NOAA encourages Americans to know their tsunami risk; Sponsors National Tsunami Preparedness Week, March 23-29

Date Posted: March 25, 2014
Tsunami damage at Kodiak, Alaska, following the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami.

Recognizing that a tsunami could strike the U.S. coastline at any time, President Obama this week is joining NOAA to ask people to know their tsunami risk and prepare in case one were to strike. "During National Tsunami Preparedness Week, I call on all Americans – especially those who live, work and relax on the coast – to learn more about tsunamis and better prepare for them," President Obama wrote in a message released this week.

Although a tsunami cannot be prevented, community preparedness, timely warnings and effective response can save lives when seconds matter. To improve the nation's collective preparedness for a large-scale tsunami disaster, this week NOAA and its partners through the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program are conducting a number of local and national exercises to test and improve effectiveness of the U.S. Tsunami Warning System.­­­

This year's preparedness week coincides with the 50th anniversary of the "Great Alaska Earthquake" of 1964, which generated a number of destructive tsunamis that killed 124 Americans and caused approximately $1 billion in damage. It was the largest recorded earthquake in U.S. history with a magnitude of 9.2. This year also marks 10 years since the Indian Ocean Tsunami killed more than 200,000 people. These somber anniversaries serve to remind us of the ever-present tsunami threat, and give us an opportunity to assess our personal risk and educate ourselves on how to respond to a tsunami.

In his message, President Obama writes that since 1964, our nation has made significant improvements in our ability to forecast, detect, and warn individuals of potential tsunami impacts. The Federal Government – in partnership with state and local governments – is working diligently to improve our coastal communities' tsunami preparedness. Since we cannot prevent tsunamis, we must come together to enhance public awareness and prepare schools, volunteer groups, rescue and relief organizations, the private sector, and the media for coordinated action before, during and after a tsunami.

NOAA and its federal, state and local partners are helping the nation prepare, but there is a role for everyone. People who live, work and play in tsunami-threatened areas must take time to know the warning signs of a tsunami, plan for a possible disaster, stay informed and quickly respond to the signs or warning of a tsunami. To learn more, visit

How to Prepare for a Tsunami

To survive a tsunami, know when one is about to strike and what to do so you can act fast. Tsunami warnings are issued through television and radio, community sirens, local officials, text message alerts, wireless emergency alerts, NOAA Web sites and NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards. However, depending on where an earthquake occurs, some tsunamis can reach the coast within minutes, leaving little time to receive an alert so it is important to understand nature's warnings:

  1. A strong earthquake, or one that persists
  2. A sudden rise or fall of the ocean
  3. A loud, roaring sound from the ocean

How to respond:

  1. Immediately move by foot inland to high ground outside the hazard zone
  2. If you cannot quickly and safely move inland, go to higher floors of a sturdy building
  3. Turn on your radio or television to learn if there is a tsunami warning
  4. Stay away from the coast until officials say it is safe to return. A tsunami may consist of more than one wave and can last for hours. The first wave may not be the last or the most dangerous.