Think your area is immune from bad weather conditions? There has been an increasing frequency of storms in the last 50 years and this year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that there is an imminent flood threat in the Midwest, South and East. The US Geological Survey, meanwhile, notes a significant rise in earthquake frequency in the U.S in 2009.
What precautions you take during these potential emergencies largely depends on where in the U.S. you live, and whether your home is an apartment or a house. This guide will help you know how and where to seek shelter.
In the Deep South the primary seasonal weather-related concerns are hurricanes and floods. Joe Laud of the Houston Emergency Center says one of the best ways to prepare is to plan ahead. Make sure all members of your household know your evacuation or other steps to take when an emergency hits. He also says it's advisable to store enough food and water to supply your family for at least a week. Hurricanes can knock out power and other essentials for days, as Hurricane Ike did in 2008.
Where available, people with special needs for transportation may be able to pre-register with local government agencies, so that they can help. People with pets should have an emergency plan for them, too. Laud says that far from being alarmist, these precautions could make a huge difference.
"During times of those instances, we don't normally respond to the calls, because that would be putting our first responders in harm's way," Laud explains. Being prepared is your best defense for these "very real" situations, he adds.
Laud says most homes and apartment buildings in his area do not have basements because of the frequent flooding. He advises people to either evacuate or seek out the highest floor in their homes or apartments for shelter. In the case of hurricanes, people are best protected in interior rooms that are windowless.
According to the National Hurricane Center, the hurricane season in the Atlantic begins June 1st and lasts through November 30th, while the Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May15th and also ends November 30th.
In the Great Plains, tornadoes can be even more deadly than hurricanes because they can seem to appear out of nowhere. It's important to pay attention to tornado watches and warnings issued over the air, and to listen for warning sirens in their communities.
Unlike flood emergencies, people are advised to move to low-lying or underground areas for shelter. If that's not available, seek an interior room, or a bathroom or closet; the more walls around you, the better.
People are also advised to listen to a radio in case of such emergencies, to stay informed of the fast-changing weather. Communities are also encouraged to stake out a communication plan in advance to alert senior citizens and shut-ins.
Never try to outrun a tornado.
Although unrelated to weather, earthquakes are always a threat in California and other West Coast states.
If indoors, the government advises that you drop to the ground and look for overhead protection, such as crouching below a table or in a closet. People should hold onto large pieces of furniture for support until the shaking has finished. And to be aware that aftershocks are common after the initial earthquake occurs.
While it might be common sense, remember to stay away from fixtures or hanging picture frames or anything that could fall down and cause injury.