Tsunami Preparedness Week: When should you evacuate?
In the event of a tsunami, immediate action can mean the difference between life and death. Systems in place ensure accurate and precise information is delivered as soon as possible. Knowing the difference between advisories and warnings — and what to do in the event of each — is your best way to stay safe in the wake of a tsunami.
The tsunami warning center will issue messages to notify local officials and the public about the potential for a tsunami following a tsunami-generating event. There are four different levels of tsunami alerts: warning, advisory, watch and an information statement.
According to the Tsunami Warning Center, a warning means that you should take immediate action. A tsunami that could cause widespread flooding is expected or already occurring. Dangerous coastal flooding and powerful currents are also possible and may continue for several hours or days after initial arrival.
In the event of a tsunami warning, if you are in a tsunami zone, you should move to high ground immediately. That means move inland or to at least the third story of a strong building. It's important to pay attention to the instructions of the local officials. All warnings will come through TV, Radio and NOAA radio. You may also hear a tsunami siren if your community has one installed. Tsunami warnings may also come through your cell phone.
A tsunami advisory means strong currents and waves could be dangerous to those in or very near water. There may be flooding in beach or harbor areas. If you are in a tsunami zone and a tsunami advisory is issued you should stay out of the water and away from beaches and waterways. As always, you should follow the instructions of local officials.
Just like weather watches, a tsunami watch means that you should be prepared and continue to listen for further instruction. The Tsunami Warning Center will issue a tsunami watch when a distant, possible tsunami-generating event has occurred and a tsunami is possible in your area.
You should stay tuned to local news outlets for more information and be prepared to take action if a warning or advisory is issued.
Tsunami Information Statement
In most cases, a tsunami information statement does not require any action initially. The Tsunami Warning Center will issue an information statement when an earthquake has occurred, but there is no threat of a tsunami or it was far enough away and a threat has not been determined.
If you are in a tsunami zone and notice the signs of a possible tsunami but haven't received an official warning, don't wait for a warning, take action and head inland or to higher ground immediately.
NOAA highlights three key natural signs you should watch out for:
- Feel a strong or long earthquake and are near the coast
- See a sudden rise or fall of the ocean
- Hear an abnormal loud sound from the ocean
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