Hirohiko Oka and his son Suzunosuke, age 6, walk through the rubble of Onigawa, Japan on March 16th to see the remains of their home after two tsunami waves devastated their town.
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10 Tips for Keeping Children Safe in a Tsunami
Tsunamis are large ocean waves caused by major earthquakes beneath the ocean floor, or landslides into the ocean. In the U.S., tsunamis threaten the West Coast, Hawaii and Alaska as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. A tsunami can occur during any season and at any time. In the event of a disaster like this, Save the Children is on the ground first, providing tsunami relief. Save the Children offers these tips to show parents what to do when a tsunami hits.
- Talk about tsunamis.
Spend time as a family discussing tsunamis. Explain that a tsunami is a natural event, and not anyone’s fault. Use simple words that young children can understand.
- Identify hazard areas.
Find out if your home, school, childcare provider, workplace or other frequently visited locations are in tsunami hazard areas. Also, know the height of your street above sea level and the distance of your street from the coast. Evacuation orders may be based on these numbers.
- Learn about caregivers’ disaster plans.
If your child’s school or childcare center is in a tsunami zone, learn their emergency plan and evacuation plan. You may be required to pick up children from another location. Review these plans with your children.
- Stay informed.
Listen to a local news station on a NOAA Weather Radio, a portable radio or TV. Listen for and respond to tsunami watches and warnings. Evacuate if told to do so or if you feel unsafe.
- Practice evacuation drills.
Practice so that children can evacuate quickly and safely if a tsunami hits. Plan and practice two ways out of your neighborhood, in case one route is blocked. Choose evacuation areas 100 feet above sea level, or 2 miles inland.
During a Tsunami
- Earthquakes cause tsunamis.
If you feel an earthquake that lasts 20 seconds or longer, you should Drop, Cover and Hold On. Protect yourself from the earthquake by dropping to the ground, taking cover under something like a table, and hold on to it.
- Don’t wait for an official order to evacuate.
After a coastal area earthquake, a tsunami may come within minutes; first responders may not have time to sound sirens or issue evacuation orders.
- Expect aftershocks.
Large earthquakes may have aftershocks, that may trigger tsunamis. When the earthquake stops, move your family members to higher ground – away from the coast.
Following a Tsunami
- Involve children in recovery.
If it’s safe, include your children in clean-up activities after the tsunami. Children will find comfort in having a job to do and seeing the household return to normal. Help people who are in need of assistance while being cautious of dangers such as downed power lines or damaged buildings.
- Listen to children.
Allow children to express their feelings after the tsunami. Listen carefully, show understanding and offer reassurance. Remind them that the situation is not permanent, and their safety is your utmost priority.
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