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All tsunamis are potentially dangerous, even though they may not damage every coastline they strike. Damaging tsunamis are very rare. Our coastlines are vulnerable, but tsunamis are infrequent. Understand the hazard and learn how to protect yourself, but don't let the threat of tsunamis ruin your enjoyment of the beach.

Awareness Information

The West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WC/ATWC) is responsible for tsunami warnings for California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) is responsible for providing warnings to international authorities, Hawaii, and U. S. territories within the Pacific basin. The two Tsunami Warning Centers coordinate the information being disseminated.

The WC/ATWC and PTWC may issue the following bulletins:

WARNING: A tsunami was or may have been generated, which could cause damage; therefore, people in the warned area are strongly advised to evacuate.


WATCH:
A tsunami was or may have been generated, but is at least two hours travel time to the area in watch status. Local officials should prepare for possible evacuation if their area is upgraded to a warning.


ADVISORY:
An earthquake has occurred in the Pacific basin, which might generate a tsunami. WC/ATWC and PTWC will issue hourly bulletins advising of the situation.


INFORMATION: A message with information about an earthquake that is not expected to generate a tsunami. Usually only one bulletin is issued.

Be familiar with the tsunami warning signs. A strong earthquake lasting 20 seconds or more near the coast may generate a tsunami. A noticeable rapid rise or fall in coastal waters is also a sign that a tsunami is approaching.

Tsunamis most frequently come onshore as a rapidly rising turbulent surge of water choked with debris. They are not V-shaped or rolling waves, and are not "surfable."

Tsunamis may be locally generated or from a distant source. In 1992, the Cape Mendocino, California, earthquake produced a tsunami that reached Eureka in about 20 minutes, and Crescent City in 50 minutes. Although this tsunami had a wave height of about one foot and was not destructive, it illustrates how quickly a wave can arrive at nearby coastal communities and how long the danger can last.

In 1957, a distant-source tsunami generated by an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska struck Hawaii, 2,100 miles away. Hawaii experienced $5 million in damages from that tsunami.

Plan for a Tsunami

Develop a Family Disaster Plan. Please see the "Family Disaster Plan" section for general family planning information. Tsunami-specific planning should include the following:

Learn about tsunami risk in your community. Contact your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter. 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.

If you are visiting an area at risk from tsunamis, check with the hotel, motel, or campground operators for tsunami evacuation information and how you would be warned. It is important to know designated escape routes before a warning is issued.
If you are at risk from tsunamis, do the following:

Plan an evacuation route from your home, school, workplace, or any other place you'll be where tsunamis present a risk. If possible, pick an area 100 feet above sea level or go up to two miles inland, away from the coastline. If you can't get this high or far, go as high as you can. Every foot inland or upwards 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 help advise you as to the best route to safety and likely shelter locations.

Practice your evacuation route. 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 with a tone-alert feature to keep you informed of local watches and warnings. The tone alert feature will warn you of potential danger even if you are not currently listening to local radio or television stations.

Talk to your insurance agent. Homeowners' policies do not cover flooding from a tsunami. Ask about the National Flood Insurance Program.

Discuss tsunami with your family. Everyone should know what to do in case all family members are not together. Discussing tsunamis ahead of time will help reduce fear and anxiety, and let everyone know how to respond. Review flood safety and preparedness measures with your family.

Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit
Please see the section "Disaster Supplies Kit" for general supplies kit information. Tsunami-specific supplies should include the following:

   -Evacuation Supplies Kit in an easy-to-carry contanier (backpack) near your door.
   - Disaster Suplies Kit basics.

How to Protect Your Property

Avoid building or living in buildings within several hundred feet of the coastline. These areas are more likely to experience damage from tsunamis, strong winds, or coastal storms.

Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a tsunami. A list will help you remember anything that can be swept away by tsunami waters.

Elevate coastal homes. Most tsunami waves are less than 10 feet. Elevating your house will help reduce damage to your property from most tsunamis.

Follow flood preparedness precautions. Tsunamis are large amounts of water that crash onto the coastline, creating floods.

Have an engineer check your home and advise about ways to make it more resistant to tsunami water. There may be ways to divert waves away from your property. Improperly built walls could make your situation worse. Consult with a professional for advice.


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