Remember school fire drills? If you didn’t have fire drills when you were a kid, please tell us of the child-endangerment hellscape from whence you sprang. In any case, those drills were teaching you what to do in the event of a fire. WHO KNEW! We thought they were just very small field trips. You can recapture the joy of your school’s fire drill by developing a tsunami drill for your family.
Evacuation Routes, Shelters, and Backup Locations
Practice each evacuation route you chose while making your action plan, and make sure you can reach them in a reasonable time. If your entire family (including pets) can’t make it to your chosen evacuation location within 15 minutes on foot, you should pick a new one. Your location should be at least 100′ above sea level. If you can’t reach a high elevation in 15 minutes, make sure the location you CAN reach is at least two miles inland from the coast.
It’s important you have (and practice) more than one evacuation route. You might not be able to take certain routes in an actual crisis. Likewise, be aware of official evacuation locations designated by your local state or city governments.
Remind your family to stay inland or on high ground until the danger has passed. This can take hours, since waves may be very far apart. Do not leave high ground until you are instructed that it is safe to do so.
When Danger Strikes and You’re Not Home
In a perfect world, disasters would occur only when everyone is together and in an optimal location. But in real life, tsunamis can happen when you’re away from home, outdoors, or even in water. Be sure you know what to do if a warning is issued and you’re not in an ideal place.
If you’re outside on dry ground, head inland to a higher elevation immediately when you receive a tsunami alert. Go uphill whenever possible; never go downhill. If everything is flat, move away from the ocean as quickly as you can. If you’re in a boat when a tsunami warning is issued, don’t go inland. Head out to sea where the waves are less dangerous and rushing debris is less likely to impact your vessel.
If you’re in the air, stay in the air. It’s the safest place to be during a tsunami.
What to Take and What to Leave
Make sure your emergency kit is able to travel with you. If it slows you down during the drill, consider removing some items. For example, you may want to limit the amount of water to just one gallon if your family is unable to carry the full amount. Speed is essential, so getting out the door quickly is more important than having the full 72 hours of water, in this case.
Lightweight essentials like your important documents, medications, portable battery packs for charging smartphones should definitely make it with you on your evacuation drills. Make sure these items are kept in the emergency kit, which should stay in same location at all times, so it’s easy to grab and go.
Remember, your emergency kit is only effective in an evacuation if you can quickly take it with you.
Practice your tsunami evacuation drill annually. Unfortunately, there’s no earthquake season, so disaster may strike at any time of year. Practice in every season, if you can! Drilling should give you confidence and make a real tsunami easier to survive. If you can make it to high ground, you should be able to wait it out until it’s over.