This past September, an 8.3-magnitude earthquake struck Chile, claiming 11 lives. That particular quake, according to the BBC, caused tsunami waves to occur as far as Japan, and it’s considered to be the strongest quake on record for the year. Coquimbo, a coastal town in Chile that was close to the quake’s epicenter, witnessed tsunami surges as tall as 15 feet, and hundreds of residents were forced to evacuate, spending the night in temporary shelters (tens of thousands in the area didn’t have any electricity due to the quake). After the quake occurred, authorities throughout Chile sounded a tsunami warning, and over 1 million Chilean citizens up and down the coast were forced to evacuate. The earthquake, now considered to be the sixth strongest to hit the country, even destroyed communities, like the fishing village of Tongoy.
Tsunamis, as we’ve noted previously, can occur with little warning. In fact, though earthquakes cause tsunamis, a tsunami’s effects may impact a wide-ranging area—even zones that didn’t experience the initial earthquake to begin with. So, with that in mind, it can be difficult to discern when or where a tsunami will hit. And as evidenced by the recent events in Chile, they can be quite devastating too. Since the entirety of the Pacific Rim is considered to be earthquake-active, most Pacific regions—including the Western coast of the United States—could potentially be hit by a possible future tsunami. While it is, of course, impossible to determine when or where a tsunami will happen, if you live near the coast, the best thing that you can do is to simply develop a tsunami evacuation plan well in advance. This plan should ideally involve you, and your family, moving to a higher elevation as soon as you receive a tsunami warning, or as soon as an earthquake occurs. When a tsunami builds, surrounding coastal waters usually drain out to sea—if you happen to be by the beach when this happens, then it’s important to begin evacuating immediately.
As part of your evacuation plan, you should prepare some emergency supplies that you can quickly accesses in the event of a tsunami or earthquake. You can store these supplies either in your home or your car, and they should feature basic medical supplies, food and water to last you and your family for three days, and other critical emergency goods, such as a flashlight, sleeping bags, and clothing as well. As we mentioned, it’s impossible to predict when or where a tsunami will strike, but if you’re able to move to a higher elevation quickly after an earthquake hits, you should be able to successfully avoid the following tsunami.