Tsunami and Earthquake Preparedness

Last Updated: July 31, 2022

Approximately 230,000 deaths represent a testament to the lessons learned from the deadliest tsunami, incurred by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean in 2004.

The earthquake and subsequent tsunami of 2004 was the largest disaster victim identification operation in Thailand and human history.
  • An estimated 227,898 deaths in 14 affected, inundated countries worldwide
  • 3,679 unidentified victims from 41 countries
  • Police and forensics scientists from over 30 countries collaborated in identifying victims

What Happened in 2004?

On December 26, 2004, at about 8:00 am, near the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, a 9.1 magnitude earthquake sends out shockwaves that eventually impacts families in over 41 nations.

The subsequent tsunami then wipes out the coastal habitations of several countries in South and Southeast Asia. Over the next seven hours, giant ocean waves—seismically triggered by the quake— devastate coastal areas in Africa. Waves had reached a height of 30+ feet.

Indonesian officials estimated that the death toll was over 200,000 souls with the ensuing victim identification campaign…eventually becoming the largest victim ID program in history.


The lack of food, clean water, and medical treatment—combined with the enormous task faced by relief workers trying to get supplies into some remote areas where roads had been destroyed or where civil war raged—extended the list of casualties.

Long-term environmental damage was severe as well, with villages, tourist resorts, farmland, and fishing grounds demolished or inundated with debris, bodies, and plant-killing salt water.

Encyclopedia Brittanica

Prepare for not just one event, but a string of multiple events

The lesson we learn from the tsunami is that disasters come in sequences. If you’re prepared for earthquakes but not flooding and tsunamis, you’re halfway done. If you’re prepared for the common occurrences in your region, but look at the frequency with which earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, cyclones, and hurricanes happen on a yearly basis worldwide… there are a few years in between every major event, that generally, tend to have a global impact.

  • lack of food –> solution: long-term food storage
  • lack of clean water –> solution: water filtration and storage prepared
  • lack of medical treatment –> solution: Medical Preparedness
  • enormous task relief workload –> solution: having prepared the above three, your own home and area will have enormous advantages
  • road quality in transportation –> solution: having limited the need for travel by the above, only evacuation routes need to be planned
  • destruction of homes, villages, tourist resorts, farmland, and fishing grounds –> there isn’t much you can do to be prepared for this, other than having selected a location that isn’t prone to earthquakes and tsunamis
  • debris, bodies, and plant-killing salt water –> solution: steel yourself, disasters take time to recover from

Be prepared for the worst as seen below, it seems that these events tend to happen every few years…

Disasters, Death Toll, and Event Type by Year: Since 1900

The World’s Deadliest Earthquakes


How to Prepare for an Earthquake

Preparation for an earthquake starts with the selection of the building materials of your home, and how you’ve secured your shelving and other furniture. As you understand where the most solid, protected areas are in your home, you’ll know where to go during an earthquake.

Your home location is ideally geographically situated away from major fault lines and located away from larger buildings that could collapse on your homestead. Earthquake difficulties and challenges multiply with more people, traffic, constructions/obstructions during the initial event, and potential aftershocks.

  • Check your house and land for any potential dangers and structural strengths/weaknesses
  • Identify any vulnerabilities and reinforce your structures and secure your books, heavy items, shelves and furniture
  • Identify areas with a high potential for the shattering of glass or other brittle materials.
  • Seal your important documents in secured storage (and your hard drives and small hardware).
  • Have your bugout bag, emergency, survival, and first-aid kits located and within easy access.
  • With warnings imminent, shut off the gas and electricity in your house.

Early Warning Signs of an Earthquake

  • Noticeable animal behaviors such as loud, scared, or confused pets or unusual bird calls
  • Sudden water-level changes in wells or artesian bores

During an earthquake

If you are indoors: “DROP, COVER, AND HOLD ON”

  • Stay inside.
  • Drop under heavy furniture such as a table, desk, bed, or any solid furniture.
  • Cover your head and torso to prevent being hit by falling objects.
  • Hold on to the object that you are under so that you remain covered.
  • If you can’t get under something strong, or if you are in a hallway, flatten yourself or crouch against an interior wall and protect your head and neck with your arms.

If you are in a shopping mall, go to the nearest store.

  • Stay away from windows, and shelves with heavy objects.

If you are at school, get under a desk or table and hold on.

  • Face away from windows.

If you are outdoors, stay outside.

  • Go to an open area away from buildings.
  • If you are in a crowded public place, take cover where you won’t be trampled.

If you are in a vehicle, pull over to a safe place where you are not blocking the road.

  • Avoid bridges, overpasses, underpasses, buildings, or anything that could collapse.
  • Stop the car and stay inside.
  • Do not attempt to get out of your car if downed power lines are across it. Wait to be rescued.
  • If you are on a bus, stay in your seat until the bus stops. Take cover in a protected place. If you can’t take cover, sit in a crouched position and protect your head from falling debris.

AVOID the following in an earthquake:

  • Doorways. Doors may slam shut and cause injuries.
  • Windows, bookcases, tall furniture, and light fixtures.
  • Elevators.
  • Downed power lines – stay at least 10 meters away to avoid injury.
  • Coastline.

Immediately after an earthquake

  • Check yourself and others for injuries.
  • Call authorities and emergency services.
  • Check water, gas, and electric lines for damage.
  • Avoid using gas, appliances, and power.
  • Check for cracks and damage to the roof and foundation of your home.
  • Be careful around structures, broken glass, and debris.

Recovering from an earthquake

  • Do not enter damaged buildings or areas.
  • Clean up any potentially harmful material spills. Wear proper protective gear.
  • Take pictures of the damage, both to your house and its contents.
  • Avoid smoking or lighting matches inside buildings.
  • Expect aftershocks.
  • Avoid driving to keep the streets clear for emergency vehicles.
  • Be aware that falling items from cupboards, shelves, and exterior hangings.
Raw Footage: 2004 Tsunami from coastal Thailand

How to Prepare for a Tsunami

Preparation for a tsunami begins with your home location BEFORE any earthquake or tsunami warning. If you’re at least 100 above sea level and two miles away from the coastline, then that is the start of your range. The earthquake and subsequent earthquake of 1960 in Chile reached 10 miles inland. After your location is set, then you’re checking your property and how most of your small-to-large belongings are secured. Then, your gaze turns inward to your home.

  • Check your house and land for any potential dangers related to flooding.
  • Identify any vulnerability and repair it.
  • Shut off the gas and electricity in your house.
  • Seal your important documents in waterproof containers/bags and secure them in a safe place where they won’t wash away in potential flooding. The same for your hard drives and small hardware.
  • Have your bugout bag, emergency, survival, and first-aid kits located and within easy access.

Early warning signs of a tsunami

One of the signs of a potential tsunami is the occurrence of a very large earthquake that lasts for more than 20 seconds.

  • A rapid and unexpected recession of water levels below the expected low tide.

Tsunami warnings are issued to media and municipalities in regions where a tsunami is likely to hit.

When you get a warning of a tsunami, if there is time, move to higher ground immediately.

During a tsunami

  • Do not go near the shore to watch a tsunami hit. If you can see it, you are too close to escape.
  • Should a tsunami occur and you cannot get to higher ground, stay inside where you are protected from the water. It’s best to be on the landward side of the house, away from windows.
  • Often tsunamis occur in multiple waves that can occur minutes apart, but also as much as one hour apart.
  • Monitor the tsunami’s progress and listen for warnings or instructions from local officials. If you are safe when the first tsunami hits, stay put until authorities declare all is safe.
  • After a tsunami hits, you may encounter flood waters. Flood waters can be dangerous to walk or drive through.
  • Be aware of risks such as hypothermia from cold water or drowning from running water.

Immediately after a tsunami 

A tsunami is a series of waves that may continue for hours. Do not assume that after one wave the danger is over. The next wave may be larger than the first one. Remember, disasters happen in sequences.

  • Return home only after authorities and your party agree it is safe to return.
  • Use caution when re-entering buildings or homes. Take care with every step, for every surface could be compromised.
  • Avoid any areas that remain flooded or contaminated.
  • Food and drinking water may be contaminated – do not eat or drink anything unless you know it is safe (bottled, boiled, or disinfected).
  • If you smell gas or even if you don’t, do not use any open flame. Use a battery-operated or solar light.

Recovering from a Tsunami

Whether you’re recovering from an earthquake, aftershocks, or tsunami, hopefully, you were out of the danger zone. If you had moved or secured yourself and your family before the worst of it, you’ll be ready for recovery.

  • Be aware of power outages occur, people often turn to alternative sources of fuel or electricity.
  • Animals and pets, including rodents, snakes, or spiders, might need to be removed or trapped.
  • Flooding can cause excessive mold growth.
  • Flooding may have caused sewage to overflow inside your home.
  • Disinfect everything touched by contaminated flood water.

After that, it’s watching how the people around you and local, national, and international authorities scramble to provide basic needs for possibly millions of people (all at once), and planning your rebuild projects. Good luck, prepper.

American Patriot Survivalist

“Always-Be-Ready” Max

Additional Resources

Tsunami Warnings | CSIRO’s Flood Damage Advisor | Insurance claims | How to Treat Food | When is Water Safe? | Bugout Bags |

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