Hawaii – Are We Ready for a Tsunami?

Picture of a Tsunami Warning Sign

By: T. Jeffersonian


Last week Thursday, an undersea earthquake near New Zealand caused Hawaii to issue a Tsunami Watch. The tsunami never arrived, thankfully and the watch was cancelled. Hawaii has had a long history of deadly tsunamis. As we know, tsunamis are a series of very dangerous, large, long ocean waves. You cannot swim or surf tsunamis because they flood the land like a rushing river or fast-rising tide. Rather than curling and breaking like a regular surfing wave, a tsunami picks up and carries debris. This debris greatly increases the chance of injury, property destruction, and death. Since 1946, tsunamis have killed more than 220 people in Hawaii.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency publishes many useful tsunami survival tips and other helpful information on its website http://www.honolulu.gov/site-dem-sitearticles/35781- tsunami.html. Everyone is encouraged to visit the website and stay informed because understanding the natural warning signs and ways in which you will be alerted to leave an evacuation zone can make the difference between life and death. Though distant earthquakes create tsunamis that take many hours to reach Hawaii, a local off-shore earthquake can cause a tsunami to land here in under 25-30 minutes. Be informed, be prepared, remain ready.

Like the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a tsunami is a Black Swan. We hear a lot about things that are being called black swans today thanks to Nassim Taleb and his extremely successful book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Taleb describes a black swan being a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: it is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random and more predictable than it was. The problem associated with black swans is that the general public has a lack of knowledge when it comes to rare events having serious consequences. This lack of knowledge renders the public more unaware, extremely vulnerable, and highly susceptible to injury and death. Ensuring that the public is aware of all available
knowledge can lessen a black swan’s massive impacts.

How can it get worse than the coronavirus, one might ask? Maybe we can ask the people of Texas who during coronavirus pandemic also managed to endure the wide-spread loss of electrical power, utilities, and freezing cold winter temperatures that their state has not seen in several decades. Yes! It can get worse and our leaders and planners should plan for it to always get worse. The reason it does not get worse is because leaders and planners while dealing with current problems make the time to ensure that we remain prepared for the next problem and the next one.

As we continue to battle coronavirus and in the recent aftermath of this week’s tsunami watch, we should be checking to see if we have replenished stockpiled emergency supplies. We should be reminding ourselves how, where, and who will operate tsunami evacuation centers during the on-going pandemic. Mind you, these are the same evacuation centers used during hurricanes and volcanic eruptions. Good leaders understand that crisis do not occur accordingly to a predictable time schedule but that they will occur. Crisis can be simultaneous, offset, or successive and they will occur when the public and leaders are least prepared and alert.

People will argue that we cannot plan for everything and that we cannot afford
everything. Those arguments are both true but only to an extent. In order to predict the future, we must look across history. From history, we will see that violence and calamity are the norms. Historical norms are not peace and tranquility. Peace and tranquility are recent human inventions. The nature of man and the nature of this planet are naturally violent and chaotic. Skeptics will ask “how can you control and predict such”? You control it by analyzing historically what has happened before, and how often those events happened and where. Then you convince leaders and the public that it is going to happen again and again. Once convinced, together you prepare and then rehearse to survive it. and thrive beyond it.

Tsunamis have happened before in Hawaii and they will happen again one day. Just
when you think it will not happen to you, it will, and may affect one of your loved ones! Take time to remain informed, learn different methods of emergency warning, as well as, where you will relocate to safety if you are forced to evacuate.