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How to Survive a Tsunami [Tsunami Survival Kit]

Preparing a Tsunami survival kit, heeding Tsunami alerts, avoiding Tsunami waters, and buying a “Survival Capsule” are all part of how to survive a Tsunami.

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Natural disasters claim 60,000 lives on average each year. Among these disasters are the Tsunamis, one of the deadliest natural disasters the world has ever witnessed.

While in the past floods, droughts, and earthquakes were the deadliest forms of natural disaster, today, Tsunamis move up the list because they are often linked to triggering earthquakes and the consequent flooding.

Surviving a Tsunami is one of the most difficult tasks. In fact, a lot of people think that surviving any natural disaster is a matter of luck, a mindset that exposes many to greater risk because it stops you from taking preparatory and ad hoc survival measures.

You can survive a Tsunami by following the “drop-cover-hold on” rule of thumb when a triggering earthquake occurs. Consequently, seeking safety on higher ground or at least one mile inland away from the coast will increase your chances of survival once a Tsunami eventually hits the coast.

Preparing a Tsunami survival kit before a Tsunami happens, heeding Tsunami alerts from authorities, holding on to an object if you are caught up in Tsunami waters, buying a Tsunami home insurance, and purchasing a Tsunami “Survival Capsule” are all ways that will help you survive a Tsunami.

Contents of an emergency disaster survival kit: water, first aid kit, backpack, fire starters, food

This article discusses all these survival strategies and answers key questions that give you crucial information on what to do and what you need to survive a Tsunami.

But what exactly is this natural monster we have named Tsunami? We kick start our survival guide by telling you what a Tsunami is and the danger signs that tell you when this natural disaster is imminent.

In a hurry? If you just want to get to our conclusions, here are our top picks and recommendations!

Last update on 2024-07-13 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What’s a Tsunami? Interesting Facts About Tsunamis

Tsunamis are giant ocean or sea waves that are triggered by:

  • Strong under-water earthquakes (especially in the Pacific subduction zones).
  • Submarine or onshore landslides
  • Volcanic eruptions

Tsunami waves are not the typical ocean tides that are triggered by winds or storms. For that reason, they are not tidal waves as some tend to consider them.

Here are a few other interesting facts about tsunamis:

  • The term Tsunami has a Japanese origin and is derived from two syllables, ‘tsu (harbor) and ‘nami (wave).
  • Because they are a series of waves (not a single wave), Tsunamis are also described as a ‘wave train’.
  • The power of Tsunami waves makes them extremely destructive; they can be as long as 100km (60miles) and be an hour or more apart from each other.
  • Tsunamis waves can rise vertically to a height of as little as 6ft or as high as 100ft (30meters). Tsunamis can also cause an entire sea to rise to 10ft (3meters).
  • The most destructive and deadliest Tsunami ever recorded is the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami that traveled at a speed of 5,000km (3,000miles) and killed around 225,000 people while destroying innumerable amounts of property.
  • Tsunami waves can cross entire seas and oceans without losing their speed until they get to land where their speed is reduced. The Indian Ocean Tsunami had a speed of 3,000 miles and traveled from Indonesia to other Asian and African coasts with a uniform force.
  • The initial wave of a Tsunami is not always the most destructive. Tsunami waves can get stronger with each subsequent one.

Natural disasters claim 60,000 lives on average each year.

These facts paint the picture of an enormous water force that can cause massive damage. It also suggests that you are better off far away from the occurrence of a Tsunami because your survival chances under Tsunami waters are minimal.

Also, the gravity of a Tsunami indicates that you should be prepared for a Tsunami if you want to increase your chances of survival.

How to Prepare for a Tsunami

From the foregoing, it’s clear that surviving a Tsunami is no walk in the park. To protect yourself from the raging Tsunami waves and survive them, you will have to be prepared for any eventual Tsunamis.

Knowing key Tsunami survival facts and preparing your Tsunami gear in a Tsunami survival kit is the best way to survive a Tsunami.

Overall, your Tsunami survival plan should take into consideration the three phases of Tsunami preparedness:

  1. Beware and make a Tsunami preparedness survival plan (including building and strategically storing a Tsunami survival kit).
  2. Take the recommended pro-survival actions during a Tsunami train wave.
  3. Stay put after a Tsunami until advised to move and pick up the pieces for your post-Tsunami survival.

Let’s explore each of these Tsunami Survival plan phases.


Before a Tsunami: “Beware and Plan”

Surviving natural disasters implies some form of planning. At the least, one will survive by knowing the signs that herald a natural disaster and rushing to safety before the wrath of the disaster can befall the earth.

But a more proactive way of surviving a natural disaster such as a Tsunami is by taking the necessary preparatory measures by creating a survival plan.

We have dubbed this first phase of how to survive a Tsunami “Beware and Plan.”

Illustration showing the survival steps you need to take: observe strange animal behaviour, get to high ground, have a tsunami survival kit, stay in tune to official tsunami communications

Beware of the Signs of a Looming Tsunami

Since they are one of the deadliest natural disasters, getting away from a Tsunami before it happens is your best bet for survival. You stand a better chance for survival if you can tell when a Tsunami is looming and take to higher ground immediately.

Here are the herald signs of a looming Tsunami:

  • A strong earthquake: if you are near the coast and experience a strong earthquake, you should be wary of a looming Tsunami and should make haste to safety on high ground or as far inland as you can get.
  • Abrupt fall or rise in water levels: if you notice a sudden rise in the sea or ocean water levels or an abrupt retreat of the ocean waters that exposes kilometers of the ocean floor, a strong Tsunami may be imminent. Experts suggest that receding waters can give you up to 5 minutes to rush to higher ground or as far as possible inland. Never go after a receding ocean/sea!
  • A predecessor wave: A single Tsunami wave may precede other waves. But as earlier said, the first wave is not always the most destructive. If you should witness a predecessor Tsunami wave that is not very strong, do not assume it is the only one. Expect stronger ‘train waves’ and take shelter on higher ground.
  • Unusual animal behavior: Animals perceive the occurrence of Tsunamis way before humans can. In 2004, people in Indonesia reported seeing animals run to higher ground before the Tsunami arrived and very few animals were killed.
  • Turbulent water flow: unusual water movement on the sea such as swirling or bubbling water can be indicative of a looming Tsunami and should make you run to safety.
  • Loud ocean roars: Unusually loud sounds from the ocean can announce the raging waves of a Tsunami. Especially at night when it is hard to see any signs, loud ocean sounds can warn you that a Tsunami is happening.
  • Official Tsunami alerts: Using advanced technology, metrology experts detect the imminence of natural disasters and will warn you of a looming Tsunami through:
    • A Tsunami advisory: if an earthquake has occurred in the ocean and could trigger a Tsunami even though there are no signs yet.
    • A Tsunami watch: if an earthquake has triggered a Tsunami that is bound to happen in a few hours and you are expected to move away from the coast.
    • A Tsunami warning: the Tsunami is here and you have to evacuate ASAP.

See this video with visual details on the major signs of an imminent Tsunami.

Beware of community survival initiatives

If you live in a coastal area or are visiting Tsunami-prone coastal areas, be informed about existing evacuation routes and community maps for Tsunami-safety routes.

Be informed about community warning systems and sign up for Emergency Alert Systems. Tsunamis develop rapidly and the sooner you know about a Tsunami warning, the higher your chances of survival.

Plan for evacuation and after Tsunami survival

It’s important to plan for evacuation in advance by learning and practicing community evacuation routes.

This should be done from all the locations that you can be when a Tsunami occurs including your home, office, work, or place of worship.

When you choose community evacuation centers, ensure they are at least 10ft above sea level or at least one mile inland.

Also, make a family communication plan and identify meeting places if and should a Tsunami happen.

To help you get back on your feet after the Tsunami, buy Tsunami insurance. Note that typical homeowner insurance does not cover for natural disasters such as Tsunamis and earthquakes.

Plan by building a Tsunami survival kit

Though a Tsunami survival kit will be needed if and when it happens, you should prepare and store it now if you have not done it yet.

A lot of people think that surviving a Tsunami is only about evacuating the affected coastal zone and getting to safety.

But what happens when you get to safety? Here are some possibilities:

  • You might need to treat injuries incurred in the rush to safety.
  • You may have to stay put at the rescue location for many hours or days and you’ll need food, water, and other survival items.
  • You’ll need a change of clothes, if not immediately a bit later depending on how long you have to stay at the rescue location.
  • You might need to contact family members and learn about their safety and whereabouts.
  • You need to stay informed about the development of the Tsunami situation and know when you can finally get back home if you still have one.

All this means that you need to have a Tsunami survival kit ready, one that has all the items that will take care of the above needs, at least for 72 hours.

So, what supplies do you need to survive a tsunami?  Here’s what your Tsunami survival kit should contain.

Tsunami Survival Kit


You’ll need non-perishable food such as canned and freeze-dried foods that require little or no heating and an amount that is enough for every member of the family for at least 72 hours (3 days).

These foods could include:

  • Canned beans, meat, fruit, and vegetables
  • Dried fruit
  • Bottled/canned fruit juices.
  • Peanut butter
  • Protein and fruit bars
  • Pasteurized milk

If you predict that canned food will be hard to carry and store for a Tsunami emergency, you can opt for Survival Tabs. These are a reliable source of carbohydrates, protein, and fat in emergency situations.

Survival tabs have a 25-year shelf life just like most canned food and are often used to counter the limits of freeze-dried food.

Our Survival Tabs choice: Survival Tabs 8-Day Food Supply

These lightweight emergency food replacement tabs are perfect for a Tsunami situation in which carrying and preparing canned food may be altogether impossible.

They are easy to pack plus they have a 25-year shelf life, which means you don’t need to replace them often.

The survival tabs are both non-GMO and gluten-free, good for anyone with gluten food allergies. They will give your body the recommended daily supply of vitamins and minerals until you can get back from your Tsunami safety location.

Each pouch of survival tabs has a different flavor from a wide assortment of chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and butterscotch flavors. You have 96 tablets in 4 pouches of 2 tablets each and you get 20 calories from each tab.

Last update on 2024-07-13 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Water (and water filter)

During and after a Tsunami, water sources are likely to be contaminated and potable clean water will be scarce. It will be extremely convenient to have a gallon of water for each person in your family.

Given that a Tsunami situation can be abrupt and extremely destructive, including a water filter in your Tsunami survival kit will be an extra precaution.

A water filter will help you access water for both drinking and other small survival tasks, even from Tsunami wave pools.

Our water filter choice: Survivor Filter PRO

We chose this hand-pump water filter because it will give you more than just a few litters of drinking water and is perfect for family Tsunami preparedness.

The filter’s 3-stage water filtration pump has a 0.01 pore size and efficiently eliminates 99.9% of viruses, protozoa, and bacteria, 93% of Lead, and 99.5% of mercury.

The filter will give you 500ml of filtered water every minute, which means you can quickly filter enough water for a family or group.

It is easy to use: you simply place the pre-filter pipe in the water source and pump the water through the carbon and internal filters, sending your clean water to the collecting container.

It can be easily disassembled and reassembled which makes it easy to carry in your Tsunami survival kit, plus it comes with a packing pouch.

Last update on 2024-07-13 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

First aid kit

Like all other natural disaster situations, a Tsunami will predispose you to medical situations such as injuries and water-borne diseases.

A medical first aid kit is, therefore, a ‘must-have’ in your Tsunami survival kit. This should include the following items:

  • Prescription and non-prescription medications such as antibiotics, analgesics, and chronic conditions drugs.
  • Bandages and sterile gauze
  • A pair of scissors
  • Surgical spirit for disinfecting cuts
  • Eyewash
  • Antifungal gels and powder
  • A thermometer
  • Insect repellent gels

You can opt to purchase a prepackaged first-aid kit. Doing so will ensure you have all the essentials for eventual medical emergencies and it will be easier to simply include the packaged kit to your comprehensive Tsunami survival kit.

Our first aid kit choice: First Aid Only 299 Piece All-Purpose Kit

This 299-piece first aid kit is ideal for an emergency Tsunami situation and is easy to carry, measuring only 9.25" x 2.8" x 7".

It has clear plastic pockets where all the medical supplies are organized and you can easily tell what you have including:

  • Adhesive bandages
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Antibiotic ointments
  • Aspirin and ibuprofen tablets
  • Scissors
  • A cold pack
  • A sterile eye pad among others.

You also have a first aid guide to help you know how to use the supplies.

Last update on 2024-07-13 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Hygiene items

Hygiene items will take care of your cleanliness and sanitary needs while you brave the extremes of a Tsunami disaster. These will include:

  • Soaps and mini-towels
  • Toothpaste and brush
  • Facial wipes
  • Hand sanitizers
  • Toilet paper
  • Sanitary pads (for ladies)
  • Baby diapers
  • A change of clothing for 3 days

Tsunami-appropriate clothing

Considering the wet, cold, and muddy/swampy conditions that may come with a Tsunami, having the right type of clothing is crucial. These include:

  • Blankets and waterproof jackets
  • A thermal-lined coat
  • Long water-proof pants
  • Long-sleeve tops
  • A pair of gloves
  • A pair of sturdy shoes or boots
  • Woolen socks


While you might find shelter with well-wishers, rescue centers, or family and friends, it’s important to be ready for any eventualities.

Bringing some form of shelter will protect you from the elements. A mini-tent and/or sleeping bag will serve the purpose.

In recent times, inventors have also created a state-of-the-art device known as a ‘Survival Capsule’ (Rescue pod).

Though it is still a new idea, rescue pods have been tested to withstand Tsunami ‘train waves’ and the rage of the debris that comes with it.

The dome-shaped ‘survival capsule’ is made from aircraft-grade aluminum and can withstand large shocks and high temperatures. It is also painted in high visibility orange color.

Current models of the ‘survival capsule’ have space for two people and 3-day food and water provisions. The construction of larger capsules with space for up to 16 people is underway, which also targets institutions like schools.

Survival capsules also have a rescue beacon and tether so that you can be rescued while you float on the Tsunami waters.

This 4-minute video gives you an idea of what a tsunami survival capsule is and how it works.

Other survival supplies to include in your Tsunami survival kit

  • Can-opener
  • Survival knife
  • Battery or crank-powered radio (for weather and news alerts)
  • Cell phone, charger, and a backup battery
  • Flashlight (crucial when moving in the dark)
  • Signal flares
  • Waterproof maps of the local area
  • Cash in small denominations
  • Family documents including wills, birth and death certificates, homeownership deeds, and insurance policy documents
  • Emergency phone numbers of rescue and other key agencies

Storing your Tsunami survival kit

It’s obvious that a Tsunami survival kit will serve its purpose if you can access it when a Tsunami warning or alert is sounded.

While it is wise to store your comprehensive Tsunami emergency kit at home in a place where you can pick it as you rush out and every member of the family can access it, you can also prepare smaller emergency kits to:

  • Carry in your car
  • Keep in your office
  • Carry in your school bag or place in a school locker
  • Carry to the shore during a relaxation trip
  • Store in any other place that you frequent

Doing this will give you some security, given that carrying your main survival kit everywhere will be outright impossible.

During the Tsunami: Work at Surviving

As with other natural disaster situations, surviving a Tsunami when it happens will depend on how quickly you can act.

Take these pro-survival measures if you find yourself at or near a coast during a Tsunami.

Small tsunami wave moving towards the coast
  1. Protect yourself from the risks of the triggering earthquake

Since most Tsunamis are preceded by an earthquake, your first worry should be to survive the earthquake.

The rule of thumb is to Drop, Cover, and Hold On to something as shown below.

  1. Evacuate quickly after the shaking

Once the earthquake tremor ceases, leave quickly to higher ground or as far inland as you can get.

If you are in a tall concrete building, move up to above the fourth floor. Doing so may prove better than trying to evacuate.

If you have an option between climbing to higher ground and moving inland, chose the previous. You have more chances of survival at a higher ground than when caught up running inland by the Tsunami waves.

  1. Stay tuned to official warnings

Always listen to official Tsunami warnings and alerts. But do not wait for warnings if an earthquake or tremor has occurred. Evacuate immediately!

  1. Stay where you are if out of the Tsunami hazard zone

If you are out of the Tsunami hazard zone, stay where you are to avoid going towards the danger. Evacuate only if advised to do so by the authorities and do so immediately following the marked evacuation routes.

  1. Stay away from rivers and streams

Rivers and streams in coastal zones often lead to the ocean/sea. Stay away from such water sources as you move to safety.

  1. Grab onto an object if caught in water

If a Tsunami finds you in water or you are caught up by the waves, grab onto a floating object such as a tree trunk, a door, a raft, or a roof.

  1. Stay if you are in a boat and move if in a harbor

If the waves find you in a boat, stay and turn the boat to the direction of the waves so you can head to the shore.

If you are in a harbor, move quickly inland.

  1. Abandon your car

No matter how fast your car is, it will not outrun the Tsunami waves. Besides, the high power of the waves and the impact of debris are likely to destroy your car and you have minimal chances of survival if you are in the car.

Thus, abandon your car as soon as you notice signs of a Tsunami or hear a Tsunami warning or alert and rush to safety on higher ground.

  1. Bring your Tsunami safety kit

If you can, grab your Tsunami safety kit and bring it along. You do not know how long you will be staying in your Tsunami shelter and you’ll need the supplies.

If bringing your safety kit will delay your evacuation and put you in danger, save your life first!

  1. Stay put until advised to move

Once you evacuate to safety, stay where you are until the authorities say it is safe to move. Remember that Tsunami waters can suddenly be swept back to sea/ocean as fast as they surge ashore, and that means the risk of being washed to sea.

After the Tsunami: Stay Safe and Pick up the Pieces

After a Tsunami, you’ll need to await a signal that it is safe to move before getting back to your usual, not so usual anymore, life.

Once you get the ‘okay-to-move’ signal, follow these tsunami survival tips:

Tsunami hazard zone danger sign on a beach
  1. Stay away from Tsunami-flood waters

As much as you can, stay away from flooded areas and water pools, and all other water bodies. These are contaminated and can be sources of water-borne diseases. Besides, it is hard to tell the depth of floodwaters.

Also, notice any downed power lines that are in water and steer clear. These may be still charged and can cause electrocution.

If floodwaters separate you from your destination, never wade through floodwaters. Instead, find other routes to safety or await evacuation services.

  1. Beware of damaged roads, buildings, and bridges

Avoid roads and buildings that show cracks and stay away from bridges in areas where damage has been done by Tsunami waves.

  1. Find shelter

A lot of homes will be destroyed after a Tsunami. If you have no home to return to, listen to news about possible evacuation shelters, and follow instructions on how to get there or await evacuation help.

  1. Communicate to seek help or declare your safety

Authorities and family will be seeking to account for life after a deadly Tsunami. Use SMS or social media platforms to announce your safety. Avoid calls as communication lines will be busy and can be jammed by call traffic.

Agents such as the Red Cross will often have registers where you can list yourself as safe.

  1. Beware of water and food safety

If you are lucky and still have a home after a Tsunami, avoid using water from taps until you are advised that it is safe to use.

Also, don’t eat food that has been left unrefrigerated or has been in contact with floodwaters, including canned food in inflated or damaged cans.

  1. Avoid electrical switches and appliances at your home

If you are wet or your home was flooded, do not touch electrical switches and appliances to avoid electrocution.

  1. Document property damage

If you had bought a Tsunami insurance, you’ll need supporting proof when making compensation claims.

Take photos and conduct an inventory of destroyed property to present to your insurance company together with the compensation claim.

  1. Seek psychosocial support if you need to

The impact of a Tsunami does not only take away life and cause destruction on property, it also leaves psychological scars from the devastating images and experiences.

A lot of rescue agencies have psychosocial services that offer emotional support and help survivors pick up the pieces and move on.

Even if you may not feel the need at first, seeking the support of experts and/or of groups in your community will help you overcome the adverse impact of a Tsunami better and faster.

As they say, life will have to go on and a little help will go a long way to help you move on.

Illustration showing the "Drop, cover, hold" technique to protect yourself in case of an earthquake.

How to Survive a Tsunami FAQs

To complete your knowledge gear on how to survive a Tsunami, we conclude our article with 3 FAQs and tell you the facts you should know about these issues.

1. How are Tsunamis generated?

Tsunamis are mostly triggered by underwater earthquakes that cause the abrupt rise or fall of a part of the earth’s crust near or under an ocean/sea.

The earthquake then causes volatile vertical motion that is capable of disrupting large amounts of ocean water. The highly powered rise and fall of these waters cause and propel Tsunami waves.

2. Do all earthquakes cause a Tsunami?

Not all earthquakes cause Tsunamis. Those that do are the ones that occur along subduction zones, the zones where two tectonic plates meet and tend towards each other.

If one of these plates slide underneath another and moves down in a way that displaces the other, then an earthquake and a consequent Tsunami are bound to happen.

3. Where do most Tsunamis occur?

Most Tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean. This is because they have a “ring of fire” that is prone to earthquakes. Scientists agree that, of the 10 major Tsunamis that occur each century, 76% happen in the Pacific and bordering seas.

The Indian Ocean accounts for 3% while the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean take up 10% and 11% respectively.

Summary of How to Survive a Tsunami

We've covered a lot of things you should do to prepare yourself and your loved ones in case of a tsunami.

Make sure you take precautions before disaster strikes by prepping a tsunami survival kit, buying tsunami insurance for your home and revising your tsunami survival plan and checklist with your family.

Once a tsunami hits, try to head to higher ground as soon as possible and stay safe until the subsequent waves pass.

The danger isn't over after the tsunami passes. Avoid the water as it might be infested, travel carefully as buildings may collapse and seek alternative shelter, as your home might not be accessible or safe.

Want another quick summary of our article on how to survive a Tsunami?

This video below on How to Survive a Tsunami according to Science does it perfectly.

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Hi, I'm Russ!

I've been prepping for a long time, but 2020 convinced me that I need to take it to the next level.

This website started as a way to keep me going forward on the path to being better prepared.

Now, I’m turning it into a complete blueprint for anyone else looking to do the same!
Russell M. Morgan
Telson Survival

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