Americans live in the most severe weather-prone country on Earth. Each year, Americans cope with an average of 100,000 thunderstorms, 10,000 of which are severe; 5,000 floods; 1,000 tornadoes; and an average of 2 land falling deadly hurricanes. And this on top of winter storms, intense summer heat, high winds, wild fires and other deadly weather impacts.
Some 90% of all presidentially declared disasters are weather related, leading to around 500 deaths per year and nearly $14 billion in damage.
No community is storm proof, being prepared from the onslaught of severe weather through advanced planning, education and awareness can save lives.
For more weather related information on emergency preparedness utilize the following links:
Maryland Emergency Management Agency: www.mema.maryland.gov/Pages/homePreparedness_heat.aspx
Federal Emergency Management Agency: www.fema.gov
National Weather Service: www.nws.noaa.gov
Tornadoes are nature's most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in seconds. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide by 50 miles long with whirling winds which can reach 300 miles per hour. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible.
If tornadoes are likely in your area you should:
- Listen to NOAA weather radio, commercial radio or local television newscast for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
- Be alert to changing weather conditions.
- Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
- Look for the following danger signs:
- Dark, often greenish skies.
- Large hail.
- A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating.)
- Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
- If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a tornado hazard:
Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or local television for updates.
Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.
Tornado Emergency: generally means that significant, widespread damage is expected to continue and a high likelihood of numerous fatalities is expected with a large, strong to violent tornado. Emergency is enhanced wording of tornado warnings used by the National Weather Service (NWS) in the United States during significant tornado occurrences in highly populated areas.
A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone or severe tropical storm that forms in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. Hurricanes can produce winds exceeding 155 miles per hour as well as tornadoes and microbursts. Additionally, hurricanes can create storm surges along the coast and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall. Floods and flying debris from excessive winds are often the deadly and destructive results of these weather events. Slow moving hurricanes traveling into mountainous regions tend to produce especially heavy rain. Excessive rain can trigger landslides or mud slides as well as flash flooding.
If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:
- Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you need to evacuate.
- If in a high rise building be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor.
- Listen to the radio or local television for updated information.
- Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
- Ensure a supply of water for sanitarily purposes such as washing and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub with water and other large containers with water.
- Find out how to keep food safe during a power outage.
- Stay indoors during an hurricane and away from glass windows and doors.
- Keep curtains and blinds closed. Don’t be fooled by a lull; it could be the eye of the storm- winds will pick up again.
- Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on a lower level.
- Lie on the floor, under a table or sturdy furniture.
You should evacuate under the following reasons:
- If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow instructions.
- If you live in a high rise building- hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
- If you on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river or on an island waterway.
One of the most frightening and destructive phenomena of nature is a severe earthquake and its terrible aftereffects. An earthquake is the sudden, rapid shaking of the earth, caused by the breaking and shifting of subterranean rock as it releases strain that has accumulated over a long time.
If an earthquake occurs in your area you should:
- Drop, cover and hold on. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and if you are indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.
- Take cover by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture. Hold on until the shaking stops. If a table is not available cover your face and head with your arms and crouch at an inside corner of the building.
- Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls as well as anything which could fall such as lighting fixtures or heavy furniture.
- Do not use a doorway unless you know it is a strongly supported, load bearing doorway and it is close to you. Many inside doorways are lightly constructed and offer minimal protection.
- Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Do not exit a building during the shaking. Research has shown most injuries occur because of unnecessary movement or being hit by falling debris while exiting a building during the event.
- Do not use elevators.
- Be aware electricity may go out or sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
- Stay there.
- Move away from buildings, streetlights and utility wires.
- Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and along exterior walls from falling debris. Ground movement is seldom the cause of injury. Most earthquake-related causalities result from collapsing walls, flying glass and falling objects.
If in a moving vehicle
- Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses or utility wires.
- Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges or ramps which might have been damaged by the earthquake.