup distribution channels,
and too often these items go to waste.
Volunteers should go through a
recognized voluntary agency such as the
American Red Cross or Salvation Army.
They know what is needed and are
prepared to deal with the need. Local
emergency services officials also
coordinate volunteer efforts for helping
in disasters.
Organizations and community groups
wishing to donate items should first
contact local officials, the American Red
Cross or Salvation Army to find out what
is needed and where to send it. Be
prepared to deliver the items to one
place, tell officials when you’ll be there,
and provide for transportation, driver,
and unloading.
■ Since 1945, more people have
been killed as a result of tsunamis than as a direct result of an
earthquake’s groundshaking.
EMERGENCY PUBLIC INFORMATION
September 1993
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