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Hurricanes


Before a Hurricane

To prepare for a hurricane, you should take the following measures:

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Know your surroundings.
  • Learn the elevation level of your property and whether the land is flood-prone. This will help you know how your property will be affected when storm surge or tidal flooding are forecasted.
  • Identify levees and dams in your area and determine whether they pose a hazard to you.
  • Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate.
  • Make plans to secure your property:
  • Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” exterior grade or marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Another year-round option would be installation of laminated glass with impact-resistant glazing. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
  • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  • Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
  • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
  • Install a generator for emergencies.
  • If in a high-rise building, when high winds are present, be prepared to take shelter on a lower floor because wind conditions increase with height, and in a small interior room without windows. When flooding may be occuring, be prepared to take shelter on a floor safely above the flooding and wave effects.
  • Consider building a safe room.

Hurricanes cause heavy rains that can cause extensive flood damage in coastal and inland areas. Everyone is at risk and should consider flood insurance protection. Flood insurance is the only way to financially protect your property or business from flood damage. To learn more about your flooding risk and how to protect yourself and your business, visit the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (NFIP) Web site, www.floodsmart.gov or call 1-800-427-2419.


Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale classifies hurricanes into five categories based on their sustained wind speed at the indicated time.  The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale provides information on wind impacts only.  The scale does not address the potential for other hurricane-related impacts, such as storm surge, rainfall-induced floods, and tornadoes.

Hurricanes reaching Category 3 and higher are considered major hurricanes because of their potential for significant loss of life and property.  Category 1 and 2 storms are still dangerous, however, and require preventive measures.

SAFFIR-SIMPSON HURRICANE WIND SCALE SUMMARY

SCALE NUMBER (CATEGORY)

SUSTAINED WINDS (MPH)

DAMAGE

1

74-95

Very dangerous winds will produce some damage

  • Minor damage to exterior of homes
  • Toppled tree branches, uprooting of smaller trees
  • Extensive damage to power lines, power outages

2

96-110

Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage

  • Major damage to exterior of homes
  • Uprooting of small trees and many roads blocked
  • Guaranteed power outages for long periods of time – days to weeks

3

111-129

Devastating damage will occur

  • Extensive damage to exterior of homes
  • Many trees uprooted and many roads blocked
  • Extremely limited availability of water and electricity

4

130-156

Catastrophic damage will occur

  • Loss of roof structure and/or some exterior walls
  • Most trees uprooted and most power lines down
  • Isolated residential due to debris pile up
  • Power outages lasting for weeks to months

5

157 or higher

Catastrophic damage will occur

  • A high percentage of homes will be destroyed
  • Fallen trees and power lines isolate residential areas
  • Power outages lasting for weeks to months
  • Most areas will be uninhabitable

For more information on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, visit the National Hurricane Center.

Storm Surge

The greatest potential for loss of life related to a hurricane is from the storm surge!

Storm surge is simply water that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around the storm. This advancing surge combines with the normal tides to create the hurricane storm tide, which can increase the mean water level to heights impacting roads, homes and other critical infrastructure. In addition, wind driven waves are superimposed on the storm tide. This rise in water level can cause severe flooding in coastal areas, particularly when the storm tide coincides with the normal high tides. Because much of the United States' densely populated Atlantic and Gulf Coast coastlines lie less than 10 feet above mean sea level, the danger from storm tides is tremendous.

The storm surge combined with wave action can cause extensive damage, severely erode beaches and coastal highways. With major storms like Katrina, Camille and Hugo, complete devastation of coastal communities occurred. Many buildings withstand hurricane force winds until their foundations, undermined by erosion, are weakened and fail.

Know the Terms

Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a hurricane hazard:

Tropical Cyclone: A warm-core non-frontal synoptic-scale cyclone, originating over tropical or subtropical waters, with organized deep convection and a closed surface wind circulation about a well-defined center. Once formed, a tropical cyclone is maintained by the extraction of heat energy from the ocean at high temperature and heat export at the low temperatures of the upper troposphere.

Tropical Depression: A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speed (using the U.S. 1-minute average) is 38 mph (33 knot) or less.

Tropical Storm: A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speed (using the U.S. 1-minute average) ranges from 39 mph (34 knots) to 73 mph (63 knots).

Hurricane: A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind (using the U.S. 1-minute average) is 74 mph (64 knots) or more.

Storm Surge: An abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm, and whose height is the difference between the observed level of the sea surface and the level that would have occurred in the absence of the cyclone. Storm surge is usually estimated by subtracting the normal or astronomic high tide from the observed storm tide.  Storm surge can reach heights well over 20 feet and can span hundreds of miles of coastline.

Storm Tide: The actual level of sea water resulting from the astronomic tide combined with the storm surge.

Hurricane Warning: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within the specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.

Hurricane Watch: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible within the specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.

Tropical Storm Warning: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected somewhere within the specified area within 36 hours.

Tropical Storm Watch: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified area within 48 hours.

Short Term Watches and Warnings: These watches/warnings provide detailed information about specific hurricane threats, such as flash floods and tornadoes.



During a Hurricane

If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:

  • Listen to the radio or TV for information.
  • Secure your home, close storm shutters and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
  • Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Turn off propane tanks
  • Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  • Moor your boat if time permits.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purpose such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water.
  • Find out how to keep food safe during and after and emergency.

You should evacuate under the following conditions:

If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions.

  • If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure – such shelter are particularly hazardous during hurricane no matter how well fastened to the ground.
  • If you live in a high-rise building – hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
  • If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river, or on an island waterway.

Read more about evacuating yourself and your family. If you are unable to evacuate, go to your wind-safe room. If you do not have one, follow these guidelines:

  • Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and glass doors.
  • Close all interior doors – secure and brace external doors.
  • Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm – winds will pick up again.
  • Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level.
  • Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.
  • Avoid elevators.

After a Hurricane

  • Continue listening to a NOAA Weather Radio or the local news for the latest updates.
  • Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended.
  • If you have become separated from your family, use your family communications plan or contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS/1-800-733-2767 or visit the American Red Cross Safe and Well site:www.safeandwell.org
    • The American Red Cross also maintains a database to help you find family. Contact the local American Red Cross chapter where you are staying for information. Do not contact the chapter in the disaster area.
  • If you evacuated, return home only when officials say it is safe.
  • If you cannot return home and have immediate housing needs. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  • For those who have longer-term housing needs, FEMA offers several types of assistance, including services and grants to help people repair their homes and find replacement housing. Apply for assistance or search for information about housing rental resources
  • Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed¬ out bridges. Stay off the streets. If you must go out watch for fallen objects; downed electrical wires; and weakened walls, bridges, roads, and sidewalks.
  • Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company.
  • Walk carefully around the outside your home and check for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage before entering.
  • Stay out of any building if you smell gas, floodwaters remain around the building or your home was damaged by fire and the authorities have not declared it safe.
  • Inspect your home for damage. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes. If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.
  • Use battery-powered flashlights in the dark. Do NOT use candles. Note: The flashlight should be turned on outside before entering - the battery may produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present.
  • Watch your pets closely and keep them under your direct control. Watch out for wild animals, especially poisonous snakes. Use a stick to poke through debris.
  • Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are sure it’s not contaminated.
  • Check refrigerated food for spoilage. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up to avoid injury.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • NEVER use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.


Tsunamis


Before a Tsunami

The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property from the effects of a tsunami:

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
    • Talk to everyone in your household about what to do if a tsunami occurs. Create and practice an evacuation plan for your family. Familiarity may save your life. Be able to follow your escape route at night and during inclement weather. You should be able to reach your safe location on foot within 15 minutes. Practicing your plan makes the appropriate response more of a reaction, requiring less thinking during an actual emergency.
    • If the school evacuation plan requires you to pick your children up from school or from another location. Be aware telephone lines during a tsunami watch or warning may be overloaded and routes to and from schools may be jammed.
    • Knowing your community's warning systems and disaster plans, including evacuation routes.
  • Know the height of your street above sea level and the distance of your street from the coast or other high-risk waters. Evacuation orders may be based on these numbers.
  • If you are a tourist, familiarize yourself with local tsunami evacuation protocols. You may be able to safely evacuate to the third floor and higher in reinforced concrete hotel structures.
  • If an earthquake occurs and you are in a coastal area, turn on your radio to learn if there is a tsunami warning.

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Know the Terms

Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a tsunami hazard:

Warning

A tsunami warning is issued when a tsunami with the potential to generate widespread inundation is imminent or expected. Warnings alert the public that dangerous coastal flooding accompanied by powerful cur­rents is possible and may continue for several hours after initial arrival. Warnings alert emergency management officials to take action for the entire tsunami hazard zone. Appropriate actions to be taken by local officials may include the evacuation of low-lying coastal areas, and the repositioning of ships to deep waters when there is time to safely do so. Warnings may be updated, adjusted geographically, downgraded, or canceled. To provide the earliest possible alert, initial warnings are normally based only on seismic information.

Advisory

A tsunami advisory is issued when a tsunami with the potential to generate strong currents or waves dangerous to those in or very near the water is imminent or expected. The threat may continue for sev­eral hours after initial arrival, but significant inundation is not expected for areas under an advisory. Appropriate actions to be taken by local officials may include closing beaches, evacuating harbors and marinas, and the repositioning of ships to deep waters when there is time to safely do so. Advisories are normally updated to continue the advisory, expand/contract affected areas, upgrade to a warning, or cancel the advisory.

Watch

A tsunami watch is issued to alert emergency management officials and the public of an event which may later impact the watch area. The watch area may be upgraded to a warning or advisory - or canceled - based on updated information and analysis. Therefore, emergency management officials and the public should prepare to take action. Watches are normally issued based on seismic information without confirmation that a destructive tsunami is underway.

Information Statement

A tsunami information statement is issued to inform emergency manage­ment officials and the public that an earthquake has occurred, or that a tsunami warning, watch or advisory has been issued for another section of the ocean. In most cases, information statements are issued to indicate there is no threat of a destructive tsunami and to prevent unnecessary evacuations as the earthquake may have been felt in coastal areas. An information statement may, in appropriate situations, caution about the possibility of destructive local tsunamis. Information statements may be re-issued with additional information, though normally these messages are not updated. However, a watch, advisory or warning may be issued for the area, if necessary, after analysis and/or updated information becomes available.

During a Tsunami

  • Follow the evacuation order issued by authorities and evacuate immediately. Take your animals with you.
  • Move inland to higher ground immediately. Pick areas 100 feet (30 meters) above sea level or go as far as 2 miles (3 kilometers) inland, away from the coastline. If you cannot get this high or far, go as high or far as you can. Every foot inland or upward may make a difference.
  • Stay away from the beach. Never go down to the beach to watch a tsunami come in. If you can see the wave you are too close to escape it. CAUTION - If there is noticeable recession in water away from the shoreline this is nature's tsunami warning and it should be heeded. You should move away immediately.
  • Save yourself - not your possessions.
  • Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance - infants, elderly people, and individuals with access or functional needs.

After a Tsunami

  • Return home only after local officials tell you it is safe. A tsunami is a series of waves that may continue for hours. Do not assume that after one wave the danger is over. The next wave may be larger than the first one.
  • Go to a designated public shelter if you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  • Avoid disaster areas. Your presence might interfere with emergency response operations and put you at further risk from the residual effects of floods.
  • Stay away from debris in the water; it may pose a safety hazard to people or pets.
  • Check yourself for injuries and get first aid as needed before helping injured or trapped persons.
  • If someone needs to be rescued, call professionals with the right equipment to help. Many people have been killed or injured trying to rescue others.
  • Help people who require special assistance—infants, elderly people, those without transportation, people with access and functional needs and large families who may need additional help in an emergency situation.
  • Continue using a NOAA Weather Radio or tuning to a Coast Guard station or a local radio or television station for the latest updates.
  • Stay out of any building that has water around it. Tsunami water can cause floors to crack or walls to collapse.
  • Use caution when re-entering buildings or homes. Tsunami-driven floodwater may have damaged buildings where you least expect it. Carefully watch every step you take.
  • To avoid injury, wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up.

Earthquakes


Learning How to Survive Earthquakes

Practice Drop, Cover, and Hold!

Whether you are in your home, a classroom, or a tall building, know how to protect yourself during an earthquake. Teach yourself and family members to react automatically when the shaking starts.

When an earthquake strikes:

  • DROP — DROP down to the floor.
  • COVER — Take COVER under a sturdy piece of furniture. If that is not possible, seek COVER against an interior wall and protect your head and neck with your arms. Avoid danger spots near windows, hanging objects, mirrors, or tall furniture.
  • HOLD — If you take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture, HOLD on to it and be prepared to move with it.HOLD the position until the ground stops shaking and it is safe to move


Tips to Protect Yourself During An Earthquake

  • If you’re in a HIGH-RISE BUILDING, and you are not near a desk or table, move against an interior wall, and protect your head with your arms. Do not use the elevators.
  • If you’re OUTDOORS, move to a clear area, away from trees, signs, buildings, or downed electrical wires and poles.
  • If you’re on a SIDEWALK NEAR BUILDINGS, duck into a doorway to protect yourself from falling bricks, glass, plaster, and other debris.
  • If you’re DRIVING, pull over to the side of the road and stop. Avoid overpasses, power lines, and other hazards. Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking is over.
  • If you’re in a CROWDED STORE, do not rush for exits. Move away from display shelves containing objects that could fall.
  • If you’re in a WHEELCHAIR, stay in it. Move to cover, if possible, lock your wheels, and protect your head with your arms.
  • If you’re in the KITCHEN, move away from the refrigerator, stove, and overhead cupboards.
  • If you’re in a STADIUM or THEATER, stay in your seat and protect your head with your arms. Do not try to leave until the shaking is over. Then leave in a calm, orderly manner.

Be prepared for AFTERSHOCKS, and plan where you will take cover when they occur. Aftershocks can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake. Be prepared to take cover.

For Information call:

Washington State Emergency Management Division at 800.562.6108

Or contact your: Local Emergency Management Office


Tornadoes


Before a Tornado

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
  • Look for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
    • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

Quick facts you should know about tornadoes:

  • They may strike quickly, with little or no warning.
  • They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel.
  • The average tornado moves Southwest to Northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction.
  • The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 mph, but may vary from stationary to 70 mph.
  • Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land.
  • Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water.
  • Tornadoes are most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer months.
  • Peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer.
  • Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 pm and 9 pm, but can occur at any time.

Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a tornado hazard:

Tornado Watch - Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.

Tornado Warning - A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

 

During a Tornado

If you are under a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately!  Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris, so remember to protect your head.

IF YOU ARE IN: THEN:
A structure (e.g. residence, small building, school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building)
  • Go to a pre-designated area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of a small interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  • In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • Put on sturdy shoes.
  • Do not open windows.
A manufactured home or office
  • Get out immediately and go to a pre-identified location such as the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.
The outside with no shelter

If you are not in a sturdy building, there is no single research-based recommendation for what last-resort action to take because many factors can affect your decision. Possible actions include:

  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
  • Take cover in a stationary vehicle. Put the seat belt on and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
  • Lie in an area noticeably lower than the level of the roadway and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.

In all situations:

  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.
  • Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

After a Tornado

Injury may result from the direct impact of a tornado or it may occur afterward when people walk among debris and enter damaged buildings. A study of injuries after a tornado in Marion, Illinois, showed that 50 percent of the tornado-related injuries were suffered during rescue attempts, cleanup and other post-tornado activities. Nearly a third of the injuries resulted from stepping on nails. Because tornadoes often damage power lines, gas lines or electrical systems, there is a risk of fire, electrocution or an explosion. Protecting yourself and your family requires promptly treating any injuries suffered during the storm and using extreme care to avoid further hazards.

INJURIES

Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Get medical assistance immediately. If someone has stopped breathing, begin CPR if you are trained to do so. Stop a bleeding injury by applying direct pressure to the wound. Have any puncture wound evaluated by a physician. If you are trapped, try to attract attention to your location.

GENERAL SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

Here are some safety precautions that could help you avoid injury after a tornado:

  • Continue to monitor your battery-powered radio or television for emergency information.
  • Be careful when entering any structure that has been damaged.
  • Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris.
  • Be aware of hazards from exposed nails and broken glass.
  • Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines. Report electrical hazards to the police and the utility company.
  • Use battery-powered lanterns, if possible, rather than candles to light homes without electrical power. If you use candles, make sure they are in safe holders away from curtains, paper, wood or other flammable items. Never leave a candle burning when you are out of the room.
  • Never use generators, pressure washers, grills, camp stoves or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage or camper - or even outside near an open window, door or vent. Carbon monoxide (CO) - an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if you breathe it - from these sources can build up in your home, garage or camper and poison the people and animals inside. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseated.
  • Hang up displaced telephone receivers that may have been knocked off by the tornado, but stay off the telephone, except to report an emergency.
  • Cooperate fully with public safety officials.
  • Respond to requests for volunteer assistance by police, fire fighters, emergency management and relief organizations, but do not go into damaged areas unless assistance has been requested. Your presence could hamper relief efforts and you could endanger yourself.

INSPECTING THE DAMAGE

  • After a tornado, be aware of possible structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards in your home. Contact your local city or county building inspectors for information on structural safety codes and standards. They may also offer suggestions on finding a qualified contractor to do work for you.
  • In general, if you suspect any damage to your home, shut off electrical power, natural gas and propane tanks to avoid fire, electrocution or explosions.
  • If it is dark when you are inspecting your home, use a flashlight rather than a candle or torch to avoid the risk of fire or explosion in a damaged home.
  • If you see frayed wiring or sparks, or if there is an odor of something burning, you should immediately shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker if you have not done so already.
  • If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows and leave the house immediately. Notify the gas company, the police or fire departments, or State Fire Marshal's office and do not turn on the lights, light matches, smoke or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to your house until you are told it is safe to do so.

SAFETY DURING CLEAN UP

  • Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves.
  • Learn proper safety procedures and operating instructions before operating any gas-powered or electric-powered saws or tools.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, drugs, flammable liquids and other potentially hazardous materials.

 


Terrorism


Before an Explosion

The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property in the event of an explosion.

  • Build an Emergency Supply Kit, which includes items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries. You may want to prepare a kit for your workplace and a portable kit to keep in your car in case you are told to evacuate. This kit should include:
    • Copies of prescription medications and medical supplies.
    • Bedding and clothing, including sleeping bags and pillows.
    • Copies of important documents: driver’s license, Social Security card, proof of residence, insurance policies, wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates, tax records, etc.
  • Make a Family Emergency Plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
    • Plan places where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood.
    • It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
    • You may also want to inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work, daycare and school. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one.
    • Knowing your community's warning systems and disaster plans, including evacuation routes.
    • Notify caregivers and babysitters about your plan.
    • Make plans for your pets

 

Bomb Threats

If you receive a telephoned bomb threat, you should do the following:

  • Get as much information from the caller as possible. Try to ask the following questions:
    • When is the bomb going to explode?
    • Where is it right now?
    • What does it look like?
    • What kind of bomb is it?
    • What will cause it to explode?
    • Did you place the bomb?
  • Keep the caller on the line and record everything that is said.
  • Notify the police and building management immediately.

Suspicious Packages and Letters

Be wary of suspicious packages and letters. They can contain explosives, chemical or biological agents. Be particularly cautious at your place of employment.

Some typical characteristics postal inspectors have detected over the years, which ought to trigger suspicion, include parcels that:

  • Are unexpected or from someone unfamiliar to you.
  • Have no return address or a return address that can’t be verified as legitimate.
  • Are marked with restrictive endorsements such as “Personal,” “Confidential,” or “Do not X-ray.”
  • Have protruding wires or aluminum foil, strange odors or stains.
  • Show a city or state in the postmark that doesn’t match the return address.
  • Are of unusual weight given their size or are lopsided or oddly shaped.
  • Are marked with threatening language.
  • Have inappropriate or unusual labeling.
  • Have excessive postage or packaging material, such as masking tape and string.
  • Have misspellings of common words.
  • Are addressed to someone no longer with your organization or are otherwise outdated.
  • Have incorrect titles or titles without a name.
  • Are not addressed to a specific person.
  • Have hand-written or poorly typed addresses.

With suspicious envelopes and packages other than those that might contain explosives, take these additional steps against possible biological and chemical agents.

  • Refrain from eating or drinking in a designated mail handling area.
  • Place suspicious envelopes or packages in a plastic bag or some other type of container to prevent leakage of contents. Never sniff or smell suspect mail.
  • If you do not have a container, then cover the envelope or package with anything available (e.g., clothing, paper, trash can, etc.) and do not remove the cover.
  • Leave the room and close the door or section off the area to prevent others from entering.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face.
  • If you are at work, report the incident to your building security official or an available supervisor, who should notify police and other authorities without delay.
  • List all people who were in the room or area when this suspicious letter or package was recognized. Give a copy of this list to both the local public health authorities and law enforcement officials for follow-up investigations and advice.
  • If you are at home, report the incident to local police.

During an Explosion

  • Get under a sturdy table or desk if things are falling around you. When they stop falling, leave quickly, watching for obviously weakened floors and stairways. As you exit from the building, be especially watchful of falling debris.
  • Leave the building as quickly as possible. Stay low if there is smoke. Do not stop to retrieve personal possessions or make phone calls.
  • Do not use elevators.
  • Check for fire and other hazards.
  • Once you are out, do not stand in front of windows, glass doors or other potentially hazardous areas.
  • Move away from sidewalks or streets to be used by emergency officials or others still exiting the building.
  • If you are trapped in debris, use a flashlight, if possible, to signal your location to rescuers.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can hear where you are.
  • If possible, use a whistle to signal rescuers.
  • Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause a person to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
  • Avoid unnecessary movement so you don’t kick up dust.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with anything you have on hand. (Dense-weave cotton material can act as a good filter. Try to breathe through the material.)

After an Explosion

As we learned from the events of September 11, 2001, the following things can happen after a terrorist attack:

  • There can be significant numbers of casualties and/or damage to buildings and the infrastructure. So employers need up-to-date information about any medical needs you may have and on how to contact your designated beneficiaries.
  • Heavy law enforcement involvement at local, state and federal levels follows a terrorist attack due to the event's criminal nature.
  • Health and mental health resources in the affected communities can be strained to their limits, maybe even overwhelmed.
  • Extensive media coverage, strong public fear and international implications and consequences can continue for a prolonged period.
  • Workplaces and schools may be closed, and there may be restrictions on domestic and international travel.
  • You and your family or household may have to evacuate an area, avoiding roads blocked for your safety.
  • Clean-up may take many months.

 


Biological Disaster


Before a Biological Threat

Unlike an explosion, a biological attack may or may not be immediately obvious. While it is possible that you will see signs of a biological attack, as was sometimes the case with the anthrax mailings, it is perhaps more likely that local health care workers will report a pattern of unusual illness or there will be a wave of sick people seeking emergency medical attention. You will probably learn of the danger through an emergency radio or TV broadcast, or some other signal used in your community. You might get a telephone call or emergency response workers may come to your door.

The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property from the effects of a biological threat:

  • Build an Emergency Supply Kit, which includes items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries.
  • Make a Family Emergency Plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
    • Plan places where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood.
    • It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
    • You may also want to inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work, daycare and school. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one.
    • Knowing your community's warning systems and disaster plans.
    • Notify caregivers and babysitters about your plan.
    • Make plans for your pets
  • Check with your doctor to ensure all required or suggested immunizations are up to date. Children and older adults are particularly vulnerable to biological agents.
  • Consider installing a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter in your furnace return duct. These filters remove particles in the 0.3 to 10 micron range and will filter out most biological agents that may enter your house. If you do not have a central heating or cooling system, a stand-alone portable HEPA filter can be used.

Filtration in Buildings

Building owners and managers should determine the type and level of filtration in their structures and the level of protection it provides against biological agents. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides technical guidance on this topic in their publication Guidance for Filtration and Air-Cleaning Systems to Protect Building Environments from Airborne Chemical, Biological, or Radiological Attacks. To obtain a copy, call 1 (800) 35NIOSH or visit the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Web site and request or download NIOSH Publication 2003-136.

Using High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filters

High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are useful in biological attacks. If you have a central heating and cooling system in your home with a HEPA filter, leave it on if it is running or turn the fan on if it is not running. Moving the air in the house through the filter will help remove the agents from the air. If you have a portable HEPA filter, take it with you to the internal room where you are seeking shelter and turn it on.

If you are in an apartment or office building that has a modern, central heating and cooling system, the system’s filtration should provide a relatively safe level of protection from outside biological contaminants.

HEPA filters will not filter chemical agents

 

During a Biological Threat

The first evidence of an attack may be when you notice symptoms of the disease caused by exposure to an agent. Follow these guidelines during a biological threat:

  • In the event of a biological attack, public health officials may not immediately be able to provide information on what you should do. It will take time to determine exactly what the illness is, how it should be treated, and who is in danger. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio, or check the Internet for official news and information including signs and symptoms of the disease, areas in danger, if medications or vaccinations are being distributed and where you should seek medical attention if you become ill.
  • If you become aware of an unusual and suspicious substance, quickly get away.
  • Protect yourself. Cover your mouth and nose with layers of fabric that can filter the air but still allow breathing. Examples include two to three layers of cotton such as a t-shirt, handkerchief or towel. Otherwise, several layers of tissue or paper towels may help.
  • There may be times when you would want to consider wearing a face mask to reduce spreading germs if you yourself are sick, or to avoid coming in contact with contagious germs if others around you are sick.
  • If you have been exposed to a biological agent, remove and bag your clothes and personal items. Follow official instructions for disposal of contaminated items.
  • Wash yourself with soap and water and put on clean clothes.
  • Contact authorities and seek medical assistance. You may be advised to stay away from others or even quarantined.
  • If a family member becomes sick, it is important to be suspicious.
  • Do not assume, however, that you should go to a hospital emergency room or that any illness is the result of the biological attack. Symptoms of many common illnesses may overlap.
  • Use common sense, practice good hygiene and cleanliness to avoid spreading germs, and seek medical advice.
  • Consider if you are in the group or area authorities believe to be in danger.
  • If your symptoms match those described and you are in the group considered at risk, immediately seek emergency medical attention.
  • Follow instructions of doctors and other public health officials.
  • If the disease is contagious expect to receive medical evaluation and treatment. You may be advised to stay away from others or even deliberately quarantined.
  • For non-contagious diseases, expect to receive medical evaluation and treatment.
  • In a declared biological emergency or developing epidemic, there may be reason to stay away from crowds where others may be infected.

Cover Your Nose and Mouth

Be prepared to improvise with what you have on hand to protect your nose, mouth, eyes and cuts in your skin. Anything that fits snugly over your nose and mouth, including any dense-weave cotton material, can help filter contaminants in an emergency. It is very important that most of the air you breathe comes through the mask or cloth, not around it. Do whatever you can to make the best fit possible for children. There are also a variety of face masks readily available in hardware stores that are rated based on how small a particle they can filter in an industrial setting. Simple cloth face masks can filter some of the airborne "junk" or germs you might breathe into your body, but will probably not protect you from chemical gases.

Symptoms and Hygiene

If a family member develops any of the symptoms below, keep them separated from others if possible, practice good hygiene and cleanliness to avoid spreading germs and seek medical advice.

  • A temperature of more than 100 degrees
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomachache
  • Diarrhea
  • Pale or flushed face
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Earache
  • Thick discharge from nose
  • Sore throat
  • Rash or infection of the skin
  • Red or pink eyes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of energy or decreases in activity

HYGIENE

If someone is sick, you should practice good hygiene and cleanliness to avoid spreading germs.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently.
  • Do not share food or utensils.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Consider having the sick person wear a face mask to avoid spreading germs.
  • Plan to share health-related information with others, especially those who may need help understanding the situation and what specific actions to take.

After a Biological Threat

In some situations, such as the case of the anthrax letters sent in 2001, people may be alerted to potential exposure. If this is the case, pay close attention to all official warnings and instructions on how to proceed. The delivery of medical services for a biological event may be handled differently to respond to increased demand. The basic public health procedures and medical protocols for handling exposure to biological agents are the same as for any infectious disease. It is important for you to pay attention to official instructions via radio, television, and emergency alert systems.

Antibiotics

While antibiotics are often an appropriate treatment for the diseases associated with biological weapons, the specific drug must match the illness to be effective. One antibiotic, for example, may be appropriate for treating anthrax exposure, but is inappropriate for treating smallpox. All antibiotics can cause side effects including serious reactions. Plan to speak with your health care provider in advance about what makes sense for your family.

Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for a complete list of potential agents/diseases and appropriate treatments.


Wild Fires


Before a Wildfire

The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property in the event of a fire.

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Design and landscape your home with wildfire safety in mind. Select materials and plants that can help contain fire rather than fuel it.
  • Use fire-resistant or noncombustible materials on the roof and exterior structure of the dwelling, or treat wood or combustible material used in roofs, siding, decking or trim with fire-retardant chemicals evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees. For example, hardwood trees are less flammable than pine, evergreen, eucalyptus or fir trees.
  • Regularly clean roof and gutters.
  • Inspect chimneys at least twice a year. Clean them at least once a year. Keep the dampers in good working order. Equip chimneys and stovepipes with a spark arrester that meets the requirements of National Fire Protection Association Standard 211. (Contact your local fire department for exact specifications.)
  • Use 1/8-inch mesh screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas, and the home itself. Also, screen openings to floors, roof and attic.
  • Install a dual-sensor smoke alarm on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms; test monthly and change the batteries at least once each year.
  • Teach each family member how to use a fire extinguisher (ABC type) and show them where it's kept.
  • Keep handy household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, axe, handsaw or chain saw, bucket and shovel.
  • Keep a ladder that will reach the roof.
  • Consider installing protective shutters or heavy fire-resistant drapes.
  • Clear items that will burn from around the house, including wood piles, lawn furniture, barbecue grills, tarp coverings, etc. Move them outside of your defensible space.

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PLAN YOUR WATER NEEDS

  • Identify and maintain an adequate outside water source such as a small pond, cistern, well, swimming pool, or hydrant.
  • Have a garden hose that is long enough to reach any area of the home and other structures on the property.
  • Install freeze-proof exterior water outlets on at least two sides of the home and near other structures on the property. Install additional outlets at least 50 feet from the home.
  • Consider obtaining a portable gasoline powered pump in case electrical power is cut off.

Your best resource for proper planning is www.firewise.org which has outstanding information used daily by residents, property owners, fire departments, community planners, builders, public policy officials, water authorities, architects and others to assure safety from fire - it really works. Firewise workshops are offered for free all across the nation in communities large and small and free Firewise materials can be obtained easily by anyone interested.

Preparing Your Home for a Wildfire

It is recommended that you create a 30 to 100 foot safety zone around your home. Within this area, you can take steps to reduce potential exposure to flames and radiant heat. Homes built in pine forests should have a minimum safety zone of 100 feet. If your home sits on a steep slope, standard protective measures may not suffice. Contact your local fire department or forestry office for additional information.

  • Rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs. Clear all flammable vegetation.
  • Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures.
  • Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns, and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
  • Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
  • Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
  • Ask the power company to clear branches from powerlines.
  • Remove vines from the walls of the home.
  • Mow grass regularly.
  • Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue. Place a screen over the grill - use nonflammable material with mesh no coarser than one-quarter inch.
  • Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish at an approved site. Follow local burning regulations.
  • Place stove, fireplace and grill ashes in a metal bucket, soak in water for 2 days; then bury the cold ashes in mineral soil.
  • Store gasoline, oily rags and other flammable materials in approved safety cans. Place cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
  • Stack firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home. Clear combustible material within 20 feet. Use only wood-burning devices evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Review your homeowner's insurance policy and also prepare/update a list of your home's contents.

Practice Wildfire Safety

People start most wildfires - find out how you can promote and practice wildfire safety.

  • Contact your local fire department, health department, or forestry office for information on fire laws.
  • Make sure that fire vehicles can get to your home. Clearly mark all driveway entrances and display your name and address.
  • Report hazardous conditions that could cause a wildfire.
  • Teach children about fire safety. Keep matches out of their reach.
  • Post fire emergency telephone numbers.
  • Ensure adequate accessibility by large fire vehicles to your property.
  • Plan several escape routes away from your home - by car and by foot.
  • Talk to your neighbors about wildfire safety. Plan how the neighborhood could work together after a wildfire. Make a list of your neighbors' skills such as medical or technical. Consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs such as elderly or disabled persons. Make plans to take care of children who may be on their own if parents can't get home.

FOLLOW LOCAL BURNING LAWS

  • Before burning debris in a wooded area, make sure you notify local authorities and obtain a burning permit.
  • Use an approved incinerator with a safety lid or covering with holes no larger than ¾ inch.
  • Create at least a 10-foot clearing around the incinerator before burning debris.
  • Have a fire extinguisher or garden hose on hand when burning debris.

During a Wildfire

If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Take your disaster supply kit, lock your home and choose a route away from the fire hazard. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of the fire and smoke. Tell someone when you left and where you are going.

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. Describe the location of the fire, speak slowly and clearly, and answer any questions asked by the dispatcher.

If you are not ordered to evacuate, and have time to prepare your home, FEMA recommends you take the following actions:

  • Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area in case you need to evacuate.
  • Wear protective clothing when outside – sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothes, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face.
  • Gather fire tools such as a rake, axe, handsaw or chainsaw, bucket and shovel.
  • Close outside attic, eaves and basement vents, windows, doors, pet doors, etc. Remove flammable drapes and curtains. Close all shutters, blinds or heavy non-combustible window coverings to reduce radiant heat.
  • Close all doors inside the house to prevent draft. Open the damper on your fireplace, but close the fireplace screen.
  • Shut off any natural gas, propane or fuel oil supplies at the source.
  • Connect garden hoses to outdoor water faucet and fill any pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, tubs or other large containers with water.
  • Place lawn sprinklers on the roof and near above-ground fuel tanks. Leave sprinklers on and dowsing these structures as long as possible. Be mindful of water use restrictions for areas affected by wildfires.
  • If you have gas-powered pumps for water, make sure they are fueled and ready.
  • Place a ladder against the house in clear view.
  • Disconnect any automatic garage door openers so that doors can still be opened by hand if the power goes out. Close all garage doors.
  • Place valuable papers, mementos and anything "you can't live without" inside the car in the garage, ready for quick departure. Any pets still with you should also be put in the car.
  • Place valuables that will not be damaged by water in a pool or pond.
  • Move flammable furniture into the center of the residence away from the windows and sliding-glass doors.
  • Turn on outside lights and leave a light on in every room to make the house more visible in heavy smoke.

Surviving a Wildfire

Survival in a Vehicle

  • This is dangerous and should only be done in an emergency, but you can survive the firestorm if you stay in your car. It is much less dangerous than trying to run from a fire on foot.
  • Roll up windows and close air vents. Drive slowly with headlights on. Watch for other vehicles and pedestrians. Do not drive through heavy smoke.
  • If you have to stop, park away from the heaviest trees and brush. Turn headlights on and ignition off. Roll up windows and close air vents.
  • Get on the floor and cover up with a blanket or coat.
  • Stay in the vehicle until the main fire passes.
  • Stay in the car. Do not run! Engine may stall and not restart. Air currents may rock the car. Some smoke and sparks may enter the vehicle. Temperature inside will increase. Metal gas tanks and containers rarely explode.

If You Are Trapped at Home

  • If you do find yourself trapped by wildfire inside your home, stay inside and away from outside walls. Close doors, but leave them unlocked. Keep your entire family together and remain calm.

If Caught in the Open

  • The best temporary shelter is in a sparse fuel area. On a steep mountainside, the back side is safer. Avoid canyons, natural "chimneys" and saddles.
  • If a road is nearby, lie face down along the road cut or in the ditch on the uphill side. Cover yourself with anything that will shield you from the fire's heat.
  • If hiking in the back country, seek a depression with sparse fuel. Clear fuel away from the area while the fire is approaching and then lie face down in the depression and cover yourself. Stay down until after the fire passes!

 

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After a Wildfire

The following are guidelines for different circumstances in the period following a fire:

  • Go to a designated public shelter if you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  • If you are with burn victims, or are a burn victim yourself, call 9-1-1 or seek help immediately; cool and cover burns to reduce chance of further injury or infection.
  • If you remained at home, check the roof immediately after the fire danger has passed. Put out any roof fires, sparks or embers. Check the attic for hidden burning sparks.
  • For several hours after the fire, maintain a "fire watch." Re-check for smoke and sparks throughout the house.
  • If you have evacuated, do not enter your home until fire officials say it is safe.
  • If a building inspector has placed a color-coded sign on the home, do not enter it until you get more information, advice and instructions about what the sign means and whether it is safe to enter your home.
  • If you must leave your home because a building inspector says the building is unsafe, ask someone you trust to watch the property during your absence.
  • Use caution when entering burned areas as hazards may still exist, including hot spots, which can flare up without warning.
  • If you detect heat or smoke when entering a damaged building, evacuate immediately.
  • If you have a safe or strong box, do not try to open it. It can hold intense heat for several hours. If the door is opened before the box has cooled, the contents could burst into flames.
  • Avoid damaged or fallen power lines, poles and downed wires.
  • Watch for ash pits and mark them for safety—warn family and neighbors to keep clear of the pits also.
  • Watch animals closely and keep them under your direct control. Hidden embers and hot spots could burn your pets’ paws or hooves.
  • Follow public health guidance on safe cleanup of fire ash and safe use of masks.
  • Wet debris down to minimize breathing dust particles.
  • Wear leather gloves and heavy soled shoes to protect hands and feet.
  • Cleaning products, paint, batteries and damaged fuel containers need to be disposed of properly to avoid risk.
  • 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, make ice or make baby formula.
  • Remain calm. Pace yourself. You may find yourself in the position of taking charge of other people. Listen carefully to what people are telling you, and deal patiently with urgent situations first.

Hazards After Wildfires: Flood and Landslides

You may be at an even greater risk of flooding due to recent wildfires that have burned across the region. Large-scale wildfires dramatically alter the terrain and ground conditions. Normally, vegetation absorbs rainfall, reducing runoff. However, wildfires leave the ground charred, barren, and unable to absorb water, creating conditions ripe for flash flooding and mudflow. Flood risk remains significantly higher until vegetation is restored—up to 5 years after a wildfire.

Flooding after fire is often more severe, as debris and ash left from the fire can form mudflows. As rainwater moves across charred and denuded ground, it can also pick up soil and sediment and carry it in a stream of floodwaters. These mudflows can cause significant damage.