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A tsunami is a series of powerful, fast-moving waves caused by an undersea earthquake, volcanic eruption, or landslide. Tsunamis can occur with very little warning—sometimes only minutes.

When you hear a tsunami warning, call 13 00 TSUNAMI (13 00 87 86 264) for current warning information.

If you hear a warning

  • in the water—get out and move to higher ground
  • on a boat or ship
    • if in a harbour, estuary or shallow water close to shore, and there is enough time, return to land, secure your vessel and move to higher ground
    • if at sea, move to deep water (open ocean) well off-shore and stay there until further advised.
  • at home or work
    • if asked to evacuate, lock up and follow recommended evacuation routes for your area
      • walk to safety (if possible) to avoid traffic jams
  • if there's no time to get to higher ground, shelter on the upper level of a sturdy brick or concrete building
  • in a safe place—stay there until advised it is safe to leave.

If you live in or regularly visit an area prone to tsunamis

  • Contact your local council to find out about the risk of tsunamis in your community.
  • Familiarise yourself with information about tsunamis and the natural warnings signs, such as earthquakes, rumbling or roaring sounds, or sudden changes in the behaviour of the ocean—the sea may recede dramatically before a tsunami.
  • Visit the Bureau of Meteorology website for more information. The Bureau of Meteorology issues tsunami warnings in Australia.
  • Familiarise yourself with the tsunami history of coastal areas you visit regularly and identify places prone to flooding
  • Develop an evacuation plan with your family or household. Identify the nearest high ground and the safest routes to it.
  • Ensure that your emergency kit is up to date and that you and your family or household know where it is.
  • If you have to carry your emergency kit, take only essential items (e.g. important papers, medical needs, a battery-powered radio with spare batteries, and family photographs).
  • Ensure your home has an electrical safety switch installed.

What's a tsunami?

A tsunami is a series of extremely long sea waves. In deep water, the length from crest to crest may be as much as 150km. These waves can travel at speeds of 1000km/h.

As it moves into shallower water near the coast, the tsunami slows and its height increases. A tsunami that is unnoticeable at sea, because of its long wave lengths, may reach several metres in height by the time that it reaches the coast.

Regular ocean waves move the water from the surface down to around 150m deep, but a tsunami moves the water all the way to the seafloor. This means the volume of water moved is much more than the amount moved by regular ocean waves.

There is often more than one wave and the first wave may not be the largest. Even a small tsunami can be very dangerous.

Boat users

Develop an emergency plan for your vessel that includes information on where to moor your boat quickly and safely, should a tsunami warning be issued.

If it is safer to move to the deep ocean, you should also be familiar with boating requirements of the area, local dangers, and any special rules and regulations.

Know where and how to safely move out to deep ocean, how long it takes and how to get back safely to the harbour or port.

Last updated
19 November, 2015
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