What You Should Know About: Tsunami Damage & Your Insurance Coverage

Having a home on the coast is a dream come true for many. Don’t let that dream become a nightmare. Prepare for a tsunami and consider getting flood insurance.

Three things you should know:

  • The coasts of Washington and Oregon have the highest risk of tsunami anywhere in the continental United States.
  • Tsunami damage is not covered under your standard Homeowners, Renters or Business Owners insurance policies. Coverage is available through a separate flood insurance policy, however.
  • Damage to vehicles caused by flooding because of a tsunami is covered by optional Comprehensive Auto Coverage.

Tsunamis and Insurance

Standard Homeowners, Renters and Business Owners insurance policies do not cover flood damage caused by a tsunami, but coverage is available as a separate policy through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program and some private insurers.

What you pay for flood insurance depends on how much flood risk is associated with your home or business. For more details on Flood Insurance protection and rates, call your insurance agent or company. Generally, there is a 30-day waiting period for a policy from NFIP to become effective, and premiums will include certain fees and surcharges.

Additional information on Flood Insurance can be found by going to the FloodSmart.gov website.

What is a Tsunami

A tsunami is a series of waves caused by a large and sudden disturbance of the ocean, and undersea earthquakes are the most common cause. Although they are infrequent, tsunamis pose a serious threat to coastal communities. The deadly 2004 tsunami in Indonesia that killed more than 225,000 people and destroyed communities served as a major wake-up call for people around the world.

The Washington and Oregon coasts have the highest risk of tsunami anywhere in the continental United States. Knowing the warning signs and developing a plan are keys to surviving a tsunami.

Here are a few tips on how to prepare for and survive a tsunami:

Know the warning signs

Tsunami warnings will be broadcast through radio, television and wireless emergency alerts but you may see natural signs before the official warning. A natural tsunami warning includes a strong or long earthquake, a loud roar from the ocean or unusual ocean behavior (such draining away suddenly from the shore). Just one of these warning signs could mean a tsunami is coming and may be your only warning before it arrives. Take action immediately to get to safety.

Prepare for a tsunami

  • Set up multiple ways to receive warnings, such as text message alerts from your local government.
  • Make an emergency plan that includes family communication and evacuation
  • Map out routes from home, work and other places you visit often to safe places on high ground or inland and outside the tsunami hazard zone. Plan to evacuate by foot since roads may be damaged and impassable. Practice walking those routes.
  • Put together a portable disaster supplies kit with items you and your family and pets will need in an emergency. Make kits to store in your car and at work as well.
  • If you have children in school, find out the school’s plans for evacuating and keeping children safe.

During a tsunami

  • If you are anywhere inside a tsunami hazard or evacuation zone (or a low-lying coastal area) and you receive an official tsunami warning, a tsunami is likely. Stay out of the water and away from beaches and heed any and all evacuation orders immediately and move quickly, but safely, to your safe place.
  • If you are outside of the tsunami hazard or evacuation zone during a warning, stay where you are unless local officials tell you otherwise.
  • If you are in a tsunami hazard and evacuation zone and you feel a strong earthquake, the ocean “acts strange” or there is a loud roar coming from the ocean, a tsunami could arrive within minutes. In this case, do not wait for an official warning. Take safe action immediately to implement your emergency plan and move quickly to your safe place.
  • Follow instructions from local officials. Stay out of the tsunami hazard zone until local officials tell you it is safe. The first way may not be the last or the largest and the danger may last for hour or days. In addition, other dangers may remain, such as downed power lines or unstable structures from an earthquake.


Tsunami Safety
Tsunami Alerts
Emergency Planning
Tsunami Resources – Washington State Division of Emergency Management
Tsunami Resources – Oregon Office of Emergency Management

*Some information provided by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA)