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The Tsunami Threat

Tsunami Warning Sign that says "Tsunami Hazard Zone."

Tsunamis are rare but, nonetheless, quite dangerous.

Tsunamis: The Threat is Real

Although rare, tsunamis pose extreme danger in coastal areas due to their sheer size and difficult predictability. In the United States, tsunamis are a threat that could one day cause a major disaster. According to the California Seismic Safety Commission, 80 tsunamis have been recorded over the past 150 years in California. In 1964, the Great Alaskan Earthquake produced numerous tsunamis, including some that killed twelve people in California and four in Oregon.

Although they are often referred to as “tidal waves,” tsunamis are not generated or affected by tidal forces. In fact, tsunamis can do considerable damage even if they occur during low tides.

How Tsunamis are Formed:

  • In basic terms, tsunamis result from the displacement of a large volume of water.
  • Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides can lead to tsunamis.
  • When an earthquake occurs in the ocean, two plates are slipping, which causes a release of energy. In the water, this movement of plates is transferred into wave- energy.
  • Although the waves generated at first have a very small height, they are very long (and are referred to as wavelengths). In  the open ocean, tsunamis often pass by ships unnoticed.
  • Reaching speeds of up to 500 mph, the waves slow and increase in height as they reach shore.
  • “Mega-Tsunamis,” with waves hundreds of feet high, can be caused by massive landslides

Detection Systems :

After the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, the Bush Administration enacted more tsunami planning and early warning systems for the United States. Part of this effort included an increase in the number of Deep-Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami (DART) program buoys. Each of these buoys are anchored to the sea floor and relay valuable information including pressure and temperature data which are used to calculate wave height. GPS-based information is relayed back to a satellite and picked up by the receiving station.

Tsunami about to wash over a city.

Implications for Building Owners and Property Managers:

  • Review tsunami inundation zone maps that are offered by Federal agencies. These maps are similar to flood plain maps and provide a clear picture of potential threats. In California, the State Office of Emergency Services produces these maps, which are increasingly used by municipalities for evacuation planning.
  • Read the California’s Seismic Safety Commission’s tips on earthquakes and the related tsunami threat.
  • Be aware of warnings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In June of 2005, a watch was quickly issued for the Washington and California coasts.
  • Consider your building’s structure to determine if it can sustain tsunami forces, which differ greatly from that of earthquakes.

We believe that knowledge and preparedness saves lives. Although tsunamis that cause extreme damage are rare, they are potentially devastating and occur with minimal warning. For coastal properties, implementing tsunami-specific information into disaster planning helps building owners and facility managers cover all the bases” and remain prepared for any threat.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

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