Tsunami Preparation Guide

Tsunami explanation GIF

Tsunamis are so terrifying that we had to choose an animation to introduce the concept, rather than images of actual tsunamis. Buckle up.

It’s another spontaneous natural disaster for the books! Stand aside, tornado. You’re not the only one playing fast and loose. If you’re near a tsunami, your odds of taking damage are pretty high! Take a few minutes to learn about the dangers with us and prepare your kit to improve your odds of surviving.

You’ll need:

What Happens during a Tsunami?

Tsunami Preparation Guide
Yeeeeahh, buooooy!

Most tsunamis are massive oceanic waves triggered by earthquakes. 88% of all tracked tsunamis are caused by earthquakes, but near-earth objects (asteroids, comets), volcanic activity, landslides, and even some types of weather can cause them to occur in any large body of water.


Most tsunamis occur around the Ring of Fire, which is a 25,000 mile long area of high geologic activity (i.e. EARTHSHAKES) around the Pacific Ocean. AKA the Rim of Fire, it borders four continents and millions of homes.

The good news for Ring of Fire neighbors is that oceanic earthquakes with ratings below 7.0 rarely create waves big enough to cause problems. And how does an oceanic earthquake happen? One option is tectonics! Subduction zones are where oceanic and continental plates meet. If the ocean plate rises or drops, massive waves can form. Volcanic eruptions underwater also cause many earthquakes, hence the FIRE in the name.

In some scenarios, the only indicator that a tsunami is approaching is that the water quickly recedes. It’s as if an extremely low tide is occurring right before the first wave hits. Tsunamis may appear as a wall of water or a fast-rising flood. Either way, they can level buildings and kill people caught in the swell.

Once the waves are in motion, tsunamis can reach speeds of 500 miles per hour! But as they reach the coastline, speeds can slow to 20 to 30 mph. Deeper water creates faster tsunamis than shallow water.

Rule of Thumb

Your recurring tsunami dream is lying to you! There’s MORE THAN ONE WAVE.

Tsunami is usually a series of waves, not just one. Scientists call it a tsunami wave train, because they like to have fun, too.

Tsunamis can last for days, but they are usually most severe within a few hours of the first wave. The time between wave crests can range from five minutes to two hours. Here’s to hoping your tsunami is a short one!

Now that we know what we’re facing, let’s get into the nitty gritty!

  1.  Who needs to prepare?
  2.  How to know when a tsunami is coming
  3.  Your tsunami preparedness kit
  4.  Family planning for a tsunami
  5.  How to prepare your home for a tsunami
  6.  Tsunami prep drills
  7.  Post-Tsunami concerns
  8.  Be prepared for the next tsunami

About the Authors

It takes a village! We are researching, writing and fact checking as a family. Collaboration is the name of the game, whether we’re running from a zombie horde or finding the best way to turn a complex concept into a deliciously digestible set of bullet points.

Katherine Esperanza is a Los Angeles based writer. When she's not conjuring new queer slice-of-life short stories, she's busy watching the newest films, out at queer shows, supporting queer artists, or just checking out the queer community as a whole.

A former international non-profiteer, small business owner, and co-op'er, Katherine is delighted to help introduce more leftist politics into the disaster preparedness/prepper sphere, which is currently far too right-wing.