Understanding Tsunamis For Survival

Living on or near a coastal area exposes you to several sea born natural disasters, so it’s important to understand strategies to survive these events. Though rare, tsunamis are devastating events that can take hundreds-of-thousands of lives and wipe out entire communities. Therefore, understanding how to stay safe from tsunamis is crucial for survival.

What Are Tsunamis?

These natural disasters are intense ocean waves that can travel up to 500 miles per hour and reach heights of up to hundreds of feet. They are typically triggered by earthquakes, volcanos, and landslides that occur on the ocean floor.

Tsunamis consist of several waves that can continue for hours and be up to ten-minutes apart, so never think it’s over after the first wave. When they reach land, tsunamis can rapidly travel several miles inland while accumulating tons of debris that can be as big as cars.

Preparation For Tsunamis

If you live along The Ring of Fire or any other coastal area that’s prone to tsunamis, it best to make sure that you have a plan. Seek refuge from the rushing waves by knowing the best route to higher ground that is at least one-hundred-feet in elevation and/or two miles inland.

Be sure that you know what to do during an earthquake and wait until the ground has stopped shaking before evacuating to escape the tsunami. A sudden drop in sea level can also indicate a coming tsunami, so immediately get away from the coast quickly if you see this happening. Do not return to the coast until officials indicate that it’s safe to do so.

Emergency broadcasting systems can only provide a few minutes of warning, so get to higher ground immediately when there is danger from a tsunami. Most tsunami-prone places have evacuation zones, so be aware of these beforehand to increase your chances of surviving (especially if you’re a tourist). Also, an easily accessible bug-out-bag is usually the only thing you’ll want to bring with you in the case of an emergency.

Tsunami Survival

If you cannot escape a tsunami, there are several things that must be remembered to increase your chances of survival.

Tsunami waves move at hundreds of miles per hour and usually reach shore carrying debris, so don’t expect to survive if you’re at sea level and out in the open. You can find refuge on the roofs of tall buildings or by climbing tall objects like trees, but it’s best to rush inland and to higher ground. If you do take refuge on something high, plan to stay up there for a few hours to avoid subsequent waves.

If you cannot find somewhere high to take refuge, then your survival depends more on luck than anything else. But hope is crucial for a survival mentality, so do whatever you can ride the waves. Grab onto a something that floats and maintain and hope that you don’t get crushed by other debris or slammed into a structure. Besides keeping your head above water, just remember to hold on.


Don’t expect to face a tsunami and survive. It’s best to have an plan for evacuation and the knowledge to keep yourself and family safe. Proper planning and supplies can be the difference between survival and death, so are you ready for a tsunami?

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