Natural Disaster Preparation

There are certain things you can learn and do that will help you get ready for, and cope with, almost any type of natural disaster.

Perhaps the most basic thing to remember is to keep calm. This may mean the difference between life and death. In many disasters, people have been killed or injured needlessly because they took thoughtless actions when they should have done something else–or done nothing at all just then.

In a time of emergency, taking proper action may save your life. Take time to think, and then take the considered action that the situation calls for. Usually, this will be the action you have planned in advance or the action you are instructed to take by responsible authorities.

Here is another guidance that applies to most types of natural disasters.


In most communities having outdoor warning systems, the Attack Warning Signal is a wavering sound on the sirens, or a series of short blasts on whistles, horns, or other devices. This signal will be used only to warn of an attack against the United States.

Many communities also are using an Attention or Alert Signal, usually a 3- to 5-minute steady blast to get the attention of their people in a time of threatened or impending peacetime emergency. In most places, the Attention or Alert Signal means that people should turn on their radio or television sets to hear important emergency information being broadcast.

You should find out now, before any emergency occurs, what warning signals are being used in your community, what they sound like, what they mean, and what actions you should take when you hear them.

Also, whenever a major storm or other peacetime disaster threatens, keep your radio or television set turned on to hear Weather Bureau reports and forecasts (issued by the Environmental Science Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce), as well as other information and advice that may be broadcast by your local government.

When you are warned of an emergency, get your information on the radio or television. Use your telephone only to report important events (such as fires, flash floods, or tornado sightings) to the local authorities. If you tie up the telephone lines simply to get information, you may prevent emergency calls from being completed.


A major disaster of almost any kind may interfere with your normal supplies of water, food, heat, and other day-to-day necessities. You should keep on hand, in or around your home, a stock of emergency supplies sufficient to meet your needs for a few days or preferably for a week.

If you stayed at home during the disaster, these supplies would help you live through the period of emergency without hardship. If you had to evacuate your home and move temporarily to another location, your emergency supplies could be taken with you and used en route or after you arrived at the new location (where regular supplies might not be available). Even if you only had to move to an emergency shelter station set up by a local agency, these supplies might be helpful to you, or make your stay easier.

The most important items to keep on hand are water (preferably in plastic jugs or other stoppered containers); canned or sealed-package foods that do not require refrigeration or heat for cooking; medicines needed by family members, and a first aid kit; blankets or sleeping bags; flashlights or lanterns; a battery-powered radio; and perhaps a covered container to use as an emergency toilet. In addition, an automobile in good operating condition with an ample supply of gasoline may be necessary in case you have to leave your home.

In those parts of the country subject to hurricanes or floods, it is also wise to keep on hand certain emergency materials you may need to protect your home from wind and water–such as plywood sheeting or lumber to board up your windows and doors, and plastic sheeting or tarpaulins to protect furniture and appliances.


Fires are a special hazard in a time of disaster. They may start more readily, and the help of the fire department may not be available quickly. Therefore, it is essential that you:

1. Follow the fire prevention rules and be especially careful not to start fires.

2. Know how to put out small fires yourself.

3. Have on hand simple tools and equipment needed for fire fighting.


Use extreme caution in entering or working in buildings that may have been damaged or weakened by the disaster, as they may collapse without warning. Also, there may be gas leaks or electrical short circuits.

Don’t bring lanterns, torches or lighted cigarettes into buildings that have been flooded or otherwise damaged by a natural disaster, since there may be leaking gas lines or flammable material present.

Stay away from fallen or damaged electric wires, which may still be dangerous.

Check for leaking gas pipes in your home. Do this by smell only– don’t use matches or candles. If you smell gas, do this: (1) Open all windows and doors, (2) Turn off the main gas valve at the meter, (3) Leave the house immediately, (4) Notify the gas company or the police or fire department, (5) Don’t re-enter the house until you are told it is
safe to do so.

If any of your electrical appliances are wet, first turn off the main power switch in your house, then unplug the wet appliance, dry it out, reconnect it, and finally, turn on the main power switch. (Caution: Don’t do any of these things while you are wet or standing in water.)
If fuses blow when the electric power is restored, turn off the main power switch again and then inspect for short circuits in your home wiring, appliances, and equipment.

Check your food and water supplies before using them. Foods that require refrigeration may be spoiled if electric power has been off for some time. Also, don’t eat food that has come in contact with flood waters. Be sure to follow the instructions of local authorities
concerning the use of food and water supplies.

If needed, get food, clothing, medical care or shelter at Red Cross stations or from local government authorities.

Stay away from disaster areas. Sightseeing could interfere with first aid or rescue work and may be dangerous as well.

Don’t drive unless necessary, and drive with caution. Watch for hazards to yourself and others, and report them to local authorities.

Write, telegraph or telephone your relatives, after the emergency is over, so they will know you are safe. Otherwise, local authorities may waste time locating you–or if you have evacuated to a safer location, they may not be able to find you. (However, do not tie up the phone lines if they are still needed for official emergency calls.)

Do not pass on rumors or exaggerated reports of damage.

Follow the advice and instructions of your local government on ways to help yourself and your community recover from the emergency.

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