Those Living Along U.S. Coastline Should Always Be Prepared for Tsunamis

National Tsunami Awareness Week: March 20-26

March 21, 2011

In the wake of Japan’s tsunami disaster, NOAA is urging Americans who live and vacation at the coast to take the threat of tsunamis seriously. With more coastline than any other country in the world and proximity to several major fault lines, the Pacific, Atlantic, Gulf and Caribbean coasts of the United States are vulnerable to tsunamis. NOAA’s National Weather Service, which operates the U.S. tsunami detection and warning system, says that the key to surviving a tsunami is staying informed and moving quickly to higher ground when a tsunami threatens.

In a message issued by the White House this week, President Barack Obama acknowledged that although the danger posed by tsunamis cannot be eliminated, NOAA’s efforts within the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program to work with local communities on hazard assessment, evacuation planning, and educational outreach can help save lives by equipping citizens to effectively respond to emergency situations.

The President also said the heartbreaking loss of life from the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan reflects the catastrophic damage these unexpected disasters can cause.

“As we offer our assistance to those impacted by this tragedy, we also renew our commitment to ensuring preparedness along our shores,” the President said. “Efficient warning systems and awareness in coastal communities are vital to protecting Americans in at-risk areas of the country.”

This week should also serve as a crucial reminder for all Americans to take the time to get prepared now, before disaster strikes.  Anyone can visit to learn how.

Following the deadly 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Congress provided NOAA with more than $150 million to expand the nation’s tsunami detection and warning capabilities, outreach and education and research, and provided support for a global tsunami warning and education network. As a result of this investment, the nation and world are better prepared for the next tsunami. For example, 83 U.S. coastal communities have earned the National Weather Service TsunamiReady™ designation, up from only 11 in 2004. This program prepares emergency managers to warn citizens during a tsunami emergency.

The National Weather Service operates two tsunami warning centers, in Palmer, Alaska, and Ewa Beach, Hawaii. The centers, staffed 24/7, issue tsunami alerts (watches, warnings, advisories and information statements) as early as two minutes after an earthquake. Upon receipt of tsunami alerts, state and local emergency management agencies determine the appropriate response, including whether to clear the beaches, sound sirens or evacuate people.

Here are some of the tsunami preparedness activities happening this week:

Warning Signs of a Tsunami

What You Should Do if You See These Signs

NOAA's National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NOAA’s National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy. Visit us online at and on Facebook.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Find us on Facebook.