In a disaster, local officials and relief workers cannot reach everyone immediately. Help may not arrive for hours or days. You need to be prepared ahead of time because you won’t have time to shop or search for the supplies you will need when a disaster strikes.
Most disasters are natural disasters, the result of some force of nature, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. Some natural disasters can be predicted, such as hurricanes and severe winter storms, while others, such as tornadoes and earthquakes, happen with little or no warning.
Some disasters are the cause of human actions, intentional or unintentional. A disaster plan will help with safety, security, and comfort. Regardless of the type disaster, there are things you can do to prepare. Contact your local Red Cross Chapter or visit the FEMA website to make sure you are aware of the potential for natural disasters in your community. After you have identified the types of disasters that could strike where you live, create a family disaster plan. Remember to make it simple so everyone can remember the details.
- Discuss what to do in an evacuation. When told by officials, go immediately to a shelter as instructed or to the home of a family friend or relative who lives out of the area. Find out about your local shelters beforehand.
- Know evacuation routes. Pre-establish several different routes in case certain roads are blocked or closed.
- Family members can become separated during an emergency. Be prepared by creating a plan for how to reach one another. Establish an out-of-area contact (such as a relative or family friend) who can coordinate family members’ locations and information should you become separated. Make sure children learn the phone numbers and addresses, and know the emergency plans.
- Quiz children every six months so they remember what to do, where to go, and whom to call in an emergency.
- Decide how to take care of pets. Pets are not allowed in places where food is served – so you will need to have a place to take your pets if you have go to a shelter.
- Post emergency phone numbers (fire, police, ambulance, etc.) by the phone.
- Assemble a family disaster supplies kit and keep a smaller one in the trunk of your vehicle.
Although tornadoes occur in many parts of the world, they are more frequent in the United States. On average, 1,200 tornadoes cause 70 fatalities and 1,500 injuries nationwide each year.
Tornadoes can occur at any time of the year and most often strike between 3:00 pm and 9:00 pm. In the southern states, peak tornado season is March through May. In the northern states, peak tornado season is June through August.
A tornado’s path of destruction can be more than one mile wide and 50 miles long and can devastate a neighborhood in seconds. You may have little warning, so preparation and planning are key to reducing injuries. It’s important to know what to do before, during, and after a tornado:
Know a safe place: Know the safe places at home, work and at school. Locate local shelters and be aware of the tornado risk in your county or parish.
- Practice tornado drills at home and school.
- Have a plan for how family members will contact one another during an emergency. Establish an out-of-area contact (such as a relative or family friend) who can coordinate family members’ locations and information should you become separated. Make sure children learn the phone numbers and addresses, and know the emergency plans.
- Prepare a family disaster supplies kit. Families with children should have each child create their own personal pack.
During a tornado watch:
- Remain inside, away from windows and doors.
- Listen to the radio or TV. Keep a battery-operated radio or a NOAA Weather Radio.
- Make sure your family disaster supplies kit is complete.
- Be alert during a thunderstorm watch. Severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes. Being prepared will give you more time should the weather turn severe.
During a tornado warning
Listen to the radio or TV for weather updates and instructions from local officials. Quick action and planning ahead can save your life! If you get caught in a tornado, know what to do: take shelter immediately; stay away from windows, corners, doors and outside walls; be aware of flying debris. Crouch on the floor near an interior wall or under a heavy object, such as a table. Bend over and place your arms on the back of your head and neck (which are injured more easily than other parts of your body).
Continue to listen to the news and weather updates. Stay away from power lines and broken glass. Be aware of the possibility of broken gas lines and chemical spills. If you smell gas or chemical fumes, immediately evacuate the area and contact authorities. Stay out of damaged buildings and return home only after authorities have issued an all-clear signal.
Flooding is the most common and widespread of all natural disasters. It can happen anywhere and at anytime, with devastating results to life and property.
Tropical storms, cyclones and tsunamis (giant sea waves) produce heavy rains and can flood coastal communities. Inland, floods can occur in valleys, near rivers and streams, and even in small creaks and dry streambeds. Flooding along rivers can occur seasonally. Rains that come in winter or spring combine with melting snow can quickly fill river basins beyond capacity. In urban areas, land loses its ability to absorb rainfall as fields are converted to roads. When this happens, streets and roadways become swift-moving rivers. It’s important to know what to do before, during, and after a flood.
Find out the elevation of your property to determine whether forecasted flood levels are likely to affect your home. Move the main breaker or fuse box and utility meters above the flood level determined for your neighborhood. Move appliances and valuables out of basements or flood-prone lower levels. Learn how to shut off electricity, gas and water to your home.
Have a plan
- Develop an evacuation plan. Make sure family members know where to go in the event of a flood. The plan should include how family members will contact one another if separated. Establish an out-of-area contact (such as a relative or family friend) who can coordinate family members’ locations and information. Make sure children learn the phone numbers and addresses, and know the emergency plans.
- Prepare a family disater supplies kit. Families with children should have each child create their own personal pack.
Be alert for flood indicators such as rapidly rising water and flooding of highways, bridges and low-lying areas. During a flood warning, take the following precautions:
- Evacuate to an area of higher ground immediately if advised to do so.
- Stay away from flooded areas, even if the water seems to be receding.
- Do not walk, swim or drive through moving water.
- Watch for snakes in flooded areas.
- Use flashlights instead of candles.
- Be aware of potential flash flooding.
- Keep an eye on children and make sure they don’t play around high water, storm drains, ravines, or culverts.
- Throw away food that may have come in contact with floodwater or perishable food that was not refrigerated at a safe temperature. Use water from safe sources (such as bottled water) until you know that your tap water isn’t contaminated. (Boiling, disinfecting, or distilling can purify water.)
- Before re-entering a home damaged from a flood: turn electricity off at the fuse box or main breaker until your home has adequately dried; check for gas leaks; examine your home for fire hazards; inspect the floors, doors, windows and walls for cracks or other damage to make sure the home isn’t in danger of collapsing.