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Island Safety

In Case of Tsunami

About Tsunami

Tsunamis are a series of large ocean waves generated by major earthquakes beneath the ocean floor or major landslides into the ocean. When the waves enter shallow water, they may rise to several feet or, in rare cases, tens of feet, striking the coast with devastating force. People on the beach or in low coastal areas need to be aware that a tsunami could arrive within minutes after a severe earthquake. The tsunami danger period can continue for many hours after a major earthquake. A tsunami can occur during any season of the year and at any time, day or night.

Be aware of the signs of a tsunami:
  • A strong earthquake lasting 20 seconds or more near the coast.
  • A noticeable rapid rise or fall in coastal waters.
  • What is the best source of information in a tsunami situation?
  • The International Tsunami Warning System monitors ocean waves after any Pacific earthquake with a magnitude greater than 6.5. If waves are detected, warnings are issued to local authorities who can order the evacuation of low-lying areas if necessary.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s National Weather Service operates two tsunami warning centers:

West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WC/ATWC), Palmer, Alaska. Serves Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC), Ewa Beach, Hawaii. Serves Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific territories, and as an international warning center for the Pacific and Indian oceans and the Caribbean Sea.

Respond During

  • If you are in a coastal area and feel an earthquake that lasts 20 seconds or longer:
  • Drop, cover and hold on. You should first protect yourself from the earthquake.
  • When the shaking stops, gather members of your household and move quickly to higher ground away from the coast. A tsunami may be coming within minutes.
  • Avoid downed power lines and stay away from buildings and bridges from which heavy objects might fall during an aftershock.

View Tsunami Evacuation Centers for the Big Island in a larger map


What to Do During a Tsunami Watch
  • Use a NOAA Weather Radio or tune to a Coast Guard emergency frequency station or a local radio or television station for updated emergency information.
  • Locate household members and review evacuation plans. Be ready to move quickly if a tsunami warning is issued.


What to Do During a Tsunami Warning
  • If you hear an official tsunami warning or detect signs of a tsunami, evacuate at once.
  • Take your emergency preparedness kit. Having supplies will make you more comfortable during the evacuation.
  • Take your pets with you. If it is not safe for you, it’s not safe for them.
  • Get to higher ground as far inland as possible. Watching a tsunami could put you in grave danger. If you can see the wave, you are too close to escape it.


What to Do After a Tsunami

  • Continue using a NOAA Weather Radio or tuning to a Coast Guard station or a local radio or television station for the latest updates.
  • Return home only after local officials tell you it is safe. A tsunami is a series of waves that may continue for hours. Do not assume that after one wave the danger is over. The next wave may be larger than the first one.
  • Check yourself for injuries and get first aid as needed before helping injured or trapped persons.
  • If someone needs to be rescued, call professionals with the right equipment to help. Many people have been killed or injured trying to rescue others.
  • Help people who require special assistance—infants, elderly people, those without transportation, people with disabilities and large families who may need additional help in an emergency situation.
  • Avoid disaster areas. Your presence might interfere with emergency response operations and put you at further risk from the residual effects of floods.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • Stay out of any building that has water around it. Tsunami water can cause floors to crack or walls to collapse.
  • Use caution when re-entering buildings or homes. Tsunami-driven floodwater may have damaged buildings where you least expect it. Carefully watch every step you take.
  • To avoid injury, wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up.
  • Watch animals closely and keep them under your direct control.
Let Your Family Know You're Safe

If your community has experienced a disaster, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well web site to let your family and friends know you are safe. You may also call 1-866-GET-INFO to register yourself and your family.

Other Safety Tips

  • Driving at night could be a challenge somtimes due to the lack of lightining. Drive slow and only drive when rested. Know your route if at possible.
  • Be careful when along the rock shoreline. Rocks are jagged and waves can all of sudden come crashing in.
  • Don't leave valuables in your car and make sure it's locked.
  • When visiting Volcanoe NP adhere to all the parks safety guidlines.
  • When swiming at the beaches be weary of under currents and the occasional large wave. Never swim alone.
  • While walking around town watch for cars. The streets are narrow and so are the walksways. Especially at night!

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