How To Prepare For Each Natural Disaster – Stay Safe!

This informational guide on natural disaster preparation will give any individual the basic tools and knowledge necessary to stay informed, safe, and secure during and after an inclement weather event. In covering a variety of natural disasters that can wreak havoc on towns, cities, and entire regions, this article attempts to distinguish certain survival strategies, highlight items/tools that may be of use, and shed light on ways in which anyone may mitigate damage to their personal property or themselves. 

Why You Should Always Be Prepared 

Extreme weather, like many things in life, can be extremely unpredictable and potentially devastating for an unprepared individual. Whether it be rising floodwaters, high winds, landslides, or fire, by preparing ahead of time for the most dire of natural disasters, homeowners, renters, and anyone else who may find themselves in a region prone to inclement weather will have the peace of mind that they are ready to safely evacuate at a moments notice, and more importantly, make it out of a harsh weather event unscathed.

The benefits of being prepared for a weather related disaster that may never even come to fruition is then evident. Quick evacuation, improved chance of survival, and an added sense of security and confidence in such stressful moments are just some of the benefits of having a contingency plan should disaster strike. 

How to Prepare for Any Natural Disaster  

Here are the main things to keep in mind when it comes to each natural disaster.

Wildfires

These massive fires can move quickly and get out of control in a moments notice. Here are a few things to keep in mind with the thick smoke and flames of summer bear down on your area.

Items Needed to Prepare

As summers get drier and the heat grows stronger, wildfires will only continue to wreak havoc on parched forests and plains. Unfortunately for many, forest fires are well known, and well documented as being rather persistent in the face of firefighting efforts, meaning that there is no true way to guarantee the safety of a given property should a forest fire draw near.

However, as with any other disaster, a general emergency preparedness kit full of non-perishable food items, first aid supplies, and breathing masks should be something everyone has at the ready during the summer months, particularly in heavily wooded areas in arid regions. 

What to Expect in the Moment

Forest fires move fast. As with a rudimentary house fire, a small flame can grow exponentially when introduced to a suitable environment full of fuel. Whether by firework, match, lightning strike, or any other means, a small blaze can turn into a miles long fire in a matter of hours by virtue of sheer volume of wood present in a forest.

Generally speaking, individuals tend to have plenty of time to evacuate a region before the fire engulfs homes or neighborhoods, though evacuation itself can sometimes pose danger simply because the fire could have already taken over large swaths of land surrounding the escape route. Nonetheless, local media and emergency responders will keep those in harm's way well informed during the blaze, though the heavy smoke and intense heat from the fire may be enough of a sign of danger regardless. 

How to React in the Moment

Though one would have ideally evacuated long before the fire comes near, there is always the chance that one may be trapped by a forest fire. In this case, one should seek refuge in an empty field or meadow, far from any trees or underbrush that may be susceptible to burning. Should the fire pose an immediate threat to your bodily safety, it is recommended that you lay face down on the ground and attempt to cover your body with any fire retardant material available to you, such as a fire blanket or wet clothes/towel.

While fire is the most obvious danger in such a situation, the true danger comes in the form of smoke. To avoid inhalation of the noxious fumes, one should cover their face withe clothing, or ideally, a mask, and keep their face low to the ground where the air is cleanest. 

How to Recover Immediately After the Event  

Once the blaze has stopped, or you have safe exit route from the forested area, one should immediately seek the assistance of local emergency response teams. It is important to seek out medical attention and ensure that one is well hydrated, and properly stocked with fluids and food for the coming days. Be sure to heed the warning of the media and local officials on whether or not it is safe to return to dwellings, and stay up to date on the movement and containment of the blaze.  

Earthquakes

Though these events may not happen as often as others, their results can be catastrophic. Anyone living near a fault should take some of the following tips and suggestions into consideration to ensure their safety. 

Items Needed to Prepare

Earthquakes can be a frightening thing to experience primarily because there is very little warning as to when they will occur. Unlike other natural disasters like tsunamis, wildfires, and severe storms, these tectonic events are mostly undetectable, and can therefore come as a very unwelcome surprise to those who are unprepared.

Though it is difficult to truly prepare for an earthquake without breaking the bank on seismic reinforcement work for your home or business, it is recommended that everyone have an emergency kit at the ready,  (e.g. a small supply of food, stocked first aid kit, rechargeable flashlight, a tent, etc.).

What to Expect in the Moment

The nature of earthquakes and their developmental origin within the Earth's crust means that no earthquake will have the same intensity or effect on different people or locations. The strength, location, and depth of an earthquake relative to an individual are major contributing factors to "how severe" an event may feel. In general, one can expect to feel an initial bump or jolt, which is then quickly followed by a longer, more severe period of ground rumbling/shaking.

Individuals experiencing minor earthquakes can expect to notice little more than a light shaking/swaying sensation, which may cause chandeliers and other household objects to sway or move slightly. In a stronger earthquake, an individual may experience violent shaking that will overturn furniture, damage property, and render it difficult to stand or walk. The duration of an earthquake is rarely longer than 10-40 seconds, though some strong events may produce shaking that can last for minutes at a time. Areas affected by an earthquake may also feel aftershocks in the coming minutes, hours, and days following an event.  

How to React in the Moment

Due to the spontaneous nature of earthquakes, it is very easy to find yourself in a potentially hazardous environment when the shaking begins. The American Red Cross generally recommends the "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" technique for those who find themselves in an earthquake, particularly when indoors. As suggested by its name, this technique involves immediately getting low to the ground and seeking out shelter under sturdy furniture or other cover at the first notion of shaking. For those inside a building, it is best to remain calm and find protection within the structure rather than running outside.

However, if you do find yourself outside during such an event, it is best to seek out an open piece of land that is far from any power lines, cars, buildings, or pipes. Should you find yourself behind the wheel of a car, it is best to pull into as open an area as possible and stop the vehicle. As with any other situation, it is best to distance yourself from any potential hazards when you bring the car to a stop, so make sure that you are at a safe distance from any bridges, overpasses, buildings, or other structures. 

How to Recover Immediately After the Event  

In the moments after an earthquake, it is important to keep a cool head and be cautious about your environment. Be sure that any structure you may enter or exit is safe and structurally sound, and be sure to watch out for any downed power lines, gas leaks, or fires. Generally speaking, it is best to retrieve your previously prepared disaster kit and seek an open space outdoors until you are certain of the structural integrity of your surroundings.

Be sure to pay attention to the radio and/or other media outlets for important information and updates on the earthquake and any further problems it may pose. Though strong earthquakes can be devastating on their own, severe seismic events can also trigger a tsunami in coastal locations, so it is crucial that those living on the coast be attentive to their surroundings and media/official updates on any potential dangers. 

Avalanches or Landslides

There are few naturally occurring forces on earth than the immense force generated by the mass movement of land or snow down the face of a mountain. Though disaster may strike regardless of how prepared one may be, here are some tried and true methods one can use to not only identify potential slide danger, but also improve the likelihood of survival in an avalanche or landslide. 

Items Needed to Prepare

Though they may seem similar in nature, landslides and avalanches are quite different in their effects on the environment and should be treated as different natural disasters that should be prepped for individually. For a landslide, preparation is fairly limited. The best possible way to avoid being affected by a landslide is to ensure that any properties that you may rent r opt to purchase have been thoroughly surveyed by a geologist to ensure that the risk of a landslide is low.

However, hikers should opt to prepare for landslides in a similar way that a skier or snowboarder should prepare for an avalanche. That is, all mountain goers should wear a gps or avalanche beacon at all times to ensure that emergency responders can quickly and easily find them in the unfortunate case that they find themselves buried in snow or earth. 

What to Expect in the Moment

Avalanches and landslides are instantaneous movements of massive quantities of snow or earth that make a loud roar as they rip down a mountain side. These massive material slides can be extremely dangerous for climbers, skiers, snowboarders, or hikers, as the volume of material and hazardous materials a landslide or avalanche may pick up can both pose life threatening risk to anyone caught in their path. Though both can be somewhat difficult to predict, there are some ways in which one can identify potential landslide or avalanche risk.

For the former of these, intense or prolonged rain can lead to over saturation of soil which can ultimately lead to the destabilization of a hillside and cause a massive landslide. When observing snow conditions to assess avalanche risk, one should be sure to take into consideration recent snowfall, weather patterns, and the slope environment. Generally speaking, avalanches are most likely to occur in places where snow can't bind together very well, meaning that steeper slopes, rocky faces, or areas that have seen a rapid change in weather that results in a mixture of icy, crystalized layers with softer powder can be particularly dangerous. 

How to React in the Moment

Whether it be a major slide of snow or earth, the best plan of action is to immediately get out of it's path. That is, when caught in the middle of an avalanche or landslide, don't try to outrun it (they are massive walls of matter that are subject to earth's gravity; they WILL catch you).

Instead, mountaineers should move as horizontally as possible, exiting to the side nearest to them. Slides, because of gravity, are naturally downmoving phenomena, so getting out of the downward path is always the best option in an avalanche or landslide. 

How to Recover Immediately After the Event  

Should you find yourself caught in an avalanche or landslide and unable to escape its path, you may very well find yourself buried by feet of dirt or snow when the movement stops. This is a very, very precarious situation to find oneself in, and it is pertinent that one stay calm, assess their surrounds (if possible), and attempt to mitigate the situation. Should you be able to move any portion of your body under the weight of the snow or dirt, digging is almost always the best plan of action.

With that said, many times the incredible weight of the material contained in the slide may be too much for you to move under, giving victims little more to do then stay calm, limit breath/panic, and hope that emergency responders can find the beacon quickly. Though these situations can seem perilous, staying calm, cool, and collected is one's best chance for survival. 

Floods

Whether you live near the ocean, a lake, or on the banks of a river, floods pose a very serious danger to anyone living in low lying lands in proximity to water. Here are some tips and preparation strategies to ensure that you can get out of a flood safely, and potentially mitigate damage to your property.  

Items Needed to Prepare

Of all of the natural disasters outlined in this preparation guide, floods are often some of the most spontaneous. For this reason, it is extremely important to have a well thought out flood plan and emergency kit at the ready in preparation for the worst, particularly for those in low lying, flood prone areas. Generally speaking, one should establish a rough flood evacuation route so they may quickly flee to higher ground in the event of a flood.

Other ways to prepare for floods is to make structural decisions around your home or business to mitigate damage from flood waters, should you have the time to do so. Choosing to avoid carpet flooring, lifting your home off the ground, or using some sort of barrier (e.g. sand bags, concrete, or levees) can help to limit damage and make recovery that much easier. 

What to Expect in the Moment

Like many other natural disasters, floods can take a variety of different forms that may present a variety of potentially dangerous situations for individuals who find themselves in their path. Whether the flood is the result of a powerful storm, infrastructure breakdown, or a torrential downpour upriver, flood waters tend to rapidly overwhelm the low lying areas in which they take hold, often leaving residents little time to evacuate. 

How to React in the Moment

Due to the cumulative force of the massive volume of water contained in a flood, old, weakened infrastructure such as bridges, homes, and other small buildings may collapse or suffer heavy damages once the water level begins to rise. Compromised infrastructure, while posing significant problems for clean up and recovery, can pose an immediate danger to those trapped by the flood, as its waters may contain a number of hazards such as downed electrical wire, spilled chemicals/oil, subsurface objects and many others.

For this reason, individuals are advised to stay out of flood waters if at all possible, and instead seek out aid from disaster relief agents or others who have access to dry land or an aquatic vessel in which they can flee towards higher ground. As suggested by the government site Ready.gov, individuals who find themselves in the midst of a flood warning should avoid going near any bridges, river banks, or low lying buildings if possible, for they are quite susceptible to failure during a storm or flash flood. 

How to Recover Immediately After the Event   

Unfortunately for many, the next steps following a flood are quite dependant on any given situation. In general, it is recommended that homeowners contact their insurance agencies, take photos of their property, ensure that no secondary hazards are present (e.g. electrical fires, burst pipes, etc.) and begin to try and remove extant water and mitigate water damage to the structure in question.

It is important for homeowners, renters, and all other affected by the flood to be in close contact with local authorities and disaster relief agencies during, and after the flood to ensure that they are not only safe, but also able to find food and medical supplies should they be needed. 

Tsunamis

Though severe earthquakes can cause major structural damage and widespread disaster, tsunamis are rivaled by few weather related events in terms of raw destructive power. Below are some ways in which anyone living in proximity to the ocean can prepare for disaster. 

Items Needed to Prepare

As with most natural disasters, it is recommended that everyone in tsunami warning areas have an emergency stock of food and first aid supplies so that they are ready to evacuate quickly if needed. Individuals should also have a solid knowledge of their surrounding area and have a well established evacuation route that they can take at a moments notice. 

What to Expect in the Moment

Unlike the seismic events that often trigger them, (most) tsunamis are readily predictable and allow individuals ample time to seek out high ground. Though non-seismic tsunamis can occur (think massive landslide into a lake/bay), most are triggered by massive earthquakes. In the hours following a severe earthquake, the massive wave generated at sea will slowly pull the water away from the shore, leaving boats and other marine infrastructure to lay on the freshly exposed sea floor.

When the tsunami does finally hit, it rushes up the beachfront with great speed and unprecedented strength. The run-up, or level to which the water of a tsunami rises above sea level as it pushes inland following the initial wave break, is the most dangerous aspect of a tsunami, as the sheer volume and power of the water picks up anything and everything it comes into contact with. Low-lying areas, river valleys, and channels are then logically the most dangerous areas to be in the event of a tsunami, as the geographical environment of such locations allow water to move relatively unobstructed. 

How to React in the Moment

Thankfully, there tends to be multiple hours between the initial seismic event and the resulting tsunami, so there is often ample time to seek out high ground for those in low-lying areas. However, panic and mass exodus often leads to extreme traffic and roadway congestion, meaning some will inevitably be caught in the pathway of the impending tsunami.

Should you find yourself unable to reach high ground, it is best to seek shelter within a tall, structurally sound building. If possible, avoid any and all small structures within the immediate vicinity of the coastline, as homes, shops, and other small buildings are very often destroyed by the incredible force of these events. 

How to Recover Immediately After the Event  

Those affected by a tsunami should be sure to wait until the surge of water has receded before leaving their place of refuge. Moving through flood water can be dangerous, so it is important to be cautious and be very aware of surroundings before returning to a home or other establishment. If it is deemed safe to leave high ground, it is best to immediately seek out disaster aid locations, contact disaster officials such as the Red Cross and the Coast Guard, and be sure to stay tuned into emergency broadcast updates. 

Blizzards

While snowfall can bring pleasant feelings of cold winters and the joy of the holidays, these monster storm systems can be downright deadly if underestimated. Here are some things to keep in mind with the cold of winter sets in and a storm is on the radar. 

Items Needed to Prepare

Though it is suggested that everyone have an emergency supply of food and first aid supplies ready for any natural disaster, this sort of preparation is especially prudent in the event of a blizzard. Due to the nature of these types of storms, individuals may find themselves trapped in their homes, potentially without power, for days at a time. It is therefore extremely important that you have a multiple day supply of non-perishable food, alternative, non-electrical heating methods, and other basic disaster supplies

What to Expect in the Moment

While some blizzards can involve particularly strong storm systems that bring strong winds, hail, and an onslaught of snow, some storms can be fairly docile in the sense that they just bring periods of snowfall that seem to never cease. 

How to React in the Moment

Though these storms can be as beautiful as they are dangerous, it is important that individuals take steps to ensure their safety and well-being during snowfall. Make sure to find your way to your residence as quickly and safely as possible, seal the home to conserve heat, locate your emergency supply of food, medicine, and other supplies, and be conscious and well informed of the warning signs of hypothermia. 

How to Recover Immediately After the Event  

Blizzards can be dangerous in the sense that they can cut you off from the outside world for days on end. Once the snow has stopped, be cautious when venturing outside. Doors and windows may often by blanketed by a thick wall of snow, so be sure to have a shovel at the ready. Avoid driving in the snow if at all possible, and be sure to layer up if you must leave the residence for food or supplies. 

Heat Waves

Unfortunately for many, the unrelenting death grip of intense summer heat waves has only worsened in the previous years, and will likely continue to do so. As warm seasons become more intense, and sustained heat becomes a norm for much of the world, here are some ways to stay cool, healthy, and safe under the intense summer sun. 

Items Needed to Prepare

As one of the deadliest and most common natural disasters across the globe, being prepared for the dangerously high temperatures of a heat wave is a necessity, regardless of locale or regional climate. When under a heat advisory, individuals should take steps to mitigate the temperature of their home, identify cool areas in the immediate area in which they may take refuge from the scorching heat, stay out of the sun when possible, avoid strenuous exercise, and ensure that they remain well hydrated. 

What to Expect in the Moment

As defined by the government web page Ready, a heat wave is a series of 2-3 consecutive days in which temperatures surmount 90 degrees and reach high levels of humidity. Heat waves can be particularly uncomfortable to be in primarily due to the latter of these two factors, as high humidity can make even shaded areas almost unbearably hot. 

How to React in the Moment

Much like a blizzard, the best way to combat a heat wave is to limit your time outdoors. Settling in with a competent air conditioning unit and plenty of water tends to be the best option in extreme heat, as even the most mundane of outdoor tasks can spell disaster when temperatures soar. Should you need to venture outside for whatever reason, be sure to avoid direct sunlight if at all possible, carry cold water, and seek any extra protection from the sun's rays if possible (think hats, damp towels, etc.) 

How to Recover Immediately After the Event  

Fortunately, recovering from a heat wave is not as arduous as some other natural disasters, as heat tends not to result in as much structural damage as some other powerful weather events. Most people who suffer through high heat won't need to take major steps to recover after the temperature dips, as most will have to deal with little more than slight dehydration and mild sun burns.With that said, one should be sure to be on the lookout for any structural damage caused by the extreme heat in small structures and roadways, as high temperatures can, and often do, cause roads to buckle and warp. 

Drought

As our cities get more populated and summer becomes increasingly dry and hot, water consumption and limitation will become a necessary inconvenience for much of the world. By employing some of the suggested strategies below, homeowners, renters, and anyone else impacted by water use can save a bit of money and help mitigate the risk of drought in their area. 

Items Needed to Prepare

In preparation for a drought, one should first and foremost seek out a reliable source of drinking water. Should the possibility of a drought begin to loom over your area, bottled drinking water may become extremely scarce. As with any other adverse weather event, it is best for individuals to stock up on emergency supplies well before a drought becomes an inevitability so as to avoid any last second panic and run on bottled water.

Should one live in a region that is particularly vulnerable to drought, making conscious decisions to purchase indoor and outdoor appliances that are maximally water efficient could simultaneously save a homeowner some money, conserve water, and make those extra dry periods slightly easier to bear.

What to Expect in the Moment

Though most associate droughts with periods of intense heat, this is not necessarily the case for every drought event. In reality, all that a prototypical drought needs to begin is a lack of precipitation. However, some drought events can take hold just by virtue of poor water management by a large group of people. Nonetheless, most droughts do in fact carry the telltale signs of heat and a lack of precipitation that we all have come to expect, and individuals are generally well informed of a potential water shortage by the local media. 

How to React in the Moment

As one would expect, the primary goal for anyone in the midst of a drought is to save and conserve water in any way shape or form. Taking steps to limit water consumption by avoiding lawn/garden watering, cutting bathing to only short showers, avoiding trivial water loss in the bathroom by not allowing the faucet to run while brushing your teeth or washing your face, limiting the amount of times you flush the toilet, and any other tactic that could save even the littlest amount of water. 

How to Recover Immediately After the Event  

Similar to heat waves, the recovery period following a drought is not as intensive as it may be for other natural disasters. Following the dry period, individuals may slowly return to their normal rate of water consumption without much adjustment. However, it would certainly be beneficial for individuals to begin to implement water conservation appliances and practices in preparation for a future drought event. 

Tornadoes

One of the more fabled natural disasters on this list, twisters can pose a very real and very scary threat for many around the world. Though the likelihood of being impacted by an actual tornado is somewhat low for a given individual, having the tools and knowledge of what to do when a supercell system rolls into town can be a lifesaving skill to possess. 

Items Needed to Prepare

Though the appearance of a tornado is most strongly associated with the Midwestern United States, these strong storms can arise in a variety of environments, so long as a warm and cold front may find contact with one another. To prepare for a tornado, one should have a general emergency kit full of nonperishable food items and first aid supplies at the ready. Individuals living in tornado prone areas should also have immediate access to, or knowledge of, an underground storm shelter in which they may seek refuge should a tornado strike in the immediate area.

What to Expect in the Moment

For most, the appearance of a tornado shouldn't come as a surprise. Most areas where tornadoes pose a very real threat have a number of tornado warning systems in place to sound the alarm for an impending storm. Nonetheless, there are some tell-tale signs that a tornado could form that everyone should know. As many in the midwest will attest to, storms that ultimately yield tornadoes have commonly been characterized as strong, dark cloud systems that turn the sky a deep green color.

These storms can range in strength and appearance, with some resulting in torrential downpours, and others remaining relatively precipitation-less, so to speak. Though tornadoes often pose no immediate danger so long as they are in the distance, one should always tune in to local news outlets should their be a storm on the forecast to ensure that the storm won't stray toward their specific area. 

How to React in the Moment

Should you find yourself under a tornado warning, the best plan of action is to immediately seek refuge within an underground storm shelter or other low lying room or basement to wait out the storm. Be sure to keep tabs on the local media to ensure that you stay up to date on any developments on the storm. 

How to Recover Immediately After the Event  

When emerging from a storm cellar or other place of refuge, one should be very conscious of their immediate surroundings. Be careful to assess any damage to the buildings around you and avoid any potential fire or electrical hazards. Be sure to identify local places of refuge should their be significant damages to the property, and avoid digging around through any debris until emergency responders are on scene. 

Conclusion

Though each of the above natural disasters boasts a long list of damage and destruction over the course of human history, it is important to stay calm in the face of danger, prepare for disaster, and act swiftly should danger present itself. In reality, most of us will never have to suffer through a true natural disaster in our lifetimes, statistically speaking.

However, it is nonetheless important that everyone be aware of any potential weather/geological hazards present in the region, and have a solid emergency plan of action prepared ahead of time to ensure their safety and survival. Natural disasters may be rare, but they are deadly. Preparation takes little time, money, and effort, but can be the difference between life and death when disaster strikes. 

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