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How to prepare in case of a tsunami

A tsunami warning was issued overnight for people living in coastal regions of British Columbia following a strong earthquake off the coast of Alaska. Residents were quickly notified of the danger by emergency officials, through emergency alerts, social media posts and updates to government websites.

Fortunately, the warning was later lifted with no damage was reported. However, it did spark renewed interest in how to best prepare for tsunamis and what to do in case of a tsunami warning.

What are tsunamis?

Tsunamis are a series of large ocean waves generated by major earthquakes beneath the ocean floor or major landslides into the ocean. They can happen with little warning and can cause flooding and impact people in coastal areas or beaches within minutes after an earthquake. However, the danger can last for several hours.


Who is at risk?

Preparedness begins by knowing the risks. Tsunamis impact the coastline so if you live on the coast you can stay informed about tsunami warnings and watches by signing up for emergency alerts from your local emergency organization and following them on social media.


How to prepare for tsunamis?

We encourage people who live in coastal areas to make a plan to keep your family safe in the event of a tsunami. Consider not only the proximity of your home to the coastline, but also schools and workplaces. Be familiar with evacuation routes leading to higher ground or inland. Families should also have an emergency preparedness kit ready in case they need to quickly evacuate their home.

You can buy a kit online from the Red Cross, ready with essential items.

Canadian Red Crosser Mandana Saliminian shared with Global News what should be in your emergency kit:


What to do in case of a tsunami warning?

Know the difference between a tsunami warning and a tsunami watch:  a tsunami warning means a tsunami may have been generated and could be close to your area. Emergency official may ask residents to evacuate the area. Meanwhile, a tsunami watch means a tsunami has not yet been verified but could exist and may be as little as an hour away. Stay alert for more information. If you evacuate your home, do not return until you hear the all-clear from officials.

With a tsunami warning, here’s what to do to stay safe:
  • If you feel an earthquake, drop, cover and hold on.
  • Follow instructions for a tsunami advisory or alert.  Share warnings in your community and follow instructions for evacuation.
  • If you are in a coastal area and feel an earthquake that lasts 20 seconds or longer, a tsunami may come within minutes and before official alerts. Do not wait. Move immediately to higher ground away from the coast.
  • If you cannot evacuate to higher ground, evacuate vertically to 3rd floor or above, onto a roof, up a tree, or grab a floating object.
  • Time is of the essence. Once you see the wave, it's too late. So get to high ground as fast as possible.
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