The instance of a tsunami happening is rare. In fact, an average of two tsunamis occur each year all throughout the globe. A tsunami can get as high up as 100 feet and cause damage along its path but only one ocean-wide tsunami materializes every 15 years.
Despite its rarity, a tsunami can be deadlier than a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. As a point of comparison, the 2010 Haiti earthquake claimed around 230,000 lives (other reports range from 46,000 to 316,000 deaths) while the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and resulting tsunami took around 230,000 to 280,000 lives from 14 different countries, including Kenya, which is 4,000 miles away.
Contrary to popular belief, a tsunami is not created by Godzilla suddenly emerging from the waters. It is a series of ginormous waves caused by a violent disturbance under the sea or a sudden intense activity somewhere in the ocean or near the coast such as an earthquake. However, not all undersea earthquakes or violent activities cause tsunamis. For a tsunami to form, the sea floor must be suddenly raised or dropped.
There’s no guarantee you would survive once you get sucked in by this deadly wall of water and debris. However, as proven by the 2012 film The Impossible, based on the true story of the Belón family, surviving a tsunami is possible. The family, portrayed by Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, Tom Holland and Samuel Joslin, was vacationing in Thailand when they were swept away by the Indian Ocean tsunami. They managed to survive and find each other through luck and perseverance.
You must not depend on those two qualities, however, if you wish to survive a tsunami. Increase your chances by following the tips below.
The key to surviving a tsunami as well as other natural disasters and emergency situations, is good preparation. If you’ve been following this website for some time now, you know how much we advocate prepping and emergency preparedness. We’re not about to stop now.
Signs of A Coming Tsunami
If you reside somewhere near a coast, you should always be wary of earthquakes and the possibility of tsunamis and floods. Do some research on tsunamis, particularly the signs that one is coming. After an earthquake, authorities will be on tsunami watch, which means they have yet to verify if a tsunami was generated but the possibility is there. When a tsunami warning has been issued, it means there’s a good chance that a tsunami has been created and that it’s possible for the gigantic waves to hit your area.
Look out for clues that a tsunami is coming. An earthquake, even a weak one, is a potential sign. Other signs include hearing a loud roar somewhere in the ocean, unusual behavior of the water, and the sudden draining of water revealing the ocean floor.
Build an Evacuation Plan
Gather every member of the household to discuss the possibilities of emergencies such as a tsunami. Talk about the actions and responsibilities that each and every one of you should do in such scenarios.
In case of a tsunami warning, you’re impulse should be to evacuate. It’s not as easy as just heading out the door however. You need a plan. Each member will have his or her own bug out bag that they will grab as they leave the home. As you climb into your vehicle, make sure where each one of you will enter. Know the fastest way and alternative routes towards safety.
Include the possibility of being in different places when a tsunami warning is raised. Plot out routes to and from school, work, and other places you frequent.
It’s also important to stay in contact with each other. Appoint someone out of state to be your common contact person, He or she will contact every one of you to make sure your safe. At the same time, you should call your contact person to check on the others.
Keep practicing your evacuation plan. As you do so, you may notice some shortcomings or loopholes to your plan. Make the necessary adjustments.
Tsunami Emergency Preparedness Kit
Your bug out bag (BOB) should include food and water good for at least three days. You should also have provisions for preparing and cooking your meals. A hot meal will do you good so you should pack some easy-to-cook ones.
Make sure you have hand crank or battery-operated radios with you that are registered to receive alert from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio and the Emergency Alert System (EAS). Pack extra batteries.
You’ll need gear that provide light and warmth particularly flashlights, LED lanterns, headlamps, matches, lighters, fire starters, and tinder. A tent, beddings, sleeping bags, and small pillows will keep you comfortable as you wait until things go back to normal. Of course, you should pack extra clothes and weather-appropriate garments.
Other supplies you need to bring in your BOBs include first aid kits, emergency whistle, signal mirror, light stick, dust mask Or N95 respirators, duct tape, paracord, and multi-tools, among others. Since you’re dealing with lots of water, you should have life vests for each of you.
What To Do When You’re Sailing
When you’re in the water when a tsunami is fast approaching, you’re in better shape than those on the beach. Turn your boat and face the direction of the waves. Go out to sea as fast as you can. In the 2004 tsunami, many of the casualties were women who were on the beach. They were waiting for their husbands who were out fishing in the sea.
What to Do When On Land
In the event of an earthquake, you should remember three words – drop, cover and hold on. Once the trembling is over, do what needs to be done then prepare for aftershocks and tsunamis. If you have to evacuate to higher ground, go ahead and do so but be wary of debris if your place was hit by an earthquake.
If you’re near the coast, leave soon after you feel an earthquake or if a tsunami warning has been raised. The nearer you are to the coast, the more difficult it is to get away as fast as you’d want, sometimes the better option is to go up instead of away. If there is something higher than 100 feet, proceed to that area immediately. If you planned everything out properly, you know which buildings or structures are over 100 feet. This will make it easier to find a safer place. Leave only when you receive confirmation that the threat is over.
Once you reach a safe area, stay there. As mentioned, a tsunami is a series of waves. That means you’re not dealing with only one huge wave. After the first surge passes, stay where you are and wait out the next waves, which are usually higher than the first.
What to Do When You’re Swept by the Water
A tsunami travels fast and if you weren’t able to evacuate early, there’s a chance you’ll be staring at the wall of water as it approaches. Your best option is to grab onto something tightly. Once you get your bearings after the giant wave hit you, find something rather large to hold on to. Some people reportedly survived by climbing onto the roof of an uprooted house. Grab onto something large such as tree trunk or door. You’ll be less likely to be sucked into the water and pummeled by smaller debris.
Recent studies say that tsunamis may make occur more often because of climate change. If human beings don’t change their ways and if world leaders still refuse to believe climate change is real, we’re looking at more natural disasters such as the dreaded tsunamis. Since it will likely take some time before everyone’s eyes are opened to this fact, your best move is to be ready for these horrific scenarios.
Check out The Gentleman Pirate for more information on natural disasters and how to prepare for them. If you know of other ways to prepare and survive a tsunami, we’ll be glad to hear them. Kindly share them in the comment section below.
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