You can prepare for and deal with many emergencies. But while emergencies as well as disasters require a quick, well-planned response, disasters fall into the category of sudden, unexpected and far reaching, typically encompassing a larger geographic area and a greater scale of devastation. Government and disaster response from the Red Cross and others may take a while to reach you and your family, so knowing what to do right away to keep your family safe is wise. The suggestions that follow cover the most frequent types of disasters that affect North America. In all cases of a disaster, a call to 911 and a call to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are recommended as soon as you, your family and neighbors are in a secure location and not facing imminent danger.
Earthquake: When indoors and unable to exit quickly, stand against an interior wall or under a strong table. If outdoors, get into an open area and avoid powerlines, trees or poles that could topple. If driving, move your car away from traffic, bridges and overpasses and seek open space. Leave crowded public spaces to avoid panicky crowds.
Flood: When advised to vacate your property do so immediately. Use the safest major route of escape and avoid all low-lying areas. Never trust fast-moving water, no matter how shallow it appears. In a car, avoid bridges and underpasses. Seek the highest ground that is nearby.
Hurricane: Stay indoors and away from windows; it is best to stay in interior rooms. Mobile home owners should seek safer buildings to shelter in until the storm is over. Turn off electricity. Seek shelter on higher ground if your property is in a floodplain. If possible, let others know by phone or text where you are.
Volcano: While not frequent, they are high on the devastation scale. Stay indoors to avoid ashfall. Wear a mask to protect against inhaling ash or dust. Protect your eyes from ash. Be aware of possible fast-moving mud or lava flows. Protect pets or livestock.
Wildfire: Leave the area as quickly as possible; don’t wait to see how things develop. Seek downhill routes rather than uphill routes that speed fire burn. Avoid canyons. Stay low if on foot and make a water-soaked mask-respirator if possible.
Sinkhole: States most susceptible to sinkholes are Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. If you start falling and believe it to be a sink hole, cover your head with your arms as best you can to allow some breathing room. Yell loudly to attract attention and help.
Tornado: Take cover in an interior room, hallway or stairwell; the more walls, the better. Get under a sturdy piece of furniture and protect your head, or get in a tub and cover yourself with a mattress. Stay away from windows, and keep them closed so high winds and dangerous debris cannot enter.
Tidal wave or tsunami: Pre-plan for a successful evacuation. Discuss with family where you might reunite should a tsunami hit. Take a headcount of every single member of the community; ensure that assistance for disabled or ill persons can be provided. Ensure that warning and evacuation signals are understood by everyone. Have a high-elevation shelter in mind and get to it as fast as possible.
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