5 Steps to Prepare for a Tsunami

Tsunami is the common term for seismic sea waves, which are a series of enormous waves created by an underwater disturbance. Disturbances can be underwater earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, or even meteorites. While most common in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean, tsunamis can strike anywhere along the US coastline, killing or injuring people and damaging or destroying buildings and infrastructure. Tsunamis travel 20-30 miles per hour with waves reaching anywhere from 10-100 feet high. Aside from the dangers mentioned previously, they can also cause flooding and bring disruptions to transportation, power, communications, and water supply. 

The image shows the crest of a wave before it crashes on shore.

While tsunamis are rare in the US, with climate change and increasing hurricanes and earthquakes, scientists say it is a matter of when and not if a tsunami hits our coast. Become educated on the risks sooner than later, and prepare your household for a tsunami with these tips. 

1. Assess Your Risk

The closer you live to the coast, the more important it is to understand the risk of tsunamis. You should also understand the risk of a tsunami if you are visiting a coastal town. Most at-risk communities will have maps with evacuation zones and routes, and will detail which parts of town are at-risk and which are safest to evacuate toward. As local officials about community plans and guidelines and insist on implementation if not are in place.

An aerial view of homes located on the beach.

2. Understand the Warning Signs 

Tsunamis are triggered by disturbances on the ocean floor. An earthquake is a common occurrence that can be followed by a tsunami. Even though certain parts of the country come to expect earthquakes, they can still come as a shock. Being followed by a tsunami would be an even greater shock. A loud roar from the ocean or unusual ocean behavior like sudden rises, a wall of water, or a sudden draining that shows much of the floor can signify a tsunami is near.

3. Sign Up for Local Notifications

To avoid being caught off guard, sign up for local emergency notifications that will alert you of unusual weather conditions or provide evacuation and shelter warnings. Since a tsunami will often follow an earthquake, you need to be prepared to react to both. This will be easier by following guidance from local authorities. 

A person holds a smartphone waiting for a notication.

4. Learn your Community Evacuation Plan

As is the case with all weather events, your community will have a designated evacuation plan for all citizens to follow. Learn it now and practice it often so you will not be confused by the shock of the situation you’re facing. Know the routes from your home, work, schools, and other places you frequent near the coast. When deciding on where you’re evacuating to, choose a shelter 100 feet or more above sea level or at least one mile inland.

5. Make a Family Plan 

Following an emergency like a tsunami, phone lines will be extremely busy or knocked out entirely. You’ll want to save phone calls for emergencies to avoid further clogging up phone lines and draining battery power. Make a plan for family of where you will all be meeting, how much time you think it should take everyone to get to their location, and a time period in which everyone should try to check in. When you get to your destination, you may benefit from having an emergency backup battery generator to charge communication devices and keep home appliances running in the event of a power outage

A man carries the SolarPower ONE solar panel power station and HomePower ONE portable power station across a yard.


Since tsunamis are a rare occurrence in the US, it can be easy to think they’ll never happen here. However, with our ever-changing world, we can expect to experience one in the future. Prepare yourself now if you live in or frequently visit a coastal town. Make a plan with your family regarding evacuation routes and shelter locations, and register now for community alert systems. Educating yourself on the warning signs of a tsunami will give you an advantage when preparing to evacuate.

Learn more about creating an emergency supply kit.


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