It was the middle of the night in the U.S. when the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan occurred. Many did not learn of the devastating event until after they woke up and saw the morning news. Residents in western coastal towns awoke to tsunami-warning sirens in the early morning and immediately fled to higher ground.
Fortunately, the U.S. did not experience tsunami waves remotely as close to the ones that flooded much of Japan’s coastal areas. However, with the East and West coasts of the U.S. next to major oceans, residents are still unprepared and uneducated about what to do in the event of a major quake and tsunami. In an interview with CNN, Erwann Michel-Kerjan with the Wharton School’s Risk Management and Decision Processes Center states, “On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the most prepared and zero being the worst-prepared ever, you can put Haiti at zero, you can put Japan at eight and you can put the U.S. at five.”
- Always be prepared to evacuate if you live in or are visiting a coastal area. Some coastal towns conduct a tsunami drill regularly so residents become familiar with the sound of the sirens and can conduct their own drills.
- Know your evacuation route. If you live in an area at risk for a tsunami or coastal flooding, know which location is the safest for you and your family if you need to evacuate. You should also know alternate routes to reach that location. If you are visiting a coastal area, take note of any tsunami-evacuation-route signs you see along the roads. Coastal businesses owners should make emergency disaster plans as well.
- Know the signs of a tsunami. Before a tsunami, you may feel an offshore earthquake. The coastal waters will also begin to quickly rise or fall.
- Never go near the shore to watch a tsunami’s waves or the water flood the land. Use a television set for that instead.
- Do no return to a coastal area to recover from a flood until the authorities deem it safe. A tsunami is more than just one wave; it is a series of waves that may continue to form with earthquake aftershocks.