Most American coastal cities and towns have a tsunami warning system. The good news is that these systems will give you, approximately, a 10 minute warning. The bad news is that these systems will give you, approximately, a 10 minute warning. That means you have less than 10 minutes to make your escape.
10 minutes may sound like plenty of time. You may live near a highway or road that gives you a straight shot to higher ground. However, you need to think of the steps involved in your escape to that higher ground. It’ll take about 1 minute to realize the siren is sounding, it’s not a drill, and it’s for a tsunami. If you’re quick, another minute to grab your gear and get to your vehicle. Now you’re thinking, “Sweet! I have 7 or 8 minutes to haul ass away from the wave!” Unfortunately, that’s what hundreds or, possibly, thousands of your fellow coastal city dwellers are also thinking. Every second you get on the road before the impending cluster fuck of a traffic jam, is another second closer to higher, safer ground for you and your loved ones. And with these waves, every second counts.
So, are you ready? With the every-second-counts mind set, you should keep a tsunami bag in your car. What you carry in your tsunami bag will depend on your specific needs, circumstances and your location. Obviously, someone in Washington state will need a few different items than, say, someone in Hawaii. Also, you need to consider your specific area; cold, warm, urban, rural, etc. Here is a list of the basics:
- A good quality, preferably waterproof/resistant back pack
- Sealed, clean drinking water. This can be water you seal in safe, plastic sport bottles or pre-filled water bottles you buy in a store or emergency drinking water in safe, sealed packs.
- Freeze dried food. MREs and other freeze dried foods are perfect for this scenario. Freeze dried foods are light, easy to prepare and calorie dense.
- You’ll need a quality knife and/or multi-tool.
- A strobe light and whistle to attract rescuers, should things go sour.
- Health and hygiene items. Such as hand sanitizer, toothpaste/toothbrush, baby wipes, no rinse soap, etc.
- A hand crank flashlight as well as a powerful, battery operated flashlight with the batteries stored outside of the flashlight.
- A nicely stocked first aid kit. Remember to include any prescription medications needed for you or your household members.
- Emergency or “space” blankets.
- Solar and/or hand crank chargers for phones and other electronics.
- Strike anywhere matches or fire starters.
- Road flares can be very helpful also. They produce heat and you can start a fire with them as well as signal for help.
In most areas of the US, rescue teams will reach you within 24 hours. However, that depends on the scope of the situation, ie: overall damage, weather conditions, number of people and animals needing rescue and the bureaucratic bullshit usually associated with these scenarios.
Remember, you’re going to want to stay out of the water. The water will be teeming with bacteria. Many animals, fish and people will be injured and killed in this scenario and the water will be dangerously toxic. Also, fluids from cars, trucks, factories, garages, etc will be mixed in this horrific stew. Not to mention the risk of electric shock should you be near downed power lines.
So, if you live in an area where tsunamis are a threat, you need to know your best route to higher ground, keep a tsunami bag in your vehicle and stay trained and ready. If you’re not sure if you are in a tsunami zone…find out! You can try Googling it or simply contact your local civil defense office, police or fire station.
If you’re thinking, “I live far enough from the coast. I’m cool.” Remember, the Japan tsunami traveled inland six miles and reached run-up heights of 128 feet! (Run-up height is the tsunami’s vertical height above sea level at its furthest point inland)