Op-Ed: Prepare Now for a TsunamiRelease Date: 2023-09-01
Prepare Now for a Tsunami
Know the warning signs and practice your evacuation route
Published in Alamitos Bay Neighbors Magazine, August 2023
By Reginald Harrison
Tsunamis, while not frequent, are a threat to all of us who live in coastal areas of Southern California. In many ways, the threat of a tsunami to the Pacific Rim comes with the territory; it’s a naturally occurring disaster. There are many natural disasters organic to certain parts of the country. Right now, millions of people living in the Southeastern United States are experiencing an extreme heat wave, with triple-digit temperatures and no relief in sight. This natural disaster is an annual occurrence in those areas and can be deadly, especially to the elderly, young children, and pets.
Some natural disasters, including tsunamis, provide warning signs and time to prepare. Tsunami warning signs usually include a strong or long earthquake generally originating in Japan or Alaska; a loud roar (like a train or an airplane) may be heard as the tsunami reaches the shore; and the unusual occurrence of oceanwater pulling back suddenly to expose the ocean floor. First responders may issue official warnings; always follow their instructions, especially when you are advised to move to higher ground or inland.
Loss of life from a tsunami can be mitigated by moving to higher ground or inland immediately upon receiving official or natural warning by whatever means you have available (cars are not recommended as they tend to clog routes) and being prepared.
One way to prepare your family for emergencies, like a tsunami, is to sign up for ALERT Long Beach. This is the City’s emergency notification system and is the best way for residents to receive official emergency messages via phone call, text message or email. We also offer video messages in American Sign Language for those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
One of the most important things you can do to prepare is to know your evacuation route and practice it with your household. Residents should have a predetermined meeting place in the event family members are separated and are encouraged to have a “go-bag” with a five-day supply of food, medicine, water and comfort items – including pet essentials.
Earlier this spring as part of Tsunami Awareness Week, the City of Long Beach jointly hosted a roundtable discussion at the Aquarium of the Pacific where panelists discussed preparedness tips and the science behind tsunamis. We look forward to continuing this educational forum to ensure our community is well equipped and prepared to respond to emergencies and resuming our annual “Tsunami Walk and Resource Fair” that was conducted annually prior to the pandemic.
When a large-scale disaster like a tsunami strikes, the City will deploy its response personnel, including Police, Firefighters, CERT members, and Search and Rescue team members. However, it could be days before emergency workers are able to reach everyone who is impacted.
The City continues to identify ways to further prepare residents for a tsunami including plans to temporarily deploy high volume outdoor speakers in beach areas to warn residents and visitors; develop a citywide evacuation plan, including the inundation/flood zones; and install signage in effected neighborhoods that direct residents to safety.
Educating and preparing your household today on disaster preparedness measures could keep you and your loved ones safe and build a more resilient Long Beach.
For more emergency preparedness information and to download our Tsunami Preparedness Guide, visit www.longbeach.gov/disasterpreparedness or ready.gov/tsunamis.
Reginald Harrison is the Director of the City of Long Beach Department of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Communications and is a resident of Long Beach.