Preparing for a tsunami

Water covering a street sign after a tsunami.

A tsunami is a series of powerful ocean waves caused by earthquakes, underwater volcanic eruptions or landslides, which can cause widespread damage to coastal areas. You can help keep your loved ones and your property safe by knowing the warning signs and taking action to prepare your household. Here are a few tips on what to do before, during and after a tsunami.

Before a tsunami

  • A tsunami can often be preceded by an earthquake, so regularly reminding yourself what to do before, after and during an earthquake can help you feel prepared. Find out more on our blog.

  • Learn the warning signs to help you anticipate a tsunami. These signs could be loud noises coming from the sea and unusual ocean behaviour, like a sudden rise or wall of water, or draining of water revealing the ocean floor.

  • Take time to understand how you and your property could be affected. Is your home, work or school in a tsunami evacuation zone? Become familiar with community evacuation plans and make sure you know where to find higher ground or a safe spot at least two kilometres inland. Plan how you’ll reach it in the event of an emergency.

  • Prepare your emergency kit in advance, including things like 3 days-worth of long-lasting food and bottled water (4 litres per person per day), a flashlight and any prescription medication. Keep it in a place that’s easily accessible.

  • If possible, try to store photographs, important documents and proof of ownership for your valuable items outside your home or backed up electronically.

  • Make sure your home and contents’ sum insured and your car’s agreed value are up to date. If you’re a customer with us, you can do this online through My AA Insurance.

During a tsunami

  • In the event of an earthquake, use the Drop, Cover, and Hold method. If the earthquake lasts longer than a minute or feels strong, there is a risk that a tsunami may follow.

  • If the earthquake is long and strong, move immediately to the nearest higher ground, or as far inland as possible. Leave immediately if you are told to evacuate, following the tsunami evacuation plan you made with your household.

  • If you can’t escape safely the tsunami in time, go to an upper storey of a sturdy building, climb onto a roof or up a tree, or grab a floating object and hang on until help arrives.

  • Never go to the shore to watch for a tsunami. Stay away from at-risk areas until the official all-clear is given.

  • Listen to your local radio stations for emergency management advice for your community and situation.

  • Take your emergency kit with you if possible. Don’t travel back to the areas at risk to collect your kit or belongings.

After a tsunami

  • Check yourself and anyone with you for injuries and seek medical help if required.

  • If service is available, use text messaging or social media to stay in touch with your friends, family and members of your community. If possible, keep phone lines open for emergency calls.

  • Put your safety first and avoid taking any actions that put you at risk. Be aware of any secondary effects caused by the tsunami. These could include landslides, contaminated water, mudflows, floating debris, damaged bridges, buildings and roads.

  • If you had to leave your home, take care when returning to your property. Wear protective clothing (gloves, mask and long trousers) to help shield you from potentially hazardous materials. Tread carefully as the floor might be slippery and covered with debris.

  • Check your home for gas leaks. If you can hear a hissing or whistling sound or if you can smell rotten eggs, turn off the gas supply if it can be done safely. If you can’t find the source of the leak, leave the property, move up wind of the smell and contact the Fire and Emergency service on 111. Don’t operate any electrical switches and keep flames and cigarettes away from the area until you’re sure it’s safe.

  • Turn off the electricity at the fuse box if you notice any sparks or broken wires.

  • If your property has been damaged, get in touch with your insurance company as soon as you can. The sooner you get in touch, the sooner they can help. Take photos of any damage to your home, contents or car as they can be useful for your insurer if you need to make a claim.

  • Some damage might require professional help – avoid attempting to repair any damage on your own or clean anything before checking with your insurance provider. They’ll be able to advise what’s safe to repair on clean yourself.

  • Only drive if it’s essential and keep up to date with Waka Kotahi’s website for live updates on road closures. If your vehicle has been submerged, don’t try to turn on the ignition or drive it until it has been professionally assessed.

Preparing for a tsunami can help keep you, your loved ones and your property safe in the event of an emergency. Reading through your policy documents (here for AA Insurance customers), checking that the details of your cover are up to date and knowing how to make a claim will also help you be prepared. If you don’t have your home and contents insurance sorted, get a quote or contact us today.

Here are a few additional resources to help you prepare for natural hazards and wild weather:

Any questions?

Now’s a great time to review your insurance. We recommend checking your details are up to date and ensuring the policy and cover you’ve chosen is right for you and your insurance needs.

If you have any questions about your insurance, need to update your AA Insurance policies or would like a quote, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re open from 8am to 8pm weekdays and from 8am to 6pm weekends and public holidays.

This blog provides general information only and is not intended to be a recommendation or personalised financial advice. Excesses, terms, conditions, limits and exclusions apply to AA Insurance Limited’s policies. Please check the policy wording for details of cover. The provision of cover is subject to the underwriting criteria that apply at the time.

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