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Mukilteo’s tsunami survival capsules are selling in Japan

(Chris Sullivan/KIRO Radio) Julian Sharpe stands next to his prototype tsunami capsule and the one he put through testing.

Will you be ready when a major earthquake hits off the Washington coast and creates a wall of water like we saw two years ago in Japan?

And not just ready to survive after the water subsides, but will you be able to actually survive that wall of water?

A lot of people chuckled when the tsunami ball was announced about two years ago by IDEA International. It’s a tethered capsule you can jump into and ride out a tsunami on the surface of the water.

Mukilteo engineer Julian Sharpe came up with the idea while on vacation in Cannon Beach, wondering how he would survive a tsunami.

After two years of research and testing, his company has delivered its first tsunami capsule to Japan, and more are on the way. “We’re developing new products,” Sharpe said. “We’re developing a market. We’re having to change people’s mindsets in regard to tsunamis. What I mean by that is ride the tsunami out – rather than run.”

The aluminum testing capsule sits battered and beaten in the company’s garage as proof of the paces Sharpe and his team put it through. “We put this capsule through hell and back,” he joked, “but it stood up to everything.”

They tried to crush the aluminum capsule. They dropped it. They pierced it with sharp objects. They heated it to 1,200 degrees.

IDEA International has 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 person capsules for sale, and they come with options on the number of windows and survival gear. “There’s some suggestions of a surround-sound system so you can listen to Mozart when you’re getting hammered by the tsunami,” Sharpe said with his tongue firmly in cheek. There is plenty of room in each capsule for survival gear, air, water and other supplies. Each capsule has about 60 minutes of air. The seats are modified car racing seats with four-point harnesses to provide stability.

Initial costs for the two-person capsule is $12-$15,000, certainly out of the price range for most, but Sharpe sees it this way. “I see this as a life insurance policy, not really a toy or anything like that,” he said. “It’s a way of allowing you to have that existence on the coastal plain or on the waterfront and not have to worry quite so much about the threats from the ocean.”

Sharpe said there’s a lot of interest of putting these on the tops of businesses and hospitals. The capsules will be on display at an emergency expo in Japan in August.

The component parts are made around the Northwest and then shipped to an assembly plant in Japan.

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