Tsunami Safety Overview

Hilo in 1946

Picture above shows tsunami waves coming in during the 1946 tsunami that struck Hilo. A tsunami is one of nature's most dangerous natural hazards. Tsunamis have killed many people in Hawai'i and caused millions of dollars in damage. Tsunamis have also caused death and destruction in other parts of the world. On average, a dangerous tsunami occurs somewhere on earth nearly every year.

There is no tsunami season and a tsunami can strike at any time of day or night, in good weather or bad. When a tsunami reaches shore, a series of waves can flood inland over a period of several hours. Since tsunami waves travel through the entire water column, they are more like rivers or walls of flooding water than like waves.

Hawai'i is vulnerable to tsunamis generated from afar as well as to tsunamis generated right here. A tsunami from far away (distant tsunami) will take hours to reach our shores, but a tsunami generated here in Hawai'i (locally generated tsunami) can reach our shores in minutes!

Studying our history of past tsunamis helps us to know which areas are safe from tsunami waves and which areas are dangerous and should be evacuated. Look in the front of the telephone book or on our online tsunami map viewer to determine whether your home and place of work are within tsunami evacuation zones. It is a very good idea to know this information before any tsunami warning is issued. Tsunamis can be deadly, but if you understand them and learn what to do when the next tsunami strikes, you will have a better chance of keeping yourself and your family safe.

This section includes what to do to be prepared, how to recognize nature's warning signs, and what do in the event of a distant tsunami, locally generated tsunami, or if you feel an earthquake. In addition, the warning system is discussed. A mapping tool lets you know if you are in an evacuation zone.

Review and print for reference the "Tsunami Safe Quick-step Guide". You may also want to read the "Blueprint for Coastal Communities" (PDF) and "How to Prepare Your Business for the Next Tsunami" (PDF).

You may want to refer to the State Civil Defense page for more safety information.

Last Revised September 2013