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Emergency Response Guide: Natural Disasters


Earthquake – Seismic Activity – Structural Collapse

Although most earthquakes occur in areas near fault zones, many earthquakes have taken place far from these known locations. Without much warning, an earthquake can devastate an area within seconds by causing extensive destruction of property, buildings, homes and loss of life.

  • Be aware of seismic risk in your area.
  • Look to identify and correct any structural weaknesses in your building.
  • In newer construction, greater awareness has taken into account frame structure that is more flexible and better able to withstand seismic activity.
  • In the event of an earthquake, stay inside until the motion stops. Most injuries occur when people get hit by falling objects while entering or exiting a building.
  • Minimize and restrict your movement during an earthquake; stay low, cover up and look to hold on to a solid stationary object.
  • Stay away from windows, glass, and lighting fixtures that could fall.
  • Do not use elevators.
  • If you are in a vehicle, avoid stopping under or near buildings, trees, overpasses, utility wires, or bridges that could be prone to collapse.
  • Be alert for aftershocks; they can do additional damage to already weakened structures. Check for injuries and follow accepted “First Aid” procedures.
  • Monitor news reports for updated safety bulletins.


  • Be familiar with alternate flood evacuation routes. Avoid low lying areas prone to flooding.
  • Elevate items of value; expensive equipment, important documents, etc., above the water level.
  • Contact the utility company to determine if it is advisable to shut down power sources that may be adversely affected by flooding.
  • Make a determination regarding the flood potential and if evacuation from the area is necessary.
  • If the source of flooding is water main break, immediately contact the water company provider.
  • Be sure to account for all occupants of the building and or affected flood zone.
  • Do not re-energize downed power sources in the flood area until it is safe to do so.
  • Monitor weather updates regarding flood conditions.


Hurricanes are considered one of the most dangerous and destructive extreme weather conditions. They can cover wide geographic areas with winds that can range from 75 to 150 miles per hour. They are classified by their wind speed.

  • Reduce the potential for loose debris that can cause danger to employees and damage to the building because of high winds.
  • Secure sensitive equipment with waterproof covers.
  • Avoid being in close proximity to windows or glass structures.
  • Shut down utilities.
  • If you cannot evacuate, move to an interior room, close doors. Stay close to the floor. Make use of secure/sturdy furniture that can serve as a barrier for protection.
  • Be sure to have transistor radio, flashlight (extra batteries), bottled water, and snacks as a source of nutrition if storm is severe and long lasting.
  • Stay indoors during the hurricane.


Lightning kills more people across the United States than tornadoes. It is second to flooding in weather related deaths. In addition to injuries or death, lightning causes fires, power outages, and structural damage.

  • Monitor storm conditions; reports of lightning and severe thunderstorms.
  • Avoid open outdoor areas, hilltops, beaches, or being in a boat on the water.
  • Instruct employees to remain indoors.
  • Stay clear of metal objects that can act as conductors for lightning, including umbrellas
  • Be aware, “lightning can strike in the same place twice.” It seeks the best conductor to the ground; not always the highest point or object.
  • Do not stand under a tree.
  • Unplug appliances, electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners before the storm nears, never during the storm. Power surges from lightning can cause extensive damage.
  • Avoid using telephone; lightning can strike telephone lines.
  • Cordless and cellular telephones are safer, but should also be avoided unless needed for an emergency.
  • Avoid using motorcycles, golf carts, and bicycles.
  • Stay away from glass; severe thunderstorms with lighting can also produce large particles of hail that can break windows.


Tornadoes usually develop from severe thunderstorms. This violently rotating column of air can be unpredictable, cutting a path of destruction in a straight line, or moving erratically back and forth and even reversing direction.

  • Remain alert for approaching storms by monitoring a portable radio (maintain extra batteries).
  • Seek shelter in a basement area or interior room away from windows and glass. Interior stairways on a lower floor may also provide protection.
  • If outside, avoid open areas, look to find a sturdy building to use for cover, avoid standing close to glass or light weight overhangs.
  • Since power could be lost, maintain a supply kit of bottles water, snacks, etc.
  • If in a vehicle, look to park in a secure garage or where there is shelter. Avoid wide open areas. Exit vehicle for shelter moving to the lowest floor of a sturdy building.
  • If caught outside with no shelter, look for a ditch, lie down, and cover your head with your hands.
  • Remain alert for broken glass and downed power lines.

Winter Storms

Freezing rain, sleet, heavy snow, and ice can be the source of treacherous travel conditions, either driving in a vehicle or walking.

  • Follow weather forecasts; prepare for winter storms and extreme cold.
  • Stay alert for “black ice.” It may be difficult to detect.
  • Dress appropriately with several layers of light clothing as opposed to one layer of heavy clothing. Wear gloves, scarf, boots, and hat to prevent frostbite and hypothermia. Try to avoid breathing in cold air that can affect your lungs

Intense Summer Heat

Intense heat can cause physical problems from “heat cramps,” where you can experience muscle pain to “heat exhaustion,” a mild form of shock from strenuous activity to “heat stroke,” a life-threatening condition where the body’s temperature control system shuts down. Heat stroke can cause brain damage and it can be fatal.

  • Stay indoors as much as possible in an air conditioned setting.
  • Avoid strenuous activity.
  • Drink plenty of fluids even if you are not thirsty to help avoid dehydration.
  • Dress in loose fitting clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
  • Wear light colored clothing that reflects heat and sunlight.
  • Use sunscreen location with a high “Sun Protection Factor” (SPF).
  • If body temperature elevates to where victim is showing signs of possible heat stroke, call 911 (EMS) and until their arrival, use cool wet towels, ice packs wrapped in towels or cloth around the victim’s neck and under the arms.