Organizing for emergencies and Tsunami Preparedness Week

It’s Tsunami Preparedness Week in California, where I live. Since my home is near the coast, I decided to take another look at what’s recommended for those who live in — or visit — areas which may be impacted by a tsunami.

The Red Cross has a three-step plan describing how to prepare for all sorts of emergencies: fire, hurricane, earthquake, etc. It’s a useful framework that can be tailored to whatever scenario you’re planning for, including a tsunami. If you’ll never face a tsunami risk, you may want to do the same thing for the risks that affect your area.

Get a kit

You can find many resources on preparing a kit for emergency situations: an evacuation or a need to stay at home without access to your normal stores and services. You can buy pre-packaged kits or assemble your own, making sure to accommodate the needs of any children or pets.

If you live or work in a tsunami zone, you’ll probably have hours to evacuate if a tsunami arrives as a result of an earthquake far away. However, a strong local earthquake might cause a tsunami with very little time to prepare. And you may need to evacuate on foot, if at all possible, since roads may be damaged or clogged with traffic. This means you’ll want a portable kit with the real essentials ready to grab and go. A kit for work might need good walking shoes.

One of my two cats is about 18 pounds, so I’m not sure how I’d carry him if I needed to evacuate on foot. (His normal carrying case would be unwieldy to carry for any decent distance.) A wheeled carrier or a backpack, maybe? Fortunately, since I’m just outside a tsunami evacuation zone, I don’t need to worry about that.

Make a plan

Your tsunami plan, if you need one, would include both evacuation and family communication. Be sure to understand what plans are in place for any of your schools or workplaces that may need to evacuate, so your personal plans can incorporate those other plans.

It helps to practice traveling along any chosen evacuation route so you can travel it without a lot of thought, even if it’s dark or the weather is bad.

For some disaster situations you can take steps to help minimize the risk. There are a number of ways to make your home a less dangerous place in an earthquake. If you live in tornado country, you may be able to build a safe room.

In a tsunami situation, there are no equivalent steps you can take. However, your plan might involve buying flood insurance if your home is at risk.

Be informed

If you live or work near the coast, you’ll want to know if your home, workplace, or school is in an evacuation zone. For those in the U.S., you can find the relevant maps online. You’ll also want to know about any designated evacuation routes and safe gathering spaces, as well as your community’s warning plan.

If you’re a tourist, you’ll want to be aware of evacuation procedures in the area you’re visiting.

And both residents and tourists will want to know the warning signs of a potential tsunami, since warning systems might not have time to alert you about a tsunami generated by a local event. The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has a good list of these warning signs: strong long-lasting ground shaking from an earthquake, unusual sea-level fluctuations, an abnormally large wave, or a loud ocean roar.

It took me a couple hours of searching the web and reading reliable information sources to feel like I understood my tsunami risk and what I should be doing, just in case. I think it was time well spent.

4 Comments for “Organizing for emergencies and Tsunami Preparedness Week”

  1. posted by Juli Thompson on

    The link to the pre-packaged kits is broken.

  2. posted by littleblackdomicile blogger on

    We have to do the same thing in FL for Hurricane Season. It’s always good to be prepared!-Laurel Bledsoe

  3. posted by Jeri Dansky on

    Juli, I don’t know what was happening back when you wrote your comment, but I just clicked on the link and it worked fine. So whatever problem there was seems to have been fixed!

  4. posted by Vanessa on

    I’ve been the subject of a tsunami evacuation before in Hawaii (following the 2010 earthquake in Chile). Thankfully, the expected wave was very, very minor but it was still an incredible sight to see. As we were in the hotels at the beach front and there was no way to evacuate that many people at once, we had a vertical evacuation and we had to be above a certain floor in the hotel (thankfully our room was already high). We learned the major concerns for such a warning was that the water and electricity would go out so while we were waiting, we charged all devices, got our belongings in order, filled the tub with water, got bottled water, and ordered a high protein breakfast (side note: How awful does it feel to order room service during a tsunami warning? Extremely bad. But we couldn’t leave the hotel, had serious reason to believe it might be our last proper meal for some time, and the hotel seemed completely non-plused by the order). And we waited. And in the end it was, more or less, all for naught. But it was a scary and anxious time – and this was the ‘best’ case scenario -lots of warning, an organized town that sprung into action, and no real damage. It’s a travel experience I won’t soon forget.

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