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Some Common Natural Hazards
A house cracked and broken from earthquake damage

Earthquakes are sudden rolling or shaking events caused by movement under the earth’s surface. Earthquakes happen along cracks in the earth's surface, called fault lines, and can be felt over large areas, although they usually last less than one minute. Earthquakes cannot be predicted — although scientists are working on it!

All 50 states and 5 U.S. territories are at some risk for earthquakes.  Earthquakes can happen at any time of the year.

Before An Earthquake

  • Look around places where you spend time.  Identify safe places such as under a sturdy piece of furniture or against an interior wall in your home, office or school so that when the shaking starts, you Drop to the ground, Cover your head and neck with your arms, and if a safer place is nearby, crawl to it and Hold On. 
  • Practice how to “Drop, Cover, and Hold On!”
    • To react quickly you must practice often. You may only have seconds to protect yourself in an earthquake.
  • Before an earthquake occurs, secure items that could fall and cause injuries (e.g., bookshelves, mirrors, light fixtures).
  • Store critical supplies (e.g., water, medication) and documents.
  • Plan how you will communicate with family members, including multiple methods by making a family emergency communication plan.
  • When choosing your home or business, check if the building is earthquake resistant per local building codes. 

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During An Earthquake

If you are inside a building:

  • Stay where you are until the shaking stops. Do not run outside. Do not get in a doorway as this does not provide protection from falling or flying objects, and you may not be able to remain standing.
  • Drop down onto your hands and knees so the earthquake doesn’t knock you down. Drop to the ground (before the earthquake drops you!)
  • Cover your head and neck with your arms to protect yourself from falling debris.
    • If you are in danger from falling objects, and you can move safely, crawl for additional cover under a sturdy desk or table.
    • If there is low furniture or an interior wall or corner nearby, and the path is clear, these may also provide some additional cover.
    • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as light fixtures or furniture.
  • Hold on to any sturdy covering so you can move with it until the shaking stops. Stay where you are until the shaking stops.

If getting safely to the floor to take cover won’t be possible:

  • Identify an inside corner of the room away from windows and objects that could fall on you.  The Earthquake Country Alliance advises getting as low as possible to the floor. People who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices should lock their wheels and remain seated until the shaking stops. Protect your head and neck with your arms, a pillow, a book, or whatever is available.

If you are in bed when you feel the shaking:

  • If you are in bed: Stay there and Cover your head and neck with a pillow. At night, hazards and debris are difficult to see and avoid; attempts to move in the dark result in more injuries than remaining in bed.

If you are outside when you feel the shaking:

  • If you are outdoors when the shaking starts, move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires. Once in the open, “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.” Stay there until the shaking stops. This might not be possible in a city, so you may need to duck inside a building to avoid falling debris.

If you are in a moving vehicle when you feel the shaking:

  • If you are in a moving vehicle, stop as quickly and safely as possible and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires. Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that the earthquake may have damaged.

After an Earthquake

  • When the shaking stops, look around. If there is a clear path to safety, leave the building and go to an open space away from damaged areas.
  • If you are trapped, do not move about or kick up dust.
  • If you have a cell phone with you, use it to call or text for help.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall or use a whistle, if you have one, so that rescuers can locate you.
  • Once safe, monitor local news reports via battery operated radio, TV, social media, and cell phone text alerts for emergency information and instructions.
  • Be prepared to “Drop, Cover, and Hold on” in the likely event of aftershocks.

Listen to Local Officials

Learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by your state and local government. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.

 

Resources

Find additional information on how to plan and prepare for an earthquake and learn about available resources by visiting the following websites:

Publications

If you require more information about any of these topics, the following resources may be helpful.

Helicopter spreading water over a forest fire.
This page explains what actions to take if you receive a fire weather watch alert from the National Weather Service for your local area and what to do before, during, and after a wildfire.
 

Basic Safety Tips

  • If you see a wildfire and haven't received evacuation orders yet, call 9-1-1. Don't assume that someone else has already called.
  • If ordered to evacuate during a wildfire, do it immediately- make sure and tell someone where you are going and when you have arrived.
  • Many communities have text or email alerting systems for emergency notifications.To find out what alerts are available in your area, search the Internet with your town, city, or county name and the word “alerts.”
  • If you or someone you are with has been burned, call 9-1-1 or seek help immediately; cool and cover burns to reduce chance of further injury or infection.

Fire Weather Watch

Fire weather watch = dangerous fire weather conditions are possible over the next 12 to 72 hours

Steps to Take

  • Turn on your TV/radio. You’ll get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Know where to go. If you are ordered to evacuate, know the route to take and have plan of where you will go. Check-in with your friends and family.
  • Keep your car fueled, in good condition, and stocked with emergency supplies and a change of clothes.

Prepare Your Home

  • Regularly clean the roof and gutters.
  • Maintain an area approximately 30’ away from you home that is free of anything that will burn, such as wood piles, dried leaves, newspapers and other brush.
  • Connect garden hoses long enough to reach any area of the home and fill garbage cans, tubs, or other large containers with water.
  • Review your homeowner's insurance policy and also prepare/update a list of your home's contents.

After a wildfire

Returning Home

  • Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • For several hours after the fire, maintain a "fire watch." Check and re-check for smoke, sparks or hidden embers throughout the house, including the roof and the attic.
  • Use caution when entering burned areas as hazards may still exist, including hot spots, which can flare up without warning. Evacuate immediately if you smell smoke.

Cleaning Your Home

  • Wear a NIOSH certified-respirator (dust mask) and wet debris down to minimize breathing dust particles.
  • Discard any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.
  • Do NOT use water that you think may be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, or to make ice or baby formula.
  • Photograph damage to your property for insurance purposes.

Before Wildfire season- Make a Wildfire plan

  • Know your wildfire risk.
  • Make a wildfire emergency plan.
  • Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
  • Familiarize yourself with local emergency plans. Know where to go and how to get there should you need to evacuate.
  • Stay tuned to your phone alerts, TV, or radio, for weather updates, emergency instructions or evacuation orders.

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Flood waters rising in a neighborhood of houses

This page explains what actions to take when you receive a flood watch or warning alert from the National Weather Service for your local area and what to do before, during, and after a flood.

Basic Safety Tips

  • Turn Around, Don’t Drown! ®
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters.
  • Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and 2 feet of water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • If there is a chance of flash flooding, move immediately to higher ground. Flash floods are the #1 cause of weather-related deaths in the US.
  • If floodwaters rise around your car but the water is not moving, abandon the car and move to higher ground. Do not leave the car and enter moving water.
  • Avoid camping or parking along streams, rivers, and creeks during heavy rainfall. These areas can flood quickly and with little warning.

Flood watch

Flood Watch = “Be Aware.” Conditions are right for flooding to occur in your area.

Steps to Take

  • Turn on your TV/radio. You will receive the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Know where to go. You may need to reach higher ground quickly and on foot.
  • Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit. Include a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.

Prepare Your Home

  • Bring in outdoor furniture and move important indoor items to the highest possible floor. This will help protect them from flood damage.
  • Disconnect electrical appliances and do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water. You could be electrocuted.
  • If instructed, turn off your gas and electricity at the main switch or valve. This helps prevent fires and explosions.

Flood warning

Flood Warning = "Take Action!"  Flooding is either happening or will happen shortly.

Steps to Take

  • Move immediately to higher ground or stay on high ground.
  • Evacuate if directed.
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down and 2 feet of water can sweep your vehicle away.

After a flood

  • Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded and watch out for debris. Floodwaters often erode roads and walkways.
  • Do not attempt to drive through areas that are still flooded.
  • Avoid standing water as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • Photograph damage to your property for insurance purposes.

When it is not flooding: Make a flood plan

  • Know your flood risk.
  • Make a flood emergency plan.
  • Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
  • Consider buying flood insurance.
  • Familiarize yourself with local emergency plans. Know where to go and how to get there should you need to get to higher ground, the highest level of a building, or to evacuate.
  • Stay tuned to your phone alerts, TV, or radio for weather updates, emergency instructions, or evacuation orders.

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