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What To Do In Storms, Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Earthquakes And Floods

Storms

This applies to storms, gales and thunderstorms.

Get indoors.

If you cannot get indoors, keep away from any objects that may fall or be blown into you, such as trees, walls, fences, etc. Especially keep away from the leeward (sheltered) side of objects, as this is the direction in which they will collapse or be blown.

When you become aware that the wind is building up, make sure that loose objects around your property are secured or put away. Essentially you don't want items being flung around so that they may cause harm or damage.

Make sure all windows and external doors are securely closed and locked, including those for garages and outbuildings. Keep internal doors shut.

Park vehicles in a garage or shelter them in some other outbuilding if possible. If shelter is not available, park them away from buildings, walls, fences, trees, etc, so as to minimize the risk of having anything fall on or be blown into the vehicles.

Loft and attic trapdoors should be firmly shut and bolted so as to prevent debris coming into the occupied part of the property if the roof should collapse due to the high wind.

If there are shutters to the exterior of the windows and/or doors, close them and fasten them securely.

Chimney stacks, particularly tall ones or ones in poor condition, can be at risk of collapse in storms, so keep away from areas inside the property that are immediately below or next to chimneys.

Do not be tempted to go out during a storm to retrieve things that have been blown away, or to try to repair or stop damage that is being or has been caused.

If you must leave a property, do so on its sheltered side if possible.

Avoid driving or being in a vehicle if you can, but if unavoidable, be especially careful on bridges and on stretches of road exposed to the wind. Take a more sheltered route if you can. Be on the lookout for pedestrians and other vehicles that might unexpectedly get blown towards your vehicle.

Lightning

You can tell how close lightning is to you by the time interval between the lightning flash and the sound of the accompanying thunder. If you are counting the interval in seconds, you are not in immediate danger. If the intervals are getting less, the lightning is to some extent heading in your direction.

Get indoors. You are not totally safe indoors, but you are certainly at much higher risk if you are outdoors.

Choose a substantial building to go into if possible. Avoid flimsy structures such as summer houses, pavilions, etc.

Keep away from electrical appliances. If you have time before the storm gets near, switch off and unplug anything electrical. Do not use a landline telephone during a storm. Have a torch handy in case the storm causes a power outage.

Keep away from anything connected to water - pipes, radiators, toilets, sinks, basins, baths, showers, etc.

Even after the thunderstorm seems to have passed and you can no longer hear any thunder, stay indoors for, say, half an hour and continue to be careful until it is quite clear that the storm has definitely passed and you can behave as normal and/or go outside.

If you cannot get indoors, if possible be inside a vehicle - a hardtop vehicle, not a convertible. Keep the windows closed.

If outdoors, avoid being high up - for example, on a hilltop.

Avoid being in the middle of open fields.

Keep away from trees.

Do not have an umbrella or anything metal with you. Do not be holding onto golf clubs or fishing rods. (They may not be metal, but they are likely still to be good conductors of electricity.)

Do not use a mobile phone if outside during a storm. Preferably do not have a mobile phone on your person.

Keep away from water. Electricity conducts through water easily. If swimming, fishing, boating or canoeing, if possible get out of and away from the water.

Keep away from anything metal - for example, wire fencing. Lightning is attracted to metal and conducts well through it.

If on a motorcycle or bicycle, get off it and move away from it.

If on a boat or ship, get inside.

If in the open and you sense lightning may be about to strike - your skin may tingle - squat down low, balance on the balls of your feet, and keep your head down, but do not touch the ground with your hands or any part of your body other than your feet (in shoes). Do not lie down.

After A Storm

Be careful if you walk next to buildings, trees, walls, etc, as they may have been weakened by the storm and be in danger of collapse.

Look out for, and avoid, cables that may have been blown down.

If you yourself are alright, check up on family, friends and neighbors to check that they have coped with the storm satisfactorily and come through it safely.


Hurricanes

Technically hurricanes are tropical cyclones with torrential rains and sustained winds of 74 miles an hour or more blowing around a central 'eye' (the relatively peaceful 'eye of the storm').

Hurricanes are classified into 5 categories based on their wind speeds:

Category 1 - winds of 74-95 mph

Category 2 - winds of 96-110 mph

Category 3 - winds of 111-130 mph

Category 4 - winds of 131-155 mph

Category 5 - winds of greater than 155 mph

When hurricanes approach the coast they cause a storm surge of water which crashes onto the coastline, and it is this that causes the deaths of 9 out of 10 people killed in hurricanes. Therefore the obvious thing to do if you know a hurricane is approaching is to get away from the coastline. Also get yourself above sea level. Keep away from rivers, inland waterways and flood plains.

Hurricanes also give rise to tornadoes and to heavy rains that can cause flooding, landslides, etc.

If in an area that you know is prone to hurricanes, you should regularly listen to or watch weather forecasts to get any warning announcements for approaching hurricanes.

There are 2 warnings. 'Hurricane Watch' means a hurricane is possible within 36 hours. 'Hurricane Warning' means a hurricane is expected within 24 hours. If advised to evacuate the area, do so. Even if not advised to do so, it may still be a sensible precaution to temporarily move elsewhere and get yourself out of the expected path of the hurricane. Therefore you should ensure that your vehicle or vehicles are properly maintained and are topped up with fuel and that you know what route you would take during an evacuation.

If you live in a mobile home or some other temporary or semi-permanent type of dwelling, you should evacuate whether you are advised to or not.

If you are not required to evacuate and are not voluntarily doing so, stay indoors. Keep away from windows. If there is a lull in the storm, be aware that it could be 'the eye of the storm' and that the storm may resume again shortly. Listen to a local radio station on a battery radio for any update announcements that may be made.

Have emergency supplies in case the hurricane should leave you stranded and isolated. For example, have a first aid kit, general purpose fire extinguisher, flashlights, spare batteries, a battery or wind-up radio, clothing, bedding, cash, and food and water - enough to last several days if need be.

Ideally your property should be protected with storm shutters. Otherwise consider boarding up windows and glazed doors with plywood.

Shut off utilities - water, gas, electricity.

Bring objects that are outdoors inside or put them under shelter somewhere.

After A Hurricane

Keep away from disaster areas (unless you are already in one) unless the authorities call for volunteers. There is a danger from coming up against looters, running foul of debris, being at risk from unstable structures, and there is potential danger from downed or shorted-out electrical cables and connections.

Avoid driving if possible. There will be debris around, and roads, bridges and other structures may have been weakened by the hurricane.

Report any damage to infrastructure, gas pipes, sewers, water pipes, electricity cables, telephone lines, etc, to the relevant organizations.

Likewise if you are aware that people have been hurt, make sure that medical attention has been sought and is being arranged.

If relevant, deal with any insurance claims you need to be making. Otherwise get on with repairing your property and restoring it to its proper condition.


Tornadoes

A tornado is a powerful rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm down to the ground with wind speeds of 250 miles an hour or more. It can cause destruction across a path more than one mile wide.

As with hurricanes, the authorities may issue a 'watch' and a warning'.

You do not want to be in a vehicle or a mobile home or other type of temporary or semi-permanent structure, and you do not want to be outdoors. So …

… get indoors. If possible, choose the largest, most solid building you can find. Inside a large building, move deeper into the interior rather than staying nearer the outer walls or in the outer rooms of the building.

Because tornadoes are connected with storms and high winds, take precautions as you would for storms and hurricanes. Flying debris and property destruction are the greatest risks from tornadoes. Make sure windows and doors are closed and well sealed and keep away from them.

If you have a basement in your home, that is probably the safest place to shelter.

If you are caught outside or in a vehicle, get out of the vehicle and lie flat on the ground, preferably in a ditch or some other sort of depression.


Earthquakes

Have emergency supplies available to see you through the aftermath of an earthquake.

As with all potentials natural emergencies, it may be appropriate to arrange a post-emergency meeting point for yourself, friends and family (and in certain circumstances, work colleagues).

Any furniture and appliances that may topple during an earthquake should either be 'pre-toppled' or fixed securely in place. Likewise, anything breakable should be put on the floor or packed away.

Get under a desk or table, etc. Alternatively, stand against an interior wall. Do not stand against or next to an exterior wall.

Stay away from windows.

Do not use elevators.

Other than whatever furniture you may be sheltering under, keep away from any items that may suddenly move and harm you.

If you're outside, keep away from buildings, overhead cables, and anything that may fall and harm you.

If you're driving, get away from other traffic and stop. Keep clear of buildings, bridges, underpasses, overpasses, lamp posts, signs, trees, overhead cables, etc. Stay in your vehicle.

Get away from slopes. Be aware of the danger of landslides.

If on or near the coast, bear in mind that earthquakes can give rise to tsunamis or freak waves and water surges of greater or lesser size, so it is best to get away from the coast and move onto higher ground.

If in a crowd, you are problem at more risk from being trampled or crushed when people panic than from being hurt as a direct result of the earthquake itself, so do not panic. Get some distance between you and other people.

After An Earthquake

Keep a lookout for fire, broken gas and water pipes, exposed electrical cables, broken glass, holes in the ground, weakened structures, things that may be about to fall, and so on.

Avoid driving.

Remember that large earthquakes can be followed by significant aftershocks that can do a further amount of great damage.


Floods

As usual, have emergency supplies ready.

Move what you can upstairs. This includes personal items and important documents. Things that can't be taken upstairs can perhaps be lifted up off the floor. Vehicles should be taken to higher ground and parked.

People and pets should move to higher ground above the predicted level of flooding, and obviously it is then preferable to be indoors.

Switch off all services and utilities.

Fit flood protection items and equipment and take water exclusion measures if available/possible.

If outdoors, do not walk or drive through flood water. Moving water is much more powerful than you may realize.

Take care when crossing over water on bridges, footpaths, etc.

Watch out for manhole covers and other covers that may have come away and left exposed holes.

Watch out for fallen power lines.

Wash flood water off you with clean water. The flood water may have caused sewers to overflow and so the water may be contaminated.

Be aware that flooding can give rise to landslides, so avoid slopes if possible.

Health


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