Tsunami Preparedness Guide


What To Do

A Tsunami Warning System is in place to help minimize loss of life and property. The West Coast/ Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska monitors for earthquakes and subsequent tsunami events. If a tsunami is generated, they issue tsunami advisories, watches and warnings, as well as tsunami information statements for the U.S. mainland, Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach, Hawaii provides similar services for the Aloha state as well as all other American territories in the Pacific. They also serve as the International Tsunami Warning Center for 25 other member countries in the Pacific Ocean Basin.

Both of the tsunami warning centers use earthquake information, tide gauges and now a new tool from NOAA – tsunami detection buoys, developed by NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. Six of these buoys are now deployed in the north Pacific to help scientists determined whether a tsunami has been generated and moving across the Pacific before reaching North American coastlines – another tool in the tsunami warning centers warning toolbox to help avoid any false alarms.  More of these buoys would help detection as well as provide backup to each other since the buoys suffer outages in the harsh north Pacific Ocean.

Once a tsunami watch or warning is issued

Upon receipt of tsunami watches and warnings, coastal National Weather Service (NWS) offices such as those in Seattle and Portland, activate the Emergency Alert System (EAS) via NOAA Weather Radio. All broadcasters (TV, AM/FM radio, cable TV) receive the tsunami EAS message simultaneously as well as those with weather radio receivers in homes, businesses, schools, health care facilities, etc. NOAA Weather Radio also activates the All-Hazard Alert Broadcast (AHAB) units located in remote coastal areas, alerting people in those isolated locations.

Upon receipt of tsunami watch and warning messages, local emergency management officials can decide to activate the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to evacuate low-lying coastal areas in advance of the initial tsunami wave. Their EAS messages are also received by broadcasters, weather radio receivers and All Hazard Alert Broadcasts (AHABs) to help provide widespread dissemination of these messages. Follow the directions provided by your area emergency management officials – they will help save your life and those of your loved ones.

If you want your own tsunami warning message receipt system, obtain a NOAA weather radio receiver with EAS-programmable features. They are available from most radio electronic retailers and on the Internet.