50th Anniversary of the Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami

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Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami. On March 27, 1964, the largest earthquake in U.S. history and the second largest in the world occurred in Alaska. It was a 9.2 magnitude earthquake that devastated communities in Alaska and resulted in a tsunami.

Within hours after the earthquake struck, a plane carrying American Red Cross disaster specialists was en route from San Francisco to help Alaskan chapter volunteers provide assistance to the victims. While the South Central Alaska Chapter office was left in shambles, a total of 74 specialists soon arrived in Alaska where they provided food, relief and medical supplies to help those affected in remote areas.

Transporting aid to those in need presented unique challenges in 1964. Red Cross disaster workers traveled nearly 300,000 miles by plane, ship, barge, truck, car, bicycle and even dog sled in helping local volunteers to reach and serve those in need. Visiting more than 35 communities, the Red Cross delivered care to more than 11,000 people and provided individual help with emergency and long-term recovery needs to 930 families.

Commemorating this anniversary, the Red Cross declared March 23 through March 29 as Tsunami Preparedness Week.

Because a tsunami can strike at any time, the Red Cross encourages everyone to learn about tsunamis and prepare themselves and their families in case of this emergency.

How to Prepare for a Tsunami

  •          Find out if you are in a tsunami-prone area.
  •          Know the height of your street above sea level and the distance of your street from the coast or other high-risk waters.
  •          Plan evacuation routes. Every foot inland or upward may make a difference. You should be able to reach your safe location on foot within 15 minutes.
  •          Find out what your work or school evacuation plan is. Keep in mind, telephone lines during a tsunami watch or warning may be overloaded, and routes to and from schools may be jammed.
  •          Practice your evacuation routes. Familiarity may save your life.
  •          If you are a tourist, familiarize yourself with local tsunami evacuation protocols. You may be able to safely evacuate to the third floor and higher in reinforced concrete hotel structures.

If you hear an official tsunami warning or detect signs of a tsunami, follow these directions:

  •          Evacuate at once.
  •          Take your emergency preparedness kit. Having supplies will make you more comfortable during the evacuation.
  •          Get to higher ground as far inland as possible. Watching a tsunami could put you in grave danger.

Learn more about tsunami preparedness, as well as how to respond during and how to recover after. In addition, Red Cross Earthquake, Flood and other preparedness mobile apps give you instant access to expert advice on what to do before, during and after disasters.

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