news is full of stories about the recent devastation in Southeast Asia. As
a result, children may have questions and concerns about tsunamis.
Did you know?
If you think a tsunami may be coming, the ground shakes under your feet
or you hear there is a warning, move quickly to higher ground.
low-lying coastal areas can be struck by tsunamis.
Sometimes a tsunami causes the water near the shore to recede (move back),
exposing the ocean floor.
can happen any time, day or night.
can travel up rivers and streams that lead to the ocean.
What is a Tsunami?
Tsunami (soo-nah-mee) is a very large, destructive wave caused by an underwater
earthquake or volcano (Tsunami is from the Japanese word for harbor wave.) The
waves travel in all directions from the area of disturbance, much like the ripples
that happen after throwing a rock.
The waves may travel in the ocean as fast as 500 miles per hour. As the big waves
approach shallow waters along the coast they grow to a great height and smash
into the shore. They can be as high as 100 feet. They can cause a lot of destruction
on the shore. Some people incorrectly call them "tidal waves," but
a tsunami has nothing to do with the tides.
Who is at risk?
Hawaii is the state at greatest risk for a tsunami. They get about one a year,
with a damaging tsunami happening about every seven years. Alaska is also
at high risk. California, Oregon and Washington experience a damaging tsunami
about every 18 years.
If you feel an earthquake in the Pacific Coast area, turn on your battery-powered
radio to learn if there is a tsunami warning. If you hear a tsunami warning,
and they say to evacuate, do this immediately. You should have an evacuation
A small tsunami at one beach can be a giant wave a few miles away. Do not let
the small size of one wave make you forget how dangerous tsunami are. The next
wave could be bigger. Get away from the shoreline right away. When you see
a tsunami it is too late to escape. And stay away until you hear the "all
clear" from officials. A tsunami is a series of waves, not a single wave,
and the danger may not be over when you think it is.
Tsunami Warning Centers in Honolulu Hawaii and Palmer Alaska monitor disturbances
that might trigger tsunami. When a tsunami is recorded, the center tracks it
and issues a warning when needed:
WARNING: A tsunami was or may have been generated, which could cause damage;
therefore, people in the warned area are strongly advised to evacuate.
WATCH: A tsunami was or may have been generated, but is at least two hours
travel time to the area in watch status. Local officials should prepare for
possible evacuation if their area is upgraded to a warning.
ADVISORY: An earthquake has occurred in the Pacific basin, which might generate
a tsunami. WC/ATWC and PTWC will issue hourly bulletins advising of the situation.
INFORMATION: A message with information about an earthquake that is not expected
to generate a tsunami. Usually only one bulletin is issued.
What families can do to prepare:
Have a plan: Family members can become separated. Be prepared by
creating a plan for how to reach one another. Establish an out-of-area
contact (such as a relative or family friend) who can coordinate family members'
locations and information should you become separated. Make sure children
learn the phone numbers and addresses, and know the emergency plans.
Prepare a family disaster supplies kit.
Families with children should have each child create their
Tsunami-specific planning should include the following:
Learn about tsunami risk in your community. Contact your local
emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter.
Find out if your home,
or other frequently visited locations are in tsunami hazard
areas. Know the height of your street above sea level and the
your street from
the coast or other high-risk waters. Evacuation orders may
be based on these
If you are visiting an area at risk from tsunamis, check
with the hotel, motel, or campground operators for tsunami
be warned. It is important to know designated escape routes
before a warning is issued.
If you are at risk from tsunamis, do the following:
• Plan an evacuation route from your home, school, workplace, or any other
place you'll be where tsunamis present a risk.
• Practice your evacuation route. Familiarity may save your life. Be able
to follow your escape route at night and during inclement weather.
Practicing your plan makes the appropriate response more of a reaction,
requiring less thinking during an actual emergency situation.
• Use a NOAA Weather Radio with a tone-alert feature to keep you informed
of local watches and warnings. The tone alert feature will
warn you of potential danger even if you are not currently listening to local
or television stations.
• Discuss tsunami with your family. Everyone should know what to do in
case all family members are not together. Discussing tsunamis
ahead of time will help
reduce fear and anxiety, and let everyone know how to respond.
Review flood safety and preparedness measures with your family.
Data source: FEMA Kids, American Red Cross