How to Protect Yourself in the Event
of a Natural Disaster
Disasters come in many shapes and sizes. Most are related to weather. Some
are predictable — like a hurricane. Some, like an earthquake, surprise us.
It’s good for all of us to know about the different kinds of disasters so
we can be prepared. Although disasters themselves aren’t fun, learning
about them is!
Flooding happens during heavy rains, when rivers overflow, when ocean
waves come onshore, when snow melts too fast or when dams or levees break.
Flooding may be only a few inches of water or it may cover a house to the
rooftop. Floods that happen very quickly are called flash floods. Flooding
is the most common of all natural hazards. It can happen in each US State
Important terms to
Watch or Flash Flood Watch
— This means flooding may happen soon. Stay tuned to the radio or
television news for more information. If you hear a flash flood warning,
talk to an adult immediately!
You may be asked to leave the area. A flood may be happening or will be
very soon. Tell an adult if you hear a flood warning. If you have to leave
the area, remember to bring your Disaster Supply Kit and make arrangements
for your pets.
— A flash flood is happening. Get to high ground right away. Tell an
Safety Precautions You
and Your Family Should Consider:
from floodwater. It may be contaminated (contain dangerous substances).
walk through moving water. It can knock you off your feet. If you must
walk through water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to
test the ground in front of you.
from power lines that are on the ground. You could be electrocuted.
are scared, share your fears with an adult. Floods can be scary, but
remember: The water ALWAYS goes away!
Hurricanes are severe tropical storms that form in the southern Atlantic
Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
Hurricanes gather heat and energy through contact with warm ocean waters.
Evaporation from the sea water increases their power.
Hurricanes rotate in a counter-clockwise direction around an "eye."
Hurricanes have winds at least 74 miles per hour. When they come onto
land, the heavy rain, strong winds and heavy waves can damage buildings,
trees and cars. The heavy waves are called a storm surge. Storm surges are
very dangerous and a major reason why you MUST stay away from the ocean
during a hurricane warning or hurricane.
Safety Precautions You
and Your Family Should Consider:
the radio or television for weather updates and stay in touch with your
neighbors about evacuation orders.
and dad assemble your disaster supplies kit: Store extra water now! Check
to make sure you have enough food.
shutters are the best protection for windows. If your house does not have
them, help an adult board up windows with 5/8" marine plywood. Tape
does NOT prevent windows
outside furniture. An adult should remove roof antennas, if they can do so
adult shut off your utilities — water, electricity and gas.
don’t need to evacuate, be sure to STAY INDOORS during a hurricane. You
could be hit by flying objects. Don’t be fooled if there is a pause in the
wind. It could be the eye of the storm, and the winds will come again.
using the phone except for an emergency so the phone lines can stay open
Hurricanes can be very scary. If you are scared, be sure to talk to
someone about it.
Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Tornadoes must always be
taken seriously. Tornadoes can be very dangerous -- sometimes even deadly.
They come from powerful thunderstorms and appear as rotating,
funnel-shaped clouds. Tornado winds can reach 300 miles per hour. They
cause damage when they touch down on the ground. They can damage an area
one mile wide and 50 miles long. Every state is at some risk, but states
in "Tornado Alley" have the highest risk. Tornadoes can form any time of
the year, but the season runs from March to August. The ability to predict
tornadoes is limited. Usually a community will have at least a few minutes
warning. The most important thing to do is TAKE SHELTER when a tornado is
Important terms to
— Tornadoes are possible. Stay tuned to the radio or television news.
— A tornado has been sighted. Take shelter immediately!
Safety Precautions You
and Your Family Should Consider:
a radio or watch television for weather updates. If a tornado is coming
you MUST seek shelter. An underground shelter is best, such as a basement
or storm shelter. If you don’t have a basement, find an inside room or
hallway or closet on the first floor AWAY FROM WINDOWS.
are at school during a tornado, listen and do what your teacher says.
are outside and cannot get inside, lie flat in a ditch or ravine. Lie face
down and cover your head with your hands.
are in a car, take shelter in a nearby building.
tornado, watch for broken glass and power lines that are downed. If you
see people who are injured, don’t move them unless they are in immediate
danger. Call for help right away!
can be very scary. If you are scared, be sure to talk to someone about it.
While thunder won't hurt you, lightning will! So it's important to pay
attention when you hear thunder. Thunderstorms happen in every state and
every thunderstorm has lightning. Lightning can strike people and
buildings and is very dangerous. Thunderstorms affect small areas when
compared with hurricanes and winter storms. The typical thunderstorm is 15
miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes. Nearly 1,800
thunderstorms are happening at any moment around the world. That's 16
million a year!
Despite their small size, all thunderstorms are dangerous. Every
thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people each year than
tornadoes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can lead to flash flooding.
Strong winds, hail and tornadoes are also dangers associated with some
thunderstorms. You can estimate how many miles away a storm is by counting
the number of seconds between the flash of lightning and the clap of
thunder. Divide the number of seconds by five to get the distance in
miles. The lightning is seen before the thunder is heard because light
travels faster than sound. (Of course, get safe shelter first, before you
take the time to count the seconds!)
to form clouds and rain.
Air - relatively warm air that can rise rapidly.
Fronts, sea breezes and mountains are capable of lifting air to help form
Thunderstorms are most likely to occur in the spring and summer months and
during the afternoon and evening hours but they can occur year-round and
at all hours of the day or night. Along the Gulf Coast and across the
southeastern and western states, most thunderstorms occur during the
afternoon. Thunderstorms often occur in the late afternoon and at night in
the Plains states. Thunder and lightning can sometimes even come with
snowstorm! During the blizzard of March 1993, lightning resulted in power
outages near Washington, DC.
Things to Know:
storm is coming, look for darkening skies, flashes of light or increasing
wind. Listen for the sound of thunder. If you can hear thunder, you are
close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter
immediately! Find shelter in a building or car. Keep car windows closed
and avoid convertibles.
lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances and avoid
using the telephone or any electrical appliances. (Leaving electrical
lights on, however, does not increase the chances of your home being
struck by lightning.)
take a bath or shower.
the air conditioner. Power surges from lightning can overload the
compressor and damage the air conditioner!
blinds and shades over windows. If windows break due to objects being
blown by the wind of a storm, then the shades will prevent glass from
shattering into your home.
If you are caught
outside during a thunderstorm, you must act immediately:
are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.
are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter right away!
can, go to a low-lying, open place away from trees, poles or metal
objects. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.
very small target! Squat low to the ground. Place your hands on your knees
with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible.
lie flat on the ground — this will make you a larger target!
first thing to do is to make a lightning safety plan with your parents and
going on a long hike be sure to check the weather forecast for the day.
hiking: Assign one person to look for big puffy clouds that might be
coming your way or growing. Have another person be in charge of spotting
possible shelters all along the way in case you need them on the way back.
A third person should watch and listen for lightning and thunder. (See
"Flash to Bang" below) another person should be in charge of deciding when
it is time to go back.
are caught in a thunderstorm, try to find a low place to stay in until the
storm is over.
cannot find a shelter, get in to the "lightning safety position": Squat
down near the ground with your heels touching and put your hands over your
Do not go
under a tree for shelter because, if you do, the lightning could hit the
tree and travel under the ground or "splash" from the tree and hit you.
are playing outside and get caught in a thunderstorm, seek shelter in a
nearby building or enclosed car (with the windows rolled up).
Indoor Lightning Safety
thunderstorm, stay away from anything that is metal (yes, even the
refrigerator) because lightning can come into the house through wires and
there is a thunderstorm outside do not stand near the windows.
take a shower or bath when there is a thunderstorm.
the phone during a thunderstorm and if the phone rings, don't answer it.
Lightning could hit the phone line, travel through the line and zap you
through the phone. Some people have died that way. Portable phones aren't
connected to wires, but lightning could still cause a loud "pop" that
could hurt your ear.
Franklin stove/fireplace with a metal chimney could also provide a path
for lightning to enter your house.
Things to watch out
are outside and you can hear thunder then the storm is close enough to be
and a friend are outside someplace, and you see your friend's hair start
to stand up, you are in danger! You could also feel prickles on your skin.
The reason that you are in danger is that a lightning charge is building
up somewhere very close by. Lightning may strike any second and you could
be hit by lightning and be badly injured or killed.
What to do if someone
is hit by lightning:
It is not
dangerous to touch someone who has just been hit by lightning.
someone is hit by lightning and there is still thunder take the person to
a nearby shelter (a building or car).
person is in a safe place, send for help.
person is not breathing, CPR must be done immediately.
What are safe shelters,
and what are not safe shelters?
or cars (not convertibles and be sure that the windows are closed) are the
safest place to be during a thunderstorm. If there is not a building or
car near you, a ditch, ravine or a deep cavern might be safer than being
out in the open.
under a tree is not a safe place to be in a thunderstorm. It may keep the
rain off you but if lightning hits the tree, it might kill you.
have heard that if you can't find a shelter, you should lie down flat on
your stomach. Well, doing that is not safe at all! If lightning hits
someplace near you and travels through the ground, it could enter your
whole body and electrocute you. Instead, get into the “lightning safety”
What to do if you are
on a sport team:
you are on a sport team and there is a thunderstorm during a game, what
should you do? Should you tell your coach or the person in charge that the
team should get off the field? If the coach says it is just a little rain
and not to worry about it, should you leave anyway and take shelter? This
is a serious question. You could get kicked off the team if you leave, but
your life is more important than the game. In 1999, a whole soccer team
was killed by lightning in Africa, and a whole football team was injured
by lightning in Colorado. Discuss this question with your parents and with
your coach and team before the season begins.
"Flash to Bang”
"Flash to bang" is a way to measure how far away the lightning strike is.
The sound of thunder can travel one mile in five seconds. So if you see
the lightning strike and hear the thunder ten seconds later, you know the
lightning is two miles away. Scientists say that if you are less than six
miles away, you are in the high danger zone. Scientists know that
lightning can strike several miles away from a storm cloud.
Earthquakes are the shaking, rolling or sudden shock of the earth’s
surface. Earth-quakes happen along "fault lines" in the earth’s crust.
Earthquakes can be felt over large areas although they usually last less
than one minute. Earthquakes cannot be predicted — although scientists are
working on it!
Most of the time, you will notice an earthquake by the gentle shaking of
the ground. You may notice hanging plants swaying or objects wobbling on
shelves. Sometimes you may hear a low rumbling noise or feel a sharp jolt.
A survivor of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco said the sensation was
like riding a bicycle down a long flight of stairs.
The intensity of an earthquake can be measured. One measurement is called
the Richter scale. Earthquakes below 4.0 on the Richter scale usually do
not cause damage, and earthquakes below 2.0 usually can’t be felt.
Earthquakes over 5.0 on the scale can cause damage. A magnitude 6.0
earthquake is considered strong and a magnitude 7.0 is a major earthquake.
The Northridge Earthquake, which hit Southern California in 1994, was
Safety Precautions You
and Your Family Should Consider:
important thing to remember during an earthquake is to DROP and COVER.
Drop and cover means to DROP to the floor and get under something for
are indoors during an earthquake, keep calm and take cover under a heavy
table or desk. Stay away from glass, windows or anything that could fall,
like a bookcase.
are outdoors, move away from buildings, street lights and utility wires.
If you are in a crowded public place, do NOT rush for the doors. Everyone
will be doing that. Instead, take cover under something heavy and stay
away from things that could fall on you. Stay calm. Do not get in an
elevator during an earthquake!
earthquake, be prepared for after shocks. After shocks are follow-up
earthquakes that are usually smaller than the first one. They are
dangerous because they can cause things that are weakened in the first
earthquake to fall down.
are home and you smell gas or hear a hissing or blowing sound, open a
window and get out of the building right away. It may mean that a gas line
in your house has been broken. Tell your parent(s) or another adult.
you are wearing shoes after an earthquake. There may be broken glass on
the ground and inside your home.
are scared, share your fears with an adult. Earthquakes can be scary, but
remember, they only last a few seconds.
Wildfires are a danger for people who live in forest, prairies or wooded
areas. These fires are sometimes started by lightning or by accident. They
can move very fast and burn many acres. Remember: If there is a wildfire
near you and your family is told to evacuate — go right away! And remember
to bring your pets with you!
many areas of the country, the winter months bring heavy snowfall and very
cold temperatures. Heavy snow can block roads and cause power lines to
fall down. The cold temperatures can be dangerous if you are not dressed
Freezing rain —Rain
that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads
— Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the
ground. Sleet also causes roads to freeze and become slippery.
Weather Advisory —
This means cold, ice and snow are expected.
Storm Watch —This
means that severe weather such as heavy snow or ice is possible in the
next day or two.
Storm Warning —Severe
winter conditions have begun or will begin very soon.
Blizzard Warning —Heavy
snow and strong winds will produce a blinding snow, near zero visibility,
deep drifts and life-threatening wind chill factors.
Frost/Freeze Warning —Below
freezing temperatures are expected.
Be prepared for winter
storms by having:
battery-powered radio with extra batteries.
food that doesn’t need cooking (like canned food).
to melt ice, and sand to improve traction.
Flashlights and battery-powered lamps (if the electricity goes off).
your fireplace (if you have one).
If you go
out in very cold weather, dress in several layers of clothing. Mittens are
warmer than gloves, and you should wear a hat and cover your mouth with a
scarf to protect your lungs from the cold air. Watch for frostbite.
(Frostbite happens when your skin is exposed in very cold temperatures or
you are not dressed warm enough. You will have a loss of feeling — usually
a finger or toe or the tip of your nose — and it may turn white or pale.
If this happens get help right away!)
The Importance of Having a Disaster Supply Kit
Every family should have a Disaster Supply Kit in their home. The kit will
help you and your family during a disaster. In a hurricane or earthquake,
for example, you might be without electricity and the water supply may be
polluted. In a heavy winter storm or flood, you may not be able to leave
your house for a few days. In times like this, you will need to rely on
yourself. Your disaster supply kit will make it easier. Remember: Your
family will probably never need to use your disaster supply kit, but it's
always better to be prepared.
Disaster Supply Kit
water is one of the most important things you can do. In an emergency,
pipes may be broken or the water contaminated. (Contaminated means it is
not safe to drink.) Store water in plastic containers. Plastic soft drink
bottles are good! Don’t use milk cartons or glass bottles. You should have
a three-day supply of water. You will need at least two quarts of water
for each person in your house for each day. You will also need two quarts
per person per day for cooking and hygiene (like brushing your teeth).
That means you will need four quarts for each person -- which is one whole
gallon! And don’t forget extra water for your pets! You need to multiply
one gallon times the number of people in your house and then multiply that
number by three to get the total gallons you'll need. Stored water needs
to be treated to make sure it will be safe to drink when you need it. You
can do this by adding four drops of bleach per quart of water. Have an
adult do this for you. The liquid bleach should have 5.25 percent sodium
hypochlorite and NO SOAP! Seal all bottles tightly so they don’t leak.
need a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Non-perishable means food
that can stay good for a long time without needing to be in the
refrigerator. It is also good if the food doesn’t need to be cooked. Here
are some suggestions: ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables;
canned juice, milk and soup; sugar, salt and pepper; high-energy foods
like peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars and trail mix; vitamins;
fun foods like cookies, hard candy, lollipops, instant coffee and tea;
special food for babies or older people. The food should be kept dry and
cool. Cookies, crackers and other items should be put in plastic bags.
in your house should have a complete change of clothes and a pair of
sturdy shoes or boots stored in the disaster kit. You should also have
rain gear, thermal underwear and blankets or sleeping bags.
Ask your mom, dad or another adult for help in locating or creating your
first aid kit. These are the things your first aid kit should have:
adhesive bandages of different sizes
Hypoallergenic adhesive tape
or other pain reliever
Kids Activity Survival Kit
You may have to leave your house during a disaster and may sleep somewhere
else for a while. It’s smart to put together your own Kid’s Activity
Survival Kit so you will have things to do and share with other kids.
These can all be stored in a backpack or duffel bag. Just make sure you
can carry it easily. Some suggested items for your Activity Survival Kit:
A few of
your favorite books.
pencils or marking pens and plenty of paper.
favorite toys such as a doll or action figure.
two board games.
A deck of
(One with lots of pieces is good — it takes a long time to do!)
people figures and play vehicles that you can use to play out what is
happening during your disaster — such as ambulance, fire truck,
helicopter, dump truck, police car, small boats.
stuffed animal or puppet.
blanket or pillow.
of the family and pet.
safe" box with a few treasures that make you feel special.
Information courtesy of