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Landslides/Debris Flow

Landslide covers a house in mudIn a landslide, masses of rock, earth or debris (rubble or trash) move down a slope. Debris and mud flows are rivers of rock, earth, and other debris soaked with water. They develop when water builds up quickly in the ground during heavy rainfall or rapid snow melt, and changes the earth into a flowing river of mud or “slurry.” They can occur quickly, striking fast with little or no warning. They also can travel several miles from their source, growing in size as they pick up trees, boulders, cars, and other materials.

Visit the FEMA library to download more facts on Landslides & Debris Flow


  • Build an emergency kit.
  • Make a family communications plan.


  • Stay alert and awake. Many people die from landslides when they are sleeping.
  • Listen for unusual sounds like trees cracking or boulders knocking together. If you hear something, tell an adult immediately!
  • Move away from the path of a landslide or debris flow as fast as you can.
  • Avoid river valleys and low-lying areas.
  • If you can’t escape, curl into a tight ball and cover your head with your hands and arms.


  • Stay away from the slide area. There may be additional slides.
  • If you see dangling or loose wires, stay away and tell an adult.
  • Listen to safety officials about where it’s safe to go.
  • Text, don’t talk. Unless there’s a life-threatening  situation, send a text so that you don’t tie up phone lines needed by emergency workers. Plus, texting may work even if cell service is down.


Am I At Risk?

Landslides occur in all U.S. states and territories and can be caused by a variety of things including earthquakes, storms, volcanic eruptions, fire, and even construction. They are more common in mountain, canyon and coastal regions.

Words to Know!


Rubble, trash, random material like large pieces of wood, metal or plastic


River of flowing mud


An incline, like a slide or ramp

Low-lying Area

Land that is close to a coast or near water or sea levels