Natural Disasters & Preparation


Floods are the most common and wide spread of all natural hazards. Some floods develop over a period of days, but flash floods can result in raging waters in just a few minutes. Flash floods carry a deadly cargo of rocks, mud and other debris, and occur without any visible sign of rainfall. Mudslides are another danger created by flooding.

Be aware of floods hazards, especially if you live in a low lying area, near water, or downstream from a dam. Even very small streams, gullies, creeks, culverts, dry sea beds or low-lying ground that appear harmless in dry weather can flood. Every state is at risk from this hazard.

What To Do Before A Flood

  1. Know the terms used to describe flooding:
  2. Ask your local emergency management office whether your property is in a flood prone area. Learn the elevation level of your property. This will help you know how your property will be affected when flood levels are forecasted. Ask how you can protect your home from flooding.
  3. Identify dams and determine whether they pose a hazard.
  4. Ask your local emergency manager about official flood warning signals. Learn what to do when you hear them. Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio with battery backup and a tone-alert feature which automatically alerts you when a watch or warning is issued.
  5. Be prepared to evacuate. Learn your community's flood evacuation routes and where to find high ground.
  6. Talk to your family about flooding. Plan a place to meet your family in case you are separated from one another in a disaster and cannot return home. Choose an out of state contract for every one to call to say they are okay. In some emergencies, calling out of state is possible even when local phone lines are down.
  7. Determine how you would care for family members who may live elsewhere and might need your flood. Determine any special needs your neighbors might have.
  8. Assemble a disaster supplies kit. Include a battery operated radio, flashlights and extra batteries, first aid kit, sleeping supplies and extra clothing. Keep a stock of food and extra drinking water.
  9. Know how to shut off electricity gas and water at the main switches and valves. Know where the gas pilots are located and how the heating system works.
  10. Consider purchasing flood insurance. Flood losses are not covered under home owner's insurance policies. Flood insurance is available in most communities from the National Flood Insurance program there is usually a five day waiting period before it takes effect, so don't delay. Flood insurance is available whether the building is in or out of the identified flood prone area.
  11. Consider options for flood proofing your home. Call your local building department or emergency management office for information.
  12. Make a record of your personal property. Take photographs of or videotape your belongings and store them in a safe place.
  13. Keep insurance policies, deeds, property records, and other important papers in a safe place away from your home.

What to do after a flood:

  1. Stay away from flood waters. The water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline or raw sewage the water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  2. Stay away from moving water. Moving water only 6 inches deep could sweep you off your feet.
  3. Be aware of areas where flood waters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
  4. Stay away from downed power lines and report them to the power company.
  5. Stay away from disaster areas unless authorities ask for volunteers. One way to help is to give money to disaster relief organizations. Do not donate food, clothes or other personal items unless they are specifically requested.
  6. Continue listening to a battery powered radio for information about where to get assistance for housing, clothing, and food. Outreach programs are often available to help you cope with the stress of the situation.
  7. Consider your family's health and safety needs. Wash your hands frequently with soap and clean water if you come in contact with flood waters. Throw away food that has come in contact with flood waters. Listen for news reports to learn whether the community's water supply is safe to drink.
  8. Contact your insurance agent. If your policy covers your situation, an adjuster will be assigned to visit your home. To prepare:
    a. Take photos of or videotape your belongings and your home.
    b. Separate damaged and undamaged belongings.
    c. Locate your financial records.
    d. Keep detailed records of cleaning costs.


Category One: Winds 74 - 95 mph

Category Two: Winds 96 - 110 mph

Category Three: Winds 111 - 130 mph

Category Four: Winds 131 - 155 mph

Category Five: Winds 155 - and up

What to do BEFORE a hurricane:

  • i. Know the terms used by weather forecasters:
    Hurricane Watch - A hurricane is possible within 48 hours. Stay tuned for additional advisories.
    Hurricane Warning - A hurricane is expected within 36 hours. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • ii. Listen for local radio or television weather forecasts.
  • iii. Ask your local emergency management office about community evacuation plans and whether your neighborhood would be told to evacuate.
  • iv. Talk to your family about hurricanes. Plan a place to meet your family in case you are separated from one another in a disaster.
  • v. Determine the needs of family members who may live elsewhere but need your help in a hurricane.
  • vi. Prepare to survive on your own for fourteen days.
  • vii. Make plans to protect your property:
    • permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows
    • board up windows with 5/8" marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install.
    • tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • viii. Know how to shut off utilities.
  • ix. Have your home inspected for compliance with local building codes.
  • x. Consider flood insurance. Purchase insurance well in advance.
  • xi. Make a record of your personal property.

  1. Listen for information and instructions on radio or television.
  2. Get together with family members to talk about what needs to be done. Consider the needs of relatives and neighbors with special needs.
  3. Secure your home.
  4. Gather 14 days supply of water and food for each family members.
  5. Make arrangements for pets. pets may not be allowed in shelters for health reasons.
  6. Prepare to evacuate. Fuel your car, review evacuation routes.
  7. If you are not required to evacuate, stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows. Do not be fooled if there is a lull, it could be the eye of the storm. Winds will pick up again.
  8. Avoid using the phone except for serious emergencies. Local authorities need first priority on telephone lines.

What to do after a hurricane:

  1. Stay where you are if you are in a safe location until local authorities say it is okay to leave.
  2. Keep tuned to local radio or television stations for information about caring for your family, where to find medical help, how to apply for financial assistance, etc.
  3. Consider your family's health and safety needs. Keep your family together. Be aware of symptoms of stress and fatigue.
  4. Talk with your children about what has happened and how they can help during the recovery.
  5. Stay away from disaster areas unless local authorities request volunteers.
  6. Drive only when necessary. The streets will be filled with debris.
  7. Stay away from river banks and streams until potential flooding has passed. Report downed power lines, broken gas, sewer or water mains.
  8. Contact your insurance agent. To prepare:
    • take photos of or videotape the damage
    • separate damaged and undamaged belongings
    • locate your financial records
    • keep detailed records of cleanup costs.


  1. Heed tsunami warnings. They mean that a tsunami exists.
  2. Advance warning of tsunamis sometimes comes in the form of noticeable rise or fall in the normal depth of coastal water. This is nature's tsunami warning and should be heeded.
  3. If you feel an earthquake in a Pacific Coast area, turn your battery powered radio on to learn if there is a tsunami warning.
  4. A small tsunami at one beach can be a giant wave a few miles away.
  5. Prepare ahead for possible evacuation.

What to do if a tsunami threatens your area?

  1. If you are advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  2. Stay away from the area until local authorities say it is safe. Do not be fooled into thinking that the danger is over when a single wave has come and gone. A tsunami is not a single wave, but a series of waves.
  3. Do not go to the shoreline to watch for a tsunami. When you can see the wave, it is too late to escape it.


  1. Ask your local emergency management office about community evacuation plans.
  2. Talk with your family about the possibility of evacuation. Plan where you would go.
  3. Plan a place to meet your family in case you are separated from one another.
  4. Find out where children will be sent if they are in school when an evacuation is announced.
  5. Assemble a disaster supplies kit.
  6. Keep fuel in your car if an evacuation seems likely.
  7. Know how to shut off electricity, gas, and water at main switches.

What to do when evacuating:

  1. Gather water, food, clothing, emergency supplies, and insurance / financial records.
  2. Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.
  3. Secure your home.
  4. Turn off the main water valve and electricity, if instructed to do so.
  5. Let others know where you are going.
  6. Leave early enough to avoid being trapped by severe weather.
  7. Follow recommended evacuation routes.

Planning for evacuation:

::: Tsunamis :::

Tsunami (pronounced soo-na-mee), sometimes called a tidal wave, is actually a series of enormous waves created by an underwater disturbance or earthquake. Tsunamis can move hundreds of miles per hour in the open ocean and smash into land with waves more than 100 feet high.

All tsunamis are potentially dangerous, even though they may not damage every coastline they strike. Some waves in the series are less hazardous than others.

How to prepare for a tsunami:

What to do during a hurricane threat:


Hurricanes are tropical cyclones with torrential rains and sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or greater, which blow in a counter-clockwise direction around a center (eye).

Hurricane winds can exceed 155 miles per hour and severely effect areas hundreds of miles inland.

Hurricanes are classified into the five categories below, based on their wind speeds, central pressure and damage potential: