Tsunami Warnings

  • Tsunami Evacuation App for Pacific States

    Disaster, Survival, Preparation

    Be Aware Take Action To Prepare

    Survival Gear: Disaster, Emergency Preparedness, Camping & Survival Supply
    72 Hour Emergency Preparedness Supplies for Earthquake, Hurricane, Tornado, Twister, Nuclear Disasters, Wilderness Survival & More… C.E.R.T. & F.E.M.A.
    Disaster, Survival, & Preparation! 
    Residents, emergency managers and tourists in Washington and Oregon have a new tool to help with tsunami preparedness. TsunamiEvac-NW is a new smartphone app that shows users:

    • Evacuation zones where they live, work, or go to school;
    • Helps people plan evacuation routes; and
    • Maps important locations, buildings, and landmarks nearby.

    The website and app both report active warnings and watches, provide information tsunami on signs, and explain evacuation and sheltering best practices. There are also printable community brochures available that:

    • Map the local coastline;
    • Explain the difference between distant and local tsunamis; and
    • Provide instructions on what to do and what not to do, among other useful features.

    It also displays the locations of fire departments, hospitals, tsunami warning sirens and assembly areas for evacuation. Users may switch between different views (road, satellite, terrain, etc.) and use the app’s tools to develop their own family emergency plan and kit.

    This app is available for both iPhone and Android users for free. Download it today!


    Think about preparedness; at home, at work, at school, even in your car.
    What should you do? Check your Emergency Plan and Evacuation Routes everywhere you normally spend time. Make sure you have an out of State contact for you, your friends and your family (long distance phone service is usually restored before local - and mobile services and internet will likely not work in a major disaster.)
    Of course, you should Check your Emergency Supplies, too:

    • Count your stock... is it enough?
    • Check your expiration dates (food, water, batteries)
    • Keep cash on hand
    • Don't let your gas tank get below half-full
    • Think-Plan-Prepare-Survive!
  • Earthquakes + What Causes a Tsunami?

    Are you Ready for an Earthquake? Do you Know What Causes a Tsunami?

    Generations of Californians have been "putting down roots" along one of the world's 
    most famous faults -- the San Andreas. However, few Californians have experienced a major San Andreas earthquake. In Northern California, years ago in 1906. Over 3,000 people were killed and 225,000 people were left homeless. In Southern California, the last major earthquake on the San Andreas fault was more than 150 years ago (1857), rupturing the fault from Central California to San Bernardino. Few people lived in the area, so there was very little damage.

    Further south along the San Andreas fault, from San Bernardino through the Coachella Valley to the Salton Sea, more than 320 years have passed since the last major earthquake (around 1680). Another major earthquake is likely to happen on this section of the fault within our lifetime, and will shake all of Southern California. A study led by the U.S. Geological Survey describes in great detail the extensive damage and casualties that result from such an earthquake, and recommends many ways that we can keep this natural disaster from becoming a catastrophe.

    While the San Andreas is most likely to be the source of our largest earthquakes, there are hundreds of other faults throughout Southern California that could also cause damaging earthquakes. Some may happen before the next San Andreas earthquake and could be even more destructive if they occur directly beneath densely populated areas.


    When it comes to disaster, there are simple things you can do to make yourself safer. The information on this page is designed as a step-by-step guide to give you details on what to do before, during, and after an earthquake. Start with the simple tips within each step so that you can build on your accomplishments.

    An example of this in Step 1 is moving heavy, unsecured objects from top shelves onto lower ones. This will only take minutes to complete and you are safer from that hazard!

    The information in the steps linked below will help you learn how to better prepare to survive and recover, wherever you live, work, or travel.


    Before the next big earthquake we recommend these four steps that will make you, your family, or your workplace better prepared to survive and recover quickly:

    Step 1:
    Secure your space by identifying hazards and securing moveable items.
    Step 2:
    Plan to be safe by creating a disaster plan and deciding how you will communicate in an emergency.
    Step 3:
    Organize disaster supplies in convenient locations.
    Step 4:
    Minimize financial hardship by organizing important documents, strengthening your property, and considering insurance.


    During the next big earthquake, and immediately after, is when your level of preparedness will make a difference in how you and others survive and can respond to emergencies:

    Step 5:
    Drop, Cover, and Hold On when the earth shakes.
    Step 6:
    Improve safety after earthquakes by evacuating if necessary, helping the injured, and preventing further injuries or damage.

    After the immediate threat of the earthquake has passed, your level of preparedness will determine your quality of life in the weeks and months that follow:

    Step 7:
    Reconnect and Restore
    Restore daily life by reconnecting with others, repairing damage, and rebuilding community.

    What causes a tsunami?... A tsunami is a large ocean wave that is caused by sudden motion on the ocean floor. This sudden motion could be an earthquake, a powerful volcanic eruption, or an underwater landslide. The impact of a large meteorite could also cause a tsunami. Tsunamis travel across the open ocean at great speeds and build into large deadly waves in the shallow water of a shoreline.

    Subduction Zones are Potential Tsunami Locations

    Most tsunamis are caused by earthquakes generated in a subduction zone, an area where an oceanic plate is being forced down into the mantle by plate tectonic forces. The friction between the subducting plate and the overriding plate is enormous. This friction prevents a slow and steady rate of subduction and instead the two plates become "stuck".

    Accumulated Seismic Energy

    As the stuck plate continues to descend into the mantle the motion causes a slow distortion of the overriding plage. The result is an accumulation of energy very similar to the energy stored in a compressed spring. Energy can accumulate in the overriding plate over a long period of time - decades or even centuries.

    Earthquake Causes Tsunami

    Energy accumulates in the overriding plate until it exceeds the frictional forces between the two stuck plates. When this happens, the overriding plate snaps back into an unrestrained position. This sudden motion is the cause of the tsunami - because it gives an enormous shove to the overlying water. At the same time, inland areas of the overriding plate are suddenly lowered.

    Tsunami Races Away From the Epicenter

    The moving wave begins travelling out from where the earthquake has occurred. Some of the water travels out and across the ocean basin, and, at the same time, water rushes landward to flood the recently lowered shoreline.

    Tsunamis Travel Rapidly Across Ocean Basis

    Tsunamis travel swiftly across the open ocean. The map below shows how a tsunami produced by an earthquake along the coast of Chile in 1960 traveled across the Pacific Ocean, reaching Hawaii in about 15 hours and Japan in less than 24 hours.

    Tsunami "Wave Train"

    Many people have the mistaken belief that tsunamis are single waves. They are not. Instead tsunamis are "wave trains" consisting of multiple waves. The chart below is a tidal gauge record from Onagawa, Japan beginning at the time of the 1960 Chile earthquake. Time is plotted along the horizontal axis and water level is plotted on the vertical axis. Note the normal rise and fall of the ocean surface, caused by tides, during the early part of this record. Then recorded are a few waves a little larger than normal followed by several much larger waves. In many tsunami events the shoreline is pounded by repeated large waves.


  • Prepare for Tsunamis during Tsunami Preparedness Week

    TsunamiDo you live in a tsunami warning zone? Learn how to prepare for tsunamis and help your community become TsunamiReady. Learn more during National Tsunami Awareness Week.

    Tsunamis, also known as seismic sea waves, are a series of enormous waves created by an underwater disturbance such as an earthquake, landslide, volcanic eruption, or meteorite. A tsunami can strike anywhere along most of the U.S. coastline. Learn more about tsunamis and get information about health concerns after a tsunami including food and water safety.

    March 27, 2014, marks the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunamis.

    What is a tsunami and where do they happen?

    Tsunami Hazard Zone Sign

    A tsunami is a series of large ocean waves usually caused by a major earthquake on the sea floor, a landslide, or volcanic activity. Tsunamis are not affected by tides or currents; a tsunami in the ocean means the whole water column is moving, not just the surface. A tsunami can strike any ocean shoreline.

    When tsunami waves enter shallow water, they rise to form massive moving water called "runup." Runup, which can be many feet high, then rushes onto shore, striking the coast with tremendous, destructive force.

    If you are on the shore and in a low coastal area, you should know that a tsunami could arrive within minutes after the earth shakes. A devastating tsunami can also happen when a major earthquake happens far away. Recent earthquakes in Chile and Japan have caused tsunami strikes in Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California, causing loss of life and millions of dollars in property damage.

    The tsunami danger period can continue for many hours as the waters move onto land, recede, and return. Sometimes, the second or third waves are more devastating than the first. A tsunami can occur during any season of the year and at any time, day or night.

    What is the best source of information in a tsunami situation?

    DART buoy

    Listen to local news reports and visit the NOAA/National Weather Service website, tsunami.gov.

    The International Tsunami Warning System monitors oceans through a network of buoys and scientific instruments. When the instruments detect a major earthquake and the potential for a tsunami to occur, warnings are issued to local authorities who can order the evacuation of low-lying areas, if necessary.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service operates two tsunami warning centers:


    What are the warning signs of a tsunami?

    • A strong earthquake, felt in a coastal area, that causes difficulty standing
    • A noticeable rapid rise or fall in coastal waters
    • A loud roaring sound coming from the ocean

    How can I prepare for a tsunami ahead of time?

    Find out if your home, school, workplace, or other frequently visited places are in a tsunami hazard area or evacuation zone. If they are:

    • Know their height above sea level and their distance from the coast and other high-risk waters. Evacuations may be based on these numbers.
    • Plan evacuation routes to safe locations from these places. If possible, pick locations 100 feet (30 meters) above sea level or as far as 2 miles (3 kilometers) inland, away from the coast. If you cannot get this high or far, go as high or far as you can. Every foot inland or upward may make a difference. You should plan to be able to reach a safe location on foot within 15 minutes. An alternative in some areas is "vertical evacuation," which means going to a high floor of a tall building.
    • Find out what your school's evacuation plan is. Schools will keep children safe by moving them out of harm's way. Find out where the assembly area is and where you should pick up your children. Do not rush to the school during an evacuation.
    • Put together a family emergency plan and a portable disaster supplies kit that is easily accessible and contains basic items you and your family may need in an emergency.
    • Practice walking evacuation routes. Familiarity may save your life. Be able to follow your escape route at night and during inclement weather. Practicing your plan will make it easier to understand and to do during an actual emergency.
    • If you are a coastal visitor, find out about local tsunami safety procedures. For long-lead time warnings, you may be asked to leave by driving away. For short lead-time warnings, you may be able to take refuge in reinforced concrete hotel structures on the third floor or above.

    What should I do when a tsunami may happen?

    If you are in a coastal area and feel a strong earthquake:

    • Drop, cover, and hold on. You should first protect yourself from the earthquake.
    • When the shaking stops, move quickly to higher ground away from the coast. A tsunami may be coming within minutes.
    • Be prepared for aftershocks, which happen frequently after earthquakes. Each time the earth shakes, drop, cover, and hold on.
    • Move to your designated safe location or as far inland and uphill as possible.

    During a tsunami watch:

    • Locate loved-ones and review evacuation plans. Be ready to move quickly if a tsunami warning is issued.

    During a tsunami advisory:

    • Because of the threat of a potential tsunami that may produce strong currents or waves dangerous to those in or near the water, local officials may close beaches, evacuate harbors and marinas, and ask ships to reposition to deep water. Obey their directions.

    During a tsunami warning:

    • If you hear a tsunami warning siren, detect signs of a tsunami, or hear about a tsunami warning on the radio or TV, leave immediately.
    • Ask neighbors who may need help leaving to come with you and offer assistance.
    • Bring pets with you to keep them safe.
    • Take your disaster supplies kit. Having supplies will make you more comfortable.
    • Move to higher ground as far inland as possible. Watching a tsunami near the shore is dangerous, and it is against the law to remain in an evacuated area.
    • Keep listening to NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards or local radio or TV for the latest updates.

    What should I do after a tsunami?

    • Return home only after local officials tell you it is safe. A tsunami is a series of waves that may continue for hours. Do not assume that after one wave the danger is over. The next wave may be larger than the first.
    • Stay away from damaged areas so emergency responders can have full access.
    • Stay out of any building that has water around it.
    • Be careful reentering buildings or homes. Tsunami-driven floodwater may have damaged buildings
    Are you ready to Bug Out or Bunker in? Are you ready to Bug Out or Bunker in?
  • Wireless Emergency Alerts

    What Are Wireless Emergency Alerts? They are Weather warnings on the go!

    Imagine this: You’re driving down the highway, humming along to your favorite tunes, when the cell phone stowed in your bag suddenly makes a strange noise. To investigate, you take the next exit and safely pull over to check the screen. Good thing you did: Your phone just alerted you to a tornado a few miles away in same county you’re driving through.

    Sound plausible? It is. America’s wireless industry is helping to build a Weather-Ready Nation through a nationwide text emergency alert system, called Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), which will warn you when weather threatens. Read the rest of the article on NOAA.gov.

    Other Frequently Asked Questions

    1. What are WEA messages?

    Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are emergency messages sent by authorized government alerting authorities through your mobile carrier. Government partners include local and state public safety agencies, FEMA, the FCC, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Weather Service.

    2. Why is this important to me?

    Alerts received at the right time can help keep you safe during an emergency. With WEA, alerts can be sent to your mobile device when you may be in harm's way, without need to download an app or subscribe to a service.

    3. What types of alerts will I receive?

    •    Extreme weather warnings
    •    Local emergencies requiring evacuation or immediate action
    •    AMBER Alerts
    •    Presidential Alerts during a national emergency

    4. What does a WEA message look like?

    WEA will look like a text message. The WEA message will typically show the type and time of the alert, any action you should take, and the agency issuing the alert. The message will be no more than 90 characters.

    5. How will I know the difference between WEA and a regular text message?

    WEA messages include a special tone and vibration, both repeated twice.

    6. What types of WEA messages will the National Weather Service send?

    •    Tsunami Warnings (coming late 2013)
    •    Tornado and Flash Flood Warnings
    •    Hurricane, Typhoon, Dust Storm and Extreme Wind Warnings
    •    Blizzard and Ice Storm Warnings

    7. What should I do when I receive a WEA message?

    Follow any action advised by the emergency message. Seek more details from your favorite TV or radio station, NOAA Weather Radio, news website, desktop application, mobile application, or other trusted source of information.

    8. Will I receive a WEA message if I'm visiting an area where I don't live, or outside the area where my phone is registered?

    Yes, if you have a WEA-capable phone and your wireless carrier participates in the program. For information about which mobile devices are WEA-capable and carrier participation, please visit http://www.ctia.org/wea or contact your wireless carrier.

    9. What if I travel into a threat area after a WEA message is already sent?

    If you travel into a threat area after an alert is first sent, your WEA-capable device will receive the message when you enter the area.

    10. When will I start receiving WEA messages from the NWS?

    The NWS began participation in the WEA service in late June 2012.  Some mobile devices, especially older ones, are not WEA-capable. When you buy a new mobile device, it probably will be able to receive WEA messages. For more details on WEA, including links to your wireless service providers’ unique WEA service information, please visit: www.ctia.org/wea.

    11. Is this the same service public safety agencies have asked the public to register for?

    No, but they are complementary. Local agencies may have asked you to sign up to receive telephone calls, text messages, or emails. Those messages often include specific details about a critical event. WEA are very short messages designed to get your attention in an emergency situation. They may not give all the details you receive from other notification services.

    12. Will I be charged for receiving WEA messages?

    No. This service is offered for free by wireless carriers. WEA messages will not count towards texting limits on your wireless plan.

    13. Does WEA know where I am? Is it tracking me?

    No. WEA use radio technology to broadcast the alert from cell towers to mobile devices in the area of the threat. Therefore, WEA doesn’t don't know exactly who is tuned in.

    14. Will a WEA message interrupt my phone conversations?

    No, the alert will be delayed until you finish your call.

    15. How often will I receive WEA messages?

    You may receive frequent WEA messages during an emergency. Message frequency depends on the number of imminent threats to life or property in your area.

    16. If, during an emergency, I can't make or receive calls or text messages due to network congestion, will I still be able to receive a WEA message?

    Yes, WEA messages are not affected by network congestion.

    17. What if I don't want to receive WEA messages?

    You can opt-out of receiving WEA messages for imminent threats and AMBER alerts, but not for Presidential messages. To opt out, please refer to instructions from your wireless carrier or visithttp://www.ctia.org/wea for more information.

    Some cell phones allow the users to opt-in and opt-out directly on their devices. These devices differentiate the imminent threat alerts into two categories - "Extreme alerts" and "Severe alerts" as shown in the image below.

    The Extreme alerts from the National Weather Service include warnings for tornadoes, extreme winds, hurricanes and typhoons. Tsunami warnings will also become available as Extreme alerts later in 2013. The Severe alerts from National Weather Service include warnings for flash floods, dust storms, blizzards and ice storms. For example, by keeping Extreme alert selected and de-selecting Severe alert, the user would still be capable of receiving Extreme alerts, but would not receive Severe alerts on their cell phone.
    18. Why did I receive an alert when there was no warning in effect for my location? 

    WEA messages are broadcast using radio-like technology from cell towers in, and sometimes around, the actual warning area. Therefore, an alert can reach cell phones outside of the actual warning area depending on the broadcast range of the cell towers which broadcast the alert. This overreach is typically more prevalent in rural areas than in more densely populated cities.

    19. How will I receive alerts if I don't have a WEA-capable device?

    WEA is one of many ways you can receive emergency notifications. Other sources include NOAA Weather Radio, news media coverage, the Emergency Alert System on radio and TV broadcasts, desktop applications, mobile applications, and other alerting methods offered by local and state public safety agencies. Your best use of WEA is to immediately seek additional information about the imminent threat impacting your area.

    Weather Ready Nation - get Equipped!

    Prepare and Endure! Disaster, Survival, & Preparation!
    Think about preparedness; at home, at work, at school, even in your car.
    What should you do? Check your Emergency Plan and Evacuation Routes everywhere you normally spend time. Make sure you have an out of State contact for you, your friends and your family (long distance phone service is usually restored before local - and mobile services and internet will likely not work in a major disaster.)
    Of course, too, you should Check your Emergency Supplies:
    Count your stock... is it enough?
    Check your expiration dates (food, water, batteries)
    Keep cash on hand
    Don't let your gas tank get below half-full
    Survival Gear: Disaster, Emergency Preparedness, Camping & Survival Supply
    72 Hour Emergency Preparedness Supplies for Earthquake, Hurricane, Tornado, Twister, Nuclear Disasters, Wilderness Survival & More… C.E.R.T. & F.E.M.A.

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