Tsunamis

Habitat Ready: Disaster preparedness for homeowners

A tsunami is a series of large ocean waves created by major earthquakes, underwater volcanic activity or landslides into the ocean.

A tsunami can range in size from just a few feet tall to over 100 feet; it strikes the coast with devastating force and can destroy everything in its path. It may take a tsunami hours or mere minutes to reach shore, so it is important to be well-prepared and know how to respond quickly and effectively.

Before a tsunami

  • Check out FLASH Hurricane Strong for do-it-yourself ways to strengthen your homes against flooding, high winds and lightning.
  • Review your family preparedness plan.
  • Establish a family communications plan.
  • Assemble a disaster supply kit.
  • Have a family evacuation plan in place.
  • Find out the height of your street above sea level and its distance from the coast.
  • Be familiar with tsunami warning signs:
    • Earthquakes, landslides, underwater disturbances or any sizeable ground-shaking.
    • A noticeable recession in water away from the shoreline.
    • Know the difference between a tsunami watch, a tsunami advisory and a tsunami warning:
      • Tsunami warning: A dangerous tsunami is expected or occurring. Take action and move inland to higher ground immediately.
      • Tsunami advisory: A minor tsunami is expected or occurring. Stay out of the water and away from the coast.
      • Tsunami watch: A tsunami is possible. Stay tuned to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio or TV for more information, and be prepared to take action if necessary.

Additional considerations for COVID-19

  • Unless you live in a mandatory evacuation zone, it is recommended that you make a plan to shelter-in-place in your home, if it is safe to do so.
  • If you live in a mandatory evacuation zone, make a plan with friends or family to shelter with them where you will be safer and more comfortable.
  • Only evacuate to shelters if you are unable to shelter at home or with family or friends. Note that your regular shelter may not be open this year. Check with local authorities for the latest information about public shelters.
  • If you need to go to a disaster shelter, follow CDC recommendations for staying safe and healthy in a public disaster shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a tsunami

  • Listen to a NOAA weather radio or TV for the latest information.
  • If necessary, follow evacuation orders immediately and move inland to high ground. Head to areas at least 100 feet above sea level and two miles inland. If you can’t get this high or far, go as high and far as possible.
  • Remember that a tsunami is a series of waves. Do not assume that one wave means the danger is over. The next wave may be larger than the first one.
  • Never go to the beach to watch a tsunami come in. If you can see the wave, you are too close to escape it.

After a tsunami

  • Continue listening to a NOAA weather radio or TV for the latest information.
  • Be prepared for extensive flooding.
  • Avoid damaged areas, stay off roads and remain on firm ground.
  • Avoid floodwaters. The water may be contaminated.
  • Return home only after local officials declare it is safe. Enter your home with extreme caution. Do not enter if floodwaters remain.
  • Inspect your home:
    • Leave the house if you smell gas or chemical fumes.
    • Check for damage to walls, the foundation, the electrical system and water lines.
    • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches or other flammable liquids immediately.
    • Notify your insurance company if your home is damaged.
  • Help injured or trapped people. Do not move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of death or further injury. Call for help.
  • Open windows and doors to help dry the house.
  • Check food supplies and drinking water. Anything that has come in contact with floodwater may be contaminated and should be thrown out.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet.
  • Watch out for snakes and other animals. Use a stick to poke through debris.
  • Avoid making phone calls except in serious emergencies.

Additional considerations for COVID-19

  • You should continue to use preventive actions like washing your hands and wearing a face covering during clean up or when returning home.
  • It may take longer than usual to restore power and water if they are out. Take steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning if you use a generator.
  • If you are injured or ill, contact your medical provider for treatment recommendations. Keep wounds clean to prevent infection. Remember, accessing medical care may be more difficult than usual during the pandemic.
  • Dealing with disasters can cause stress and strong emotions, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is natural to feel anxiety, grief, and worry. Coping with these feelings and getting help when you need it will help you, your family and your community recover.
  • People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms. Additional information can be found at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration page.
  • When you check on neighbors and friends, be sure to follow social distancing recommendations (staying at least 6 feet, about two arms’ length, from others) and other CDC recommendations to protect yourself and others.
  • If you need to go to a disaster shelter, follow CDC recommendations for staying safe and healthy in a public disaster shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • If you are sick and need medical attention, contact your healthcare provider for further care instructions and shelter-in-place, if possible. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 and let the operator know if you have, or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a cloth face covering before help arrives. If staying at a shelter or public facility, alert shelter staff immediately so they can call a local hospital or clinic.

Additional resources

Emergency/preparedness information

Current tsunami information

Other information

Floods and flash floods

Some floods develop slowly, while others develop in just minutes. Being prepared and taking mitigation measures, such as building away from floodplains and elevating homes, can reduce the risk of damage and injuries in a flood.

Read more

You can help a family rebuild after a disaster

Families who partner with us rebuild their homes alongside volunteers, pay an affordable mortgage and are grateful for your help.