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Natural Disasters

Local Natural Disasters

Here in the Pacific Northwest, there are a few natural disasters that we are most likely to experience.  Those include Earthquakes, Floods and Winter Storms.

Earthquakes

Seventy million people in 39 states are at high risk from earthquakes. People in all states, however, are at some risk. Approximately 1,000 earthquakes occur in Oregon State every year. While there is little we can do to avoid earthquakes, there is much we can do to prepare for them.

Here a few things you can do before, during and after an earthquake:

Before:

  • Get together with the members of your household and put together a disaster plan and Emergency Preparedness Kit
  • Know how to shut off all utilities
  • Ensure your house is firmly anchored to its foundation
  • Anchor overhead lighting fixtures
  • Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves
  • Brace high and top-heavy objects
  • Repair defective electrical wiring, leaky gas and inflexible utility connections
  • Securely fasten water heaters and gas appliances

During:

  • If indoors– take cover under sturdy furniture or against an inside wall, and hold on, “Drop, Cover and Hold”. Stay away from the kitchen!
  • If outdoors– stay there. Move away from buildings, street lights and utility wires
  • In a high-rise building– take cover under sturdy furniture away from windows and outside walls. Stay in the building on the same floor. An evacuation may not be necessary. Wait for instructions from safety personnel. Do not use elevators
  • In a vehicle– stop as quickly as safety permits, and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses or utility wires

After:

  • Check yourself and other for injuries
  • Prepare for after shocks
  • Wear shoes to prevent injury
  • If you smell gas or hear a hissing sound – open a window, leave the building and shut off the main gas valve outside
  • Check your home for structural damage to include the chimney
  • Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that can fall off shelves
  • Listen to the radio for the latest emergency information
  • Stay off the streets and avoid damaged areas, unless you have been asked to help by proper authority

For more information on Earthquake Preparedness go to: fema.gov/earthquake

Floods

Flood Preparedness information from Washington Military Department, Division of Emergency Management:

  • A “flood potential outlook” is issued when forecast meteorological conditions indicate significantly heavy precipitation may occur. The “flood potential outlook” is generally issued 36 hours or more before the potential event
  • A “flood watch” is issued when meteorological conditions raise the threat of flooding, but occurrence is neither certain or imminent. A “flood watch” is generally issued 12 to 36 hours before the potential event
  • A “flood warning” is issued when flooding is expected within 12 hours or is in progress. Take action to protect lives and property immediately. The following are recommendations for before, during, and after a flood.

Here a few things you can do before, during and after a flood:

Before:

  • Find out if you live in a flood-prone area and identify earthen, irrigation, hydro-electric, etc…
  • Plan for evacuation
  • Consider purchasing flood insurance
  • Take steps to flood proof your home
  • Keep all insurance policies and your household inventory in a safe place

During:

  • To ensure safety, leave the area and go to shelter on higher ground
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, local radio or television stations for information
  • Be aware of streams, drainage channels and areas known to flood suddenly
  • If local authorities issue a flood watch, prepare to evacuate
  • If instructed, turn off utilities at the main switches or valves
  • Stay away from flood waters
  • Do NOT attempt to drive over flooded roads
  • The depth of water is not always obvious
  • The road bed may be washed out under the water, and you could be stranded or trapped

After:

  • Stay away from flood waters – moving water six inches deep can sweep you off your feet
  • Be aware of areas where flood waters have receded and may have weakened road surfaces
  • Stay away from and report downed power lines
  • Stay away from disaster areas unless authorities ask for volunteers
  • Continue listening to the radio for event and assistance information
  • Throw away food that has come in contact with flood waters 
Winter Storms and Extreme Cold

Heavy snowfall and extreme cold can immobilize an entire region. Even areas that normally experience mild winters can be hit with a major snowstorm or extreme cold. Winter storms can result in flooding, storm surge, closed highways, blocked roads, downed power lines and hypothermia.

Know The Terms

Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a winter storm hazard:

  • Freezing Rain: Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees, and power lines
  • Sleet: Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery
  • Winter Storm Watch: A winter storm is possible in your area. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for more information
  • Winter Storm Warning: A winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area
  • Blizzard Warning: Sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour or greater and considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile) are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer
  • Frost/Freeze Warning: Below freezing temperatures are expected

Before Winter Storms and Extreme Cold

Prepare for possible isolation in your home by having sufficient heating fuel; regular fuel sources may be cut off. For example, store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.

Winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel supply by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic.

Dress For The Weather

  • Wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent
  • Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves
  • Wear a hat

During A Winter Storm

The following are guidelines for what you should do during a winter storm or under conditions of extreme cold:

  • Listen to your radio, television, or NOAA Weather Radio for weather reports and emergency information
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack—a major cause of death in the winter. If you must shovel snow, stretch before going outside
  • Watch for signs of frostbite. These include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia. These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body first, and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible
  • Maintain ventilation when using kerosene heaters to avoid build-up of toxic fumes. Refuel kerosene heaters outside and keep them at least three feet from flammable objects
  • Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive, consider the following:
    • Travel in the day, don’t travel alone, and keep others informed of your schedule
    • Stay on main roads; avoid back road shortcuts