Don’t ignore the threat of tsunamis | Editorial

Be afraid, but don’t be too afraid, and above all – be prepared.

That is essentially the message that Brendan Cowan of the San Juan County’s Department of Emergency Management wants to get out to island residents.

You should be afraid because a tsunami is a real threat and has the potential to inundate the San Juan Islands with up to 18 feet of water. At the same time, a tsunami is less scary because the majority of the islands will be untouched. To read more about the impacts of such a disaster read our story on page 1.

So why should you be prepared? When the tsunami hits the San Juans could be cut off from the mainland for weeks. Islanders need to be completely self-sufficient for seven to 10 days. That means you need to be able to have a number of items, including food, water and medical supplies. Sounds doable, right?

The real problem is that the tsunami could come any time between now and the next 600 years, so with that much ambiguity how does one get motivated to get prepared and stay prepared for what could be the rest of their lives?

The only thing we can compare this to is the issue of whether or not to pay for medevac insurance. Most would agree that even if your chances of getting flown off are slim, it’s still worth the $79 a year to protect yourself. So what is the harm in purchasing some necessary supplies?

Our recommendations are to purchase water purification tablets, which will enable you to drink safely from any water source. Other easy purchases are water to store, a spare flashlight with extra batteries, a role of nylon rope, duct tape, hydrated, instant or canned foods, a small cook stove and sleeping bags. These are items that can also be helpful in long-term power outages.

You can visit and click on “prepare” to find more detailed information on surviving a tsunami.

Cowan offers his help to any person, family, business or organization “who needs some help getting going.”

You can contact Cowan by email at or by phone at 370-7612.