There are important differences among potential emergencies that
will impact the decisions you make and the actions you take. Learn more
about the potential emergencies that could happen where you live and
the appropriate way to respond to them. Knowing what to do during an
emergency is an important part of being prepared and may make all the
difference when seconds count.
- Biological Threats - A biological attack is the deliberate
release of germs or other biological substances that can make you
sick. Many agents must be inhaled, enter through a cut in the skin
or be eaten to make you sick. Some biological agents, such as anthrax,
do not cause contagious diseases. Others, like the smallpox virus,
can result in diseases you can catch from other people.
- Power Outages - The biggest Blackout in U.S. history occurred
on August 14, 2003, leaving roughly 50 million people without power.
Blackouts can happen anywhere, and to anyone, so being prepared
- Chemical Attacks - A chemical attack is the deliberate
release of a toxic gas, liquid or solid that can poison people and
- Earthquakes - While Earthquakes are sometimes believed
to be a West Coast phenomenon, there are 45 states and territories
throughout the United States that are at moderate to high risk from
earthquakes. An earthquake is the sudden, rapid shaking of the Earth,
caused by the braking and shifting of subterranean rock. Since it
is not possible to predict when an earthquake will occur, it is
essential that you and your family are prepared ahead of time.
- Explosions - An explosion is a sudden increase in volume
and release of energy in an extreme manner, usually with the generation
of high temperatures and the release of gases. Explosions do not
commonly occur in nature. The most common artificial explosives
are chemical explosives.
- Extreme Heat - A heat wave is an extended period of extreme
heat, and is often accompanied by high humidity. These conditions
can be dangerous and even life-threatening for humans who don't
take the proper precautions.
- Fires - Each year, more than 4,000 Americans die and more
than 20,000 are injured in fires, many of which could be prevented.
Direct property loss due to fires is estimated at $10 billion annually.
To protect yourself, it is important to understand the basic characteristics
of fire. Fire spreads quickly; there is no time to gather valuables
or make a phone call. In just two minutes, a fire can become life-threatening.
In five minutes, a residence can be engulfed in flames. Heat and
smoke from fire can be more dangerous than the flames. Inhaling
the super-hot air can sear your lungs. Fire produces poisonous gases
that make you disoriented and drowsy.
- Floods - Flooding is the nation's most common natural
disaster. Flooding can happen in every U.S. state and territory.
However, all floods are not alike. Some can develop slowly during
an extended period of rain, or in a warming trend following a heavy
snow. Others, such as flash floods, can occur quickly, even without
any visible signs of rain. Be prepared for flooding no matter where
you live, but particularly if you are in a low-lying area, near
water or downstream from a dam. Even a very small stream or dry
creek bed can overflow and create flooding.
- Hurricanes - Hurricanes are severe tropical storms that
form in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico,
and in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Scientists can now predict hurricanes,
but people who live in coastal communities should plan what they
will do if they are told to evacuate.
- Influenza Pandemic - A pandemic is a global disease outbreak.
An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza A virus emerges
for which there is little or no immunity in the human population
and the virus begins to cause serious illness and then spreads easily
person-to-person worldwide. The federal government, states, communities
and industry are taking steps to prepare for and respond to an influenza
pandemic. If a pandemic occurs, it is likely to be a prolonged and
widespread outbreak that could require temporary changes in many
areas of society, such as schools, work, transportation and other
public services. An informed and prepared public can take appropriate
actions to decrease their risk during a pandemic.
- Mudslides - Landslides, also known as mudslides and debris
flow, occur in all U.S. states and territories, and can be caused
by a variety of factors including earthquakes, storms and fires.
Landslides can occur quickly, often with little notice, the best
way to plan for a mudslide is to stay informed about changes in
and around your home that could signal that a Landslides is likely
to occur. Look for changes in landscape and water drainage, or new
cracks in foundations and sidewalks.
- Nuclear Threats - A nuclear blast is an explosion with
intense light and heat, a damaging pressure wave and widespread
radioactive material that can contaminate the air, water and ground
surfaces for miles around. During a nuclear incident, it is important
to avoid radioactive material, if possible. While experts may predict
at this time that a nuclear attack is less likely than other types,
terrorism by its nature is unpredictable.
- Radiation Threats - A radiation threat, commonly referred
to as a "dirty bomb" or "radiological dispersion device (RDD)",
is the use of common explosives to spread radioactive materials
over a targeted area. It is not a nuclear blast. The force of the
explosion and radioactive contamination will be more localized.
While the blast will be immediately obvious, the presence of radiation
will not be clearly defined until trained personnel with specialized
equipment are on the scene. As with any radiation, you want to try
to limit exposure. It is important to avoid breathing radiological
dust that may be released in the air.
- Thunderstorms - In the United States lightning kills 300
people and injures 80 on average, each year. All thunderstorms produce
lightning and all have the potential for danger. Those dangers can
include tornadoes, strong winds, hail, wildfires and flash flooding,
which is responsible for more fatalities than any other thunderstorm-related
hazard. Lightning's risk to individuals and property is increased
because of its unpredictability. It often strikes outside of heavy
rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall. Most
lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors
in the summer months during the afternoon and evening.
- Tornados - Tornadoes are nature's most violent storms.
They can appear suddenly without warning and can be invisible until
dust and debris are picked up or a funnel cloud appears. Planning
and practicing specifically how and where you take shelter is a
matter of survival. Be prepared to act quickly. Keep in mind that
while tornadoes are more common in the Midwest, Southeast and Southwest,
they can occur in any state and at any time of the year, making
advance preparation vitally important.
- Tsunamis - Tsunamis, also known as seismic sea waves,
are most common along the Pacific coast, but can strike anywhere
along the U.S. coastline. Tsunamis are enormous waves caused by
an underground disturbance such as an earthquake. They can move
hundreds of miles per hour, and hit land with waves topping 100
feet in height.
- Volcanoes - Potentially active volcanoes in the United
States exist mainly in Hawaii, Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
When pressure builds up within a volcano's molten rock, it has the
potential to erupt, sending forth lava flows, poisonous gases and
flying rock and ash that can sometimes travel hundreds of miles
- Wildfires - If you live where there is an abundance of
plants and other vegetation that can easily catch fire, you may
be vulnerable to wildfires.
- Winter Storms - While the danger from winter weather varies
across the country, nearly all Americans, regardless of where they
live, are likely to face some type of severe winter weather at some
point in their lives. That could mean snow or subfreezing temperatures,
as well as strong winds or even ice or heavy rain storms. One of
the primary concerns is the winter weather's ability to knock out
heat, power and communications services to your home or office,
sometimes for days at a time.