Tsunami: waves that travel at speeds of over 500 miles per hour | Photo: Shutterstock

Learn how to prepare for a tsunami. Here's what you should do when a tsunami warning is issued.

A tsunami is a powerful wave that damages and destroys buildings and inland infrastructures, and injures or kills people.

The word "tsunami" has its origin in the Japanese words for harbor ("tsu") and wave ("nami").

Tsunamis are a rare natural phenomenon that can be triggered and created by major earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, submarine, and onshore landslides, calving icebergs, and even asteroids and meteorites.

A tsunami event is more likely to occur in the Pacific Ocean region. According to scientists, around 75 percent of the planet's tsunamis take place in the so-called "Ring of Fire," i.e., Chile, Peru, Alaska, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, and New Zealand.

Unlike a regular set of ocean waves, the wave trains created by the tsunami carries an abnormal amount of energy that has the power to disintegrate anything it encounters when it strikes land.

Standard ocean waves have periods of 5-20 seconds. However, the series of surges produced in a tsunami can be five to 60 minutes apart.

Tsunamis: a ruthless series of waves that can travel as far as 10 miles inland | Photo: Creative Commons

These tsunami-generated waves can travel in the open ocean at speeds of over 500 miles per hour (800 kilometers per hour), the equivalent to the speed of a commercial jet plane.

Interestingly, the first wave of a massive tsunami is exceptionally tall, but it is not the most dangerous one. The most destructive part of a tsunami is traveling behind that initial wave.

Why? Because when the first tsunami waves reach shore and shallow waters, they slow down and tend to pile up the waves that are coming at full speed from behind. That accumulation of energy is what causes chaos and destruction.

A Ruthless Wave Train

It's impossible to predict a tsunami because you can't predict earthquake, landslides all the other event that lead to its creation.

However, people can dramatically increase the chances of surviving a tsunami if they follow a simple, yet, critical list of safety recommendations.

Interestingly, in the event of a tsunami, the safest place for a boat to be is out to sea, in deep water. If a vessel is hit by a tsunami near shore in shallow water, it will be shattered to pieces.

Tsunamis can also be brutal to all sorts of life forms underwater. A diver, for instance, will hardly survive a tsunami because he will be caught by violent spinning currents.

Let's not forget that a tsunami can travel as far as 10 miles (16 kilometers) inland, and its waves generally measure between 10 and 100 feet in height.

Tsunami: once an alert has been issued, evacuate immediately | Photo: Creative Commons

Believe or not, the largest recorded mega-tsunami wave measured 1,720 feet. It was documented on July 9, 1958, in Lituya Bay, on the southeast of Alaska.

So, people need to act quickly to save themselves and forget about their personal belongings. There's just no time to think about possessions.

Here's what you should do when a tsunami warning is issued:

1. Don't Wait a Second: Evacuate

Once a tsunami alert has been issued, evacuate as soon as possible. Drive a car, ride a bike, or simply run away from the coast.

Try to go as far inland as possible toward higher ground, or even nearby mountains, hills, and forests.

Ideally, you should move at least two miles (3.2 kilometers) inland and/or 100 feet (30 meters) above sea level. And remember that roads may be wiped out by the incoming tsunami.

2. Keep a Distance From Infrastructures

Because tsunamis and earthquakes are many times connected, try to evacuate to open areas with few man-made infrastructures.

Stay away from bridges, power lines, tall buildings, walls, and other heavy objects which might fall during the aftershock.

Tsunami: believe or not, the safest place for a boat to be is out to sea | Creative Commons

3. Stay Informed: Listen to the Radio and Check Out the Internet

Whenever possible, stay tuned to emergency information and alerts via local radio stations.

Also, visit the national weather services' websites and social media platforms for updates and additional safety procedures.

Communicate with friends, relatives, and authorities and share information on your current location. Report casualties, injuries, and severe risks to populations.

4. Stay Calm and Alert: Communicate and Share Information

Don't panic. Try to maintain calm, vigilant, and read the signs that both nature and your surroundings reveal.

If you get caught by the flood, try to grab a large floating object, and use your legs to steer yourself to safer areas.

Never abandon a safe place before the authorities issue the "all clear" statement.

Discover 35 interesting facts about tsunamis.