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Natural Disasters


They can happen anywhere, anytime. An earthquake is a sudden, fast shaking of the earth. One can strike without warning - causing fires, explosions and landslides. Earthquakes happen when rock that is below the earth's surface breaks and shifts. People in all states are at some risk from earthquakes.

Safety Messages for Children 

  • If you're indoors during an earthquake, drop, cover and hold on. Get under a desk, table or bench. Hold on to one of the legs and cover your eyes. If there's no table or desk nearby, sit down against a wall. Pick a safe place where things will not fall on you, away from windows, bookcases or tall, heavy furniture.
  • Wait in your safe spot until the shaking stops, then check to see if you are hurt. Check the people around you too. Move carefully and watch out for things that have fallen. Be ready for smaller earth-quakes called aftershocks.
  • Be on the lookout for fires. Earthquakes can cause fire alarms and fire sprinklers to go off. If you must leave a building after the shaking stops, use the stairs, not the elevator.
  • If you're outside during an earthquake.. stay outside. Move away from buildings, trees, street lights and power lines. Crouch down and cover your head.
  • If you are in a car, stay there with your seatbelt fastened.

 Action Steps for Adults

  • Help children understand what to expect in an earthquake and how to protect themselves.
  • With children, find safe places in every room of your home or the classroom. Practice "drop, cover and hold on".. getting under a table or other sturdy object. Look for safe places inside and outside of other buildings where you spend time.
  • Explain that it is dangerous to run outside when an earthquake happens because falling objects can hurt people.
  • Tell children to be prepared for after-shocks - smaller earthquakes that can happen over a period of weeks (and sometimes months) after the first earthquake. Be sure they know to go to a safe place during aftershocks.
  • At home: belt down water heaters and gas appliances. Place large or heavy objects and fragile items (such as glass or china) on lower shelves. Securely fasten shelves to walls. Brace or anchor high or top-heavy objects.



Fire is the disaster that families are most likely to experience. Talk with children about fire safety, and practice these activities with them. Keep in mind that children under age five are at the highest risk.

Safety Messages for Children 

  • Matches and lighters are tools, not toys. These tools help adults use fire properly. If you see someone playing with fire, tell an adult right away.
  • If a fire starts in your home or you hear the smoke detector alarm, yell "Fire!" several times and go outside right away.
  • If you live in a building with elevators, use the stairs. Never try to hide from a fire. Leave all your things where they are. Once you are outside, go to your meeting place and then send one person for help.
  • If your clothes catch fire...stop, drop and roll, Stop what you are doing, drop to the ground, cover your face and roll over and over until the flames go out. Running will only make the fire worse.

Action Steps for Adults

  • Show children how to crawl low, under smoke to escape. Explain that they should feel a door before opening it. If the door is hot, find another way out.
  • If they cannot get outside safely, instruct them to hang sheets outside a window so firefighters can find them.
  • Practice "stop, drop and roll" with children. Explain that running away will only make the fire burn faster.
  • At home, choose an outside meeting place, such as a tree, street corner or mailbox. Make sure it will be a safe distance from heat, smoke and flames. Tell children to go directly to this meeting place in case of fire. This plan will help you know quickly if everyone got out safely.Make sure children understand that once they are outside, they should stay outside. Children are often concerned about the safety of their pets, so discuss this issue before a fire starts.
  • Find two ways to escape from every room and practice getting out of your home during the day and at night. Chart these escape routes on you own "home escape plan." If you have escape ladders, show your children where it's kept and how to use it.
  • Practice your home escape plan at least twice a year. Quiz children about every six months so they will remember what to do and where to meet.
  • Install smoke detectors on every level of your home, especially near bedrooms. Clean and test them monthly, and change the batteries at least once a year. Make sure children know what your smoke detector sounds like.
  • Check electrical wiring in your home. Fix frayed extension cords, exposed wires or loose plugs.
  • Make sure your home heating source is clean and in working order. Many home fires are started by faulty furnaces or stoves, cracked or rusted furnace parts and chimneys with creosote build-up.



Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural hazards. Even very small streams, gullies, creeks, culverts, dry streambeds or low lying ground that may appear harmless in dry weather can flood.

Safety Messages for Children 

  • If you come upon flood waters, stop Turn around and go another way. Climb to higher ground. Stay away from flooded areas.. even if it seems safe, the water may still be rising. Never try to walk, swim or dive into the water because it may be moving very fast.
  • IMPORTANT NOTE: Less than six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock people off their feet, and two feet of water will float a car. If you are in a car, get out immediately and move to higher ground.Watch out for snakes in areas that were flooded.
  • Never play around high water, storm drains, ditches, ravines or culverts.

Action Steps for Adults

  • Know the terms used on the radio or television that warn of potential flooding conditions:
    • Flood/Flash Flood Watch: Flooding or flash flooding may occur within the designated WATCH area be alert.
    • Flood/Flash Flood Warning: Flooding or flash flooding has been reported or is imminent - take necessary precautions at once!
  • Find out if you live in a flood plain. If you do, call your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter to learn what types of supplies should be stored to protect your home from floodwater.
  • Know the elevation of your property in relation to nearby streams and darns so that you will know if forecasted flood levels will affect your home.
  • Throw away food that has come into contact with flood waters. Eating it could make you very sick.



A hurricane is a tropical storm with winds reaching 74 miles per hour or more. Hurricane winds blow in a large spiral around a relatively calm center known as the eye. The eye is generally 20 to 30 miles wide, and the storm may spread outward as far as 400 miles. 

As a hurricane approaches, the skies will begin to darken and winds will increase. As a hurricane nears land, it can bring heavy rains, strong winds and extremely high tides. Coastal areas may need to be evacuated.

Hurricane season lasts from June 1 through November 30 each year.

Hurricane Watch: A Hurricane conditions are a real possibility in the area.

Hurricane Warning: A Hurricane is expected within 24 hours. 

At Hurricane Warnings: 

  • Listen for weather updates and stay informed.
  • Keep portable radio and flashlight on hand - with fresh batteries.
  • Clear your yard of all lose objects.
  • Move your boat to a safe harbor and more securely. Do not stay with the boat.
  • Store drinking water in clean containers.
  • Shutter or board all windows and secure double-door entrances.
  • Plan your evacuation route, know where to go, and fill your car's gas tank.
  • IF ORDERED TO EVACUATE - OBEY IMMEDIATELY! Take your HURRICANE EVACUATION KIT. Turn off water, gas and electricity.
  • Evacuate manufactured (mobile) homes for more substantial shelter.



A thunderstorm is a storm with lightning caused by changes in air pressure. Severe thunderstorms can bring heavy rains, which can cause flash flooding, strong winds, hail, and tornadoes.
At any given moment, nearly 1,800 thunderstorms are in progress over the face of the earth.
Lightning always accompanies a thunderstorm and lightning can strike the same place twice.

Safety Messages 

  • If you see or hear a thunderstorm coming, go inside a sturdy building or car.
  • If you can't get inside, or if you feel your hair stand on end, which means lightning is about to strike, hurry to a low, open space immediately. Crouch down and place your hands on your knees.
  • Move away from tall things like trees, towers, fences, telephone lines or power lines. They attract lightning. Never stand underneath a single large tree out in the open because lightning will hit the highest point in an area.
  • Stay away from metal things that lightning may strike, such as umbrellas baseball bats, fishing rods, camping equipment and bicycles.
  • If you are boating or swimming, get to land immediately.
  • Lightning can cause electric appliances, including televisions and telephones, to become dangerous during a thunderstorm. Turn off the air conditioner and television, and stay off the phone until the storm is over.



Tornados are nature's most violent storms. They can devastate an area in seconds. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud, striking the ground with whirling winds of up to 200 miles per hour. A tornado spins like a top and may sound like an airplane or train.  Most tornadoes travel a distance of about 10 miles, although "tornado tracks" of 200 miles have been reported. Tornados can happen just about anywhere in the United States.

Tornado Watch: Weather conditions are right for tornados to develop. A watch does not necessarily mean a tornado will develop.

Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted and is dangerous. Take immediate action and take cover!

Safety Messages 

  • If you hear or see a tornado coming, take cover right away.
  • If you're in a house or apartment building, go to the basement or storm cellar. If there is no basement, go to the middle section of the building on the lowest level - and go into a bathroom or closet, if possible. Make sure these places are away from windows and heavy furniture that could tip over.
  • Get under something sturdy, such as a heavy table, and stay there until the danger has passed. Use your arms and hands to protect your head from falling or flying objects.
  • If you're outside, in a car or in a mobile home, go immediately to the basement of a nearby sturdy building
  • If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in a low spot. Use your arms and hands to protect your head. If you hear or see water, move quickly to another spot.
  • If you live in a single-family home in a tornado-prone area, find out how to reinforce an interior room on the lowest level of your home, such as the basement, storm cellar, bathroom or closet, to use as a shelter.



A winter storm can range from several inches of snow over a few hours to blizzard conditions that last several days. Winter storms can last several days and be accompanied by high winds ,freezing rain or sleet, heavy snowfall and extreme cold. People can become stranded on the road or trapped at home, without utilities or other services. Most of the United States is at some risk from winter storms.

Safety Messages 

  • The best way to stay safe in a snowstorm is to stay inside.
  • Many layers of thin clothing are warmer than single layers of thick clothing. One of the best ways to stay warm is to wear a hat; most body heat is lost through the top of the head. Keep hands and feet warm too. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Covering the mouth with a scarf protects lungs from extremely cold air.
  • Teach children how to watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. A loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, nose or ear lobes are symptoms of frostbite. Uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling, drowsiness and exhaustion are symptoms of hypothermia. If you suspect frostbite or hypothermia, seek immediate medical assistance.
  • Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart.
  • In your home, have available some kind of emergency heating equipment and fuel so you can keep at least one room of your home warm. If your furnace is controlled by a thermostat, and the power goes out, you will need emergency heat.
  • If you are trapped in your car during a snowstorm, stay there. Leave the car only if help is visible within 100 yards. To attract attention, hang a brightly colored cloth on the radio antenna and raise the trunk. Turn on the car's engine for about 10 minutes each hour. Run the heater and turn on the dome light when the car is running. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation.
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