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Office of Emergency Management


Things you should know about tsunamis:

  • Tsunami is a series of waves/surges most commonly caused by an earthquake beneath the sea floor.
  • The first tsunami surge may not be the highest, a larger surge may occur hours after the first wave.
  • Tsunami waves can reach heights of 20 to 50 feet along the coast.
  • Tsunamis cannot be surfed, they have no face and are usually filled with debris.

Two ways to find out if a tsunami may be coming:

A Natural Warning

Strong ground shaking, a loud ocean roar, or the water receding unusually far, exposing the sea floor are all warnings that a tsunami may be coming.  A tsunami may arrive within minutes and may last for 8 hours or longer. 

Official Warning

You may hear that a tsunami warning is being issued by a radio, television, telephone, text message, door-to-door contact by emergency responders or a NOAA weather radio.  By registering with the City of Santa Monica SM Alerts, emergency notification system, you can receive emergency updates via phone, email or text message.

When should I evacuate?

Evacuation should not be automatic.  Before evacuating you should determine if you are in a hazard zone:

  • Know if you live, work or play in a tsunami hazard zone.
  • If you feel more than 20 seconds of strong ground shaking during an earthquake and are in a tsunami hazard zone, evacuate as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • If you hear that a tsunami warning has been issued, but did not feel an earthquake, get more information.  Listen to the radio, television or other information sources and follow the instructions of emergency personnel.

Where should I go?

The City of Santa Monica coastal areas will contain signage indicating what areas are identified as potential inundation zones and safe evacuation routes.

The City of Santa Monica has identified the following locations as safe refuge sites:

  • Santa Monica High school-601 Pico Boulevard 
  • Olympic High school-721 Ocean Park Boulevard
  • Washington West Preschool-2802 4th Street
  • Roosevelt Elementary-801 Montana Avenue

Tsunami Debris?

Marine debris items or significant accumulations potentially related to the tsunami can be reported to with as much information as possible including its location, the date and time you found it, photos, and any relevant descriptions). It is important to remember that not all debris found on U.S. shorelines is from Japan, so please use your discretion when reporting items.

Guidelines By Debris Type
  • Litter and other typical marine debris items
    Examples: Plastic bottles, aluminum cans, buoys, Styrofoam Common marine debris types may vary by location. If practical, we encourage you to remove the debris and recycle as much of it as possible.
  • Potential hazardous materials (HAZMAT)
    Examples: Oil or chemical drums, gas cans, propane tanks.
    Contact your local authorities (a 911 call), a state environmental health agency, and the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802 to report the item with as much information as possible. Do not touch the item or attempt to move it. Do not contact for response assistance
  • Derelict vessel or other large debris item
    Examples: Adrift fishing boat, shipping containers
    Contact your local authorities (a 911 call) and state environmental health agency to report the item. Do not attempt to move or remove vessels.
  • Mementos or possessions
    Examples: Items with unique identifiers, names, or markings
    If an item can 1) be traced back to an individual or group and 2) has personal or monetary value, it should be reported to NOAA will work with local Japan consulates to determine if they can help identify its owner.
  • Remains
    It is highly unlikely that remains from the tsunami will reach the United States, but if you see human remains anywhere, contact local authorities (a 911 call) and report what you observed. Do not touch or attempt to move them.
  • Unknown item
    If you don't know what it is, don't touch it. If you believe it is a hazardous item, contact local authorities and report it.

    For more information on Tsunami Debris visit:

Prepare now:

  • Learn what the recommended tsunami evacuation routes are in your city.
  • Identify safety zones near you and decide on your primary and secondary evacuation routes.
  • If you live or work in a tsunami hazard area, purchase a NOAA weather alert radio.
  • Assemble a small evacuation kit with essential documents, medications, a flashlight and other personal items.
  • Make plans for how to address any functional needs or disabilities you might have.
  • Include household pets in your emergency and evacuation planning.
  • Sign up for SM Alerts to be informed.

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City of Santa Monica Tsunami Evacuation Routes

 City of Santa Monica Tsunami Evacuation Routes

In the event of a tsunami, follow the designated evacuation routes as highlighted in red.

City of Santa Monica Tsunami Signage

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