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Tsunami Preparedness and Mitigation: Individuals (You!)

Tsunami warning centers and coastal communities play critical roles in protecting the public from tsunamis, but ultimately it is up to YOU to know how to protect yourself and your loved ones. If you live, work, or play on the coast, you should prepare for tsunamis.

Many of the things you need to do to prepare for a tsunami are the same as you would do to prepare for other hazards that may affect your community. It is not hard, and it is not expensive. Here are some things you can do now:

Watch this tsunami safety video to learn how to prepare for and respond to a tsunami.

Know Your Risk

Find out if your home, school, workplace, other places you visit often, or vacation destination are in a tsunami hazard zone. Has your community had tsunamis in the past? If so, were they local or distant?"

Remember: Local tsunamis are a greater threat since tsunamis are most damaging near their source and there is little time (sometimes just minutes) to get to a safe place.

Understand Tsunami Warnings

Understand the two types of tsunami warnings, official and natural, and how to respond to them. They are equally important, and you may not get both. Respond immediately to whichever you receive first.

Official Warnings

An official tsunami warning will be broadcast through local radio and television, marine radio, wireless emergency alerts, NOAA Weather Radio, and NOAA websites (like

It may also come through outdoor sirens, local officials, text message alerts, and telephone notifications. Evacuation is recommended.

Move to a safe place on high ground or inland (away from the water). Follow instructions from local officials. In the case of a local tsunami, there may not be time to wait for an official tsunami warning.

Natural Warnings

A natural tsunami warning may the first, best, or only warning that a tsunami is on its way. Natural tsunami warnings include strong or long earthquakes, a loud roar (like a train or an airplane) from the ocean, and unusual ocean behavior.

The ocean could look like a fast-rising flood or a wall of water. Or, it could drain away suddenly, showing the ocean floor, reefs, and fish like a very low, low tide. Any of these warnings, even just one, means a tsunami could arrive within minutes.

Watch Lessons Save Lives: The Story of Tilly Smith to learn how 10-year old Tilly Smith's knowledge of natural tsunami warnings saved numerous lives in Thailand during the 2004 tsunami.

Protect yourself from the earthquake, if necessary, and move quickly to a safe place on high ground or inland (away from the water). Do not wait for an official warning.

Practice All-Hazards Preparedness

Practice All-Hazards Preparedness: Have an emergency plan that includes multiple ways to receive tsunami messages and plans for family communication and put together easily accessible portable disaster supplies kits.

Plan for Evacuation

Learn about existing evacuation routes or map out routes from home, work, and other places you visit often to safe places on high ground or inland (away from the water). Plan to evacuate on foot if you can; roads may be impassable due to damage, closures, or traffic jams.

It is also important to know what to do during and after a tsunami. This includes staying informed and staying safe. After a tsunami, local officials will assess the damage and decide when it is safe to return. Even though the danger of the tsunami has passed, other dangers may remain (debris, fires, unstable structures, etc.). If there is a lot of damage, it may be days before it is safe to return to affected areas.

Plan for Safe Boating

If you are on a boat and get a tsunami warning, your response will depend largely on where you are. In general, in the United States, it is recommended that:

  • If you are in a harbor and get a warning, you should leave your boat and move quickly to a safe place on land (high ground or inland, away from the water).
  • If you are at sea and get a tsunami warning, you should move to a safe depth and stay away from harbors under warning until officials tell you the danger has passed.

    Safe depths for boaters vary by region, but the minimum safe depth in the United States is 30 fathoms (180 feet). Your harbor master, port captain, the U.S. Coast Guard, and local and state emergency management offices are the best sources for safe depth and other tsunami safety information and regulations for boaters in your area.

If you are a boat owner or captain, make sure you have a way to receive tsunami warnings when you are on the water and keep a disaster supplies kit on the boat. If you are at sea during a tsunami, you may not be able to return to the harbor you left. Be prepared to remain at sea for a day or more.

Official vs. Natural Tsunami Warnings.