What to Do for Different Types of Disasters
Floods can occur quickly and can be dangerous because of fast-moving waters. If there is a flood warning or you believe a flood will happen soon:
- Head for higher ground right away; save yourself, not your stuff!
- Stay away from flood waters; even water just six inches deep can knock you off your feet.
- Never try to drive through flood waters; if your car stalls, leave it and head for higher ground on foot.
- Once you are in a safe place, listen to a battery-powered radio for official updates or wait for emergency workers to give you instructions.
All thunderstorms produce lightning that can cause death or serious injury. Lightning can strike from up to 5 to 10 miles away, even if it is not raining or is sunny where you are. If there is a thunderstorm warning, or if you see or hear a storm coming in the distance, follow these steps:
- Get inside a home or a building right away.
- If you’re outside, drop to a crouching position with your feet on the ground and close together.
- Stay away from trees, metal objects, and power lines, and do not use appliances such as phones, televisions, or computers that could carry the lightning current into your home or office, and do not take a shower until the storm has safely passed.
Tornadoes produce very high winds in funnel-shaped clouds that can lift and move heavy objects such as buildings and cars. They can move extremely fast and do a lot of damage to people and property. If there is a tornado warning, or if you see a tornado coming or hear a tornado siren, follow these steps:
- If you are outside, try to seek shelter in a house or other building (but not in a vehicle, trailer, or mobile home) right away; if there is no shelter nearby, lie flat face down in a ditch or low area and cover your head until the tornado passes.
- If you are already inside, move to the basement, or to a room or hallway near the center of the building. Stay away from windows and doors, and listen for official updates.
- If you are in a vehicle, get out and lie flat face down in a ditch or low area, well away from the vehicle, and cover your head until the tornado passes; do not stay in your car or try to out drive a tornado.
Winter storms can be dangerous because they leave people stranded in their homes or cars and sometimes without power. If there is a winter storm warning, you believe a storm is headed your way, or you are already stranded by one:
- If already inside, get your Emergency Kit out and listen for official updates.
- Do not travel unless you really have to.
- Stay indoors and dress warmly; if you must go outside, wear enough clothing to keep you warm and dry (e.g, hat, boots, mittens or gloves, extra layers).
- Conserve heat and fuel; keep the thermostat at 65 degrees or less, stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors, and cover windows at night.
- If you get stranded in your car or another vehicle, stay with your vehicle, and hang a brightly colored cloth on the radio antenna. Turn on the engine for about 10 minutes each hour (or 5 minutes every half hour) to keep warm, but make sure the tailpipe is clear of snow and that you leave a window open a bit to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Fires can cause death and serious injury to people because of burns and the breathing in of smoke. Explosions may occur on their own or as part of a larger fire, and can also do a lot of damage to people and property. If you hear a fire alarm or smoke detector, see a fire, or see or smell smoke, follow these steps:
- Escape the building as fast as you can, then call 911 from an outside phone.
- If a stove fire starts, slide a lid over it and turn off the burner. Never pour water on grease fires; this will make the fire spread.
- If you try to use a fire extinguisher on a small fire and the fire does not go out right away, drop the extinguisher, get out of the building and call 911.
- Be careful when opening doors; feel a closed door, cracks, and doorknob with the back of your hand before you open it. If it is cool there is no smoke at the bottom or top, open it slowly. If it is warm or you see smoke at the cracks, you need to find another way out.
- Stay low; if your only way out is through smoke, crawl on the floor under the smoke to get to your exit.
- If the smoke is too thick, or heat or flames block your exit, stay in a room with the door closed and window open, and hang a sheet outside the window so firefighters can find you.
- Once you are out of the building, stay out.
Dangerous amounts of chemicals can be released into the environment from industrial accidents, or on purpose, as happened in Japan when nerve gas was released in the subway system. These events can cause fires or explosions and can be very poisonous to people and animals.
- If you receive any threat about a toxic spill or release or see strange activity that you believe may be part of a chemical event, call 911 right away.
- If you live or work near the scene of a chemical event that is not in your building, stay where you are, listen for emergency updates, and wait for instructions from emergency workers or police before leaving the area.
- If you are at the scene of a chemical event, get yourself and others far away from the spill or leak by traveling upwind, and then call 911. Wait in a safe place nearby for emergency workers to arrive. Watch for signs of toxic poisoning (e.g, trouble breathing; dizziness; irritated eyes, skin, or throat; stomach cramps or diarrhea) and report these right away to emergency workers.
- Try to avoid breathing in fumes or smoke by covering your mouth with your hand or a cloth. Never touch, taste, sniff or put your eyes near any real or suspected chemical substance.
- Pour cold water over yourself or others if you come in contact with chemicals, and remove any contaminated clothing. If you don’t have water, brush chemicals off of skin with a glove, plastic bag, or cloth.
- If you are outside, try to stay upstream, uphill, and upwind of the accident.
- If you are told by local officials to remain in your home or office, turn off all heating and air conditioning systems, get your Emergency Kit, and go to an interior room (preferably without windows). Use duct tape and/or towels to seal all cracks around the door and any vents into the room, and keep listening to your radio or television until you are told all is safe or that you should evacuate.
Bioterrorism involves the deliberate use of harmful viruses and bacteria to make people sick. We have seen this with anthrax in the mail. While these types of events are still rare, they can be very dangerous. Although we cannot always prevent them from happening, we can help by reporting strange activity to local officials. If you get news that bioterrorism has taken place where you live or work, or strongly suspect that it has, you should follow these steps:
- If you receive any threat of bioterrorism or see strange activity that you believe may be part of a bioterrorism event, call 911 right away.
- If you live or work near the scene of a bioterrorism event that is not in your building, stay where you are, listen for emergency updates, and wait for instructions from emergency workers before leaving the area.
- If you are at the scene of a bioterrorism event, get yourself and others far away from the biological agent, and then call 911. Wait in a safe place nearby for emergency workers to arrive. If you later notice signs of biological infections (e.g, severe breathing problems, shock, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, etc.) call 911 right away or call your doctor.
- If you see or get a suspicious looking package (e.g, bulky envelopes, unfamiliar or missing return address, heavy or oddly scaled boxes, anything leaking powder or other substance, etc.) do not open, shake, or put your face or bare skin near it. Put it down gently, get yourself and others out of the room, close off the room, and call 911 right away. Wash your hands right away with soap and water. Never touch, taste, sniff or put your eyes near any real or suspected biological agent.