7 Steps for Tsunami Safety at the Beach
Heading to the coast during the dog days of summer?
Hanging out at the beach is one of life's great pleasures: it’s hard to beat the fun of splashing in the waves and dozing in the sun. But, if you’re heading to the coast in the Pacific Northwest, it’s important to be aware of Tsunami hazards.
Too many people visit beaches along the Cascadia Subduction Zone knowing little to nothing about tsunami hazards. On the opposite end of the spectrum are people who avoid going to the beach altogether because they’re afraid of tsunamis. That’s sad. You can enjoy a safe trip to the beach by simply doing 5 minutes of research about the area’s tsunami zone and know what to do if there’s an earthquake. A few minutes of prep can literally save your life.
What's a tsunami and why should I care?
You’ve probably seen the blue and white signs at the coast indicating tsunami zones, but have you thought about what they mean to you? A tsunami is a powerful series of waves that destroy everything in its path. So, if you’re stuck in the danger zone during a tsunami, sadly you’ll be part of that destruction. Tsunamis form when the ocean floor moves during an earthquake and displaces massive amounts of water. This water inundates the shore 15-20 minutes after an earthquake. Although infrequent, an earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone could happen any time, and when it does, it will wreak devastation along the Northern California, Oregon, and Washington coasts. Would you know what to do if an earthquake struck when you’re at the beach?
7 Steps for Tsunami Safety
1 Look at the tsunami map.
Before you head to the beach take a look at the tsunami map for the area you’re visiting. Figure out which areas are inside and outside of the local earthquake-tsunami zone. Get a sense of how far you’d need to walk to get out of the tsunami zone from where you’ll be. If you’re staying overnight, locate your lodging on the map to see if it’s within the tsunami zone and determine your by-foot evacuation route.
2 Figure out the route you’ll walk to get out of the tsunami zone.
If you’re staying overnight, locate your lodging on the map to see if it’s within the tsunami zone and determine your by-foot evacuation route. Also figure out your route from other locations (the beach, downtown, etc.)
3 Do your homework when staying overnight.
Unfortunately, most hotels and vacation rentals at the coast don’t prominently post information about tsunami hazards and evacuation routes, they’re afraid they’ll scare off customers by highlighting the tsunami risk. You’ll need to take on this responsibility. So, when you’re choosing lodging, in addition to location and view, also take proximity to the tsunami safe zone into account.
4 Practice walking your route out of the tsunami zone.
This is a tempting step to skip, but don’t! When you arrive at the coast, take the time to walk the tsunami evacuation route with your group. Walk, don’t drive, because, after an earthquake, roads and bridges may be damaged. Take note of how long it takes you to walk up to the safe zone. A Tsunami along the Oregon coast will arrive approximately 15-20 minutes after the earthquake shaking stops.
5 Have emergency supplies.
Bring a 3-day earthquake backpack of critical supplies for each member of your group. Take it with you if you have to evacuate; you’ll only have what you carry with you for many days. So, it’s critical to bring a 3-day emergency backpack. If you’re staying in lodging outside of the tsunami zone, you’ll still need the supplies in your emergency backpack because the coast will be totally cut off with no water or utilities.
6 If there is an earthquake: drop, cover, and hold on.
Yes, even at the beach. You want to be on the ground so you don’t risk injury from falling while trying to walk. When the shaking stops, immediately grab your 3-day emergency backpack walk (don’t drive) up to safe ground. You’ll have approximately 15-20 minutes before the tsunami arrives. Tsunami waves may continue for many hours, so don’t head back to low-lying areas until there is an official “All Clear” signal from officials.
7 Now, relax and have fun at the beach!
The chances are slim that you’ll be at the coast when an earthquake hits, but if you are, you’ll be prepared and know what to do.