Even if you don't live, work or go to school in a beach community, you may be someone who likes to enjoy the beach on a holiday or vacation. Are you aware, however, of how quickly a relaxing experience could change into a life-threatening scenario?
Next week, starting Sunday, March 24 has been declared National Tsunami Awareness Week. The month of March is a particularly useful memory tag because of the Great Tohoku quake and tsunami in Japan in March of 2011. According to a recent report on March 11, 2013 by the National Police Agency of Japan, over 18,000 people were identified as killed or missing, and over 6,000 injured. The offshore quake triggered tsunami wave heights that topped historic records, and reached as much as 60 feet or more. Many people in Sendai and other low-lying areas were either unaware of the imminent threat, or unable to escape in time.
The entire coastline of California is potentially subject to tsunamis. Although the likelihood of tsunami threats varies by location, there are some basic principles that are good to keep in mind no matter where you may travel.
Things to know ahead of time:
- If you live, work or go to school in a coastal area, check out the official inundation zones and the emergency plans in your local jurisdiction ahead of time so that you will have the most helpful information for your area.
- When on a beach or in a low-lying coastal area, you must be ready to respond if you see or hear any of the natural warning signs, including ground shaking, an unusually loud ocean roar, and/or a sudden receding of the water levels, especially if it exposes the sea floor.
- You may also be alerted to any official tsunami warnings that could come by radios, sirens, text messages, direct contact with public safety personnel and other means.
Basic protective actions:
- If you are right on the beach or in a harbor and feel an earthquake, even if it is small, 'immediately move inland or to high ground'.
- If you feel a strong earthquake lasting more than 20 seconds, and you are in an inundation zone, you are more likely to face additional hazards as you evacuate. Balancing careful observation and caution with the need for speed may spare you an unplanned encounter with a downed, live power line or other dangerous debris.
- If you need to evacuate, do so on foot, and do not take time to gather your belongs. Car travel is likely to be blocked by damages and/or debris and even potential gridlock.
- Once you have evacuated a tsunami hazard zone, do not return to the area until officials have announced that it is safe. Dangerous wave heights may keep coming for as much as eight hours or more, and some of the later ones may be bigger than the first.
More tips, historic photos, and interesting tsunami survivor stories can also be found here.
Enjoy the sand and surf this spring and summer, but being ready to leave that sand for higher ground, if needed, could save your life! In the meantime, be sure to share this information with others, and especially those the teens and college students in your family and neighborhood that love the beach.