Home Fire Prevention and Safety Tips (excerpt from our It’s A Disaster! book)

May 18, 2017

Did you know fire kills more Americans every year than all natural disasters combined? At least 80% of all fire deaths occur in residences — and careless smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths. And cooking fires (leaving food unattended or human error) is the leading cause of home fires.

Fire spreads so quickly there is NO time to grab valuables or make a phone call. In just two minutes a fire can become life threatening! In five minutes a house can be engulfed in flames.

A fire’s heat and smoke are more dangerous than the actual flames since you can burn your lungs by inhaling the super-hot air. Fire produces poisonous gases that make you drowsy and disoriented (confused). Instead of being awakened by a fire, you could fall into a deeper sleep.

 

BEFORE A FIRE (FIRE SAFETY TIPS):

Install smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors! – Test alarms 1-4 times a month, replace batteries once a year, and get new units every 10 years.

Make a plan – Create an Escape Plan that includes two escape routes from every room in the house and walk through the routes with your entire family. Also…

  • Make sure your windows are not nailed or painted shut.
  • Make sure security bars on windows have a fire safety opening feature so they can be easily opened from the inside…and teach everyone how to open them!
  • Teach everyone how to stay LOW to floor (air is safer).
  • Pick a spot to meet after escaping fire (meeting place).

Clean up – Keep storage areas clean – don’t stack up newspapers & trash.

Check power sources – Check electrical wiring and extension cords — don’t overload cords or outlets. Make sure there are no exposed wires anywhere and make sure wiring doesn’t touch home insulation.

Use caution – Never use gasoline or similar liquids indoors and never smoke around flammable liquids!

Check heat sources – Check furnaces, stoves, cracked or rusty furnace parts, and chimneys. Always be careful with space heaters and keep them at least 3 feet (1 m) away from flammable materials.

Know how to shut off power – Know where the circuit breaker box and gas valve is and how to turn them off, if necessary. (And always have a gas company rep turn on a main gas line.)

Install A-B-Cs and remember P-A-S-S – Install A-B-C fire extinguishers in the home since they work on all types of fires, and teach family members how to use them. Remember P-A-S-S = Pull the pin; Aim at the base of the fire; Squeeze the trigger; Sweep side to side.

Call local fire – Ask local fire department if they will inspect your home or business for fire safety and prevention.

Teach kids – Explain to children that matches and lighters are TOOLS, not toys… and if they see someone playing with fire they should tell an adult right away! And teach them how to report a fire and when to call 9-1-1.

Prevent common fires – Pay attention when cooking & don’t smoke in bed!

 

DURING A FIRE:

If only a small fire that’s not spreading too fast…

Try to put out…? – Use a fire extinguisher or water (unless it’s an electrical or grease fire) … and never try to put out a fire that’s getting out of control!

  • electrical fire – never use water… use a fire extinguisher approved for electrical fires
  • oil or grease fire in kitchen – smother fire with baking soda or salt (or, if burning in pan or skillet, carefully put a lid over it — but don’t try to carry pan outside!)

If fire is spreading…

GET OUT – DO NOT take time to try to grab anything except your family members! Once outside, do NOT try to go back in (even for pets) – let the firemen do it! Ask a neighbor to call fire department if not already called.

GET DOWN – Stay low to the ground under smoke by crawling on your hands and knees or squat down and walk like a duck… but keep moving to find a way out!

Closed door – Using the back of your hand (not your palm) always feel the top of the door, doorknob, and the crack between the door and door frame before you open a closed door!

  • if door is cool – leave quickly, close door behind you and crawl to an exit
  • if door is hot – DO NOT open it … find another way out

No way out – If you can’t find a way out of the room you’re trapped in (door is hot and too high to jump) then hang a white or light-colored sheet, towel or shirt outside a window to alert firemen.

Use stairs – Never take the elevator during a fire … always use stairs!

If YOU are on fire – If your clothes ever catch fire, STOP what you’re doing, DROP to the ground, cover your face and ROLL until the fire goes out. Running only makes the fire burn faster!

Toxic gas – Plastics in household goods create deadly fumes when burned.

 

AFTER A FIRE:

Don’t go in there – Never enter a fire-damaged building until officials say it’s okay and watch for signs of smoke in case the fire isn’t totally out. Even if a fire’s out, hydrogen cyanide and other toxic fumes can remain.

Utilities – Have an electrician check your household wiring before you turn the power back on and DO NOT try to reconnect any utilities yourself!

Damage – Look for structural damage (roof, walls, floors, etc.) since they may be weak.

Call for help – Local disaster relief service (Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.) can help provide shelter, food, or personal items that were destroyed.

Insurance – Call your insurance agent or representative and…

  • Keep receipts of all clean-up and repair costs (for both insurance and income taxes).
  • Do not throw away any damaged goods until an official inventory has been taken by your insurance company.

If you rent – Contact your landlord since it is the owner’s responsibility to prevent further loss or damage to the site.

Move your stuff – Secure your personal belongings or move them to another location, if possible.

Above extracted from our IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? book ~ learn how to order our paperback and/or ebook for 70% to 80% off list

And learn more about fire safety and fire prevention visit the U.S. Fire Administration’s site www.usfa.fema.gov or contact your local fire department, emergency official, or your insurance agent / representative.


Hot Weather Health Emergencies (heat exhaustion versus heat stroke)

July 1, 2015

What is Extreme Heat? Temperatures that hover 10 degrees or more above the average high temperature for that area and last for several weeks are considered “extreme heat” or a heat wave. Humid and muggy conditions can make these high temperatures even more unbearable. Really dry and hot conditions can cause dust storms and low visibility. Droughts occur when a long period passes without enough rainfall. A heat wave combined with a drought is a very dangerous situation!

Doing too much on a hot day, spending too much time in the sun or staying too long in an overheated place can cause heat-related illnesses. Know the symptoms of heat illnesses and be ready to give first aid treatment.

There are two major types of heat illness – HEAT EXHAUSTION and HEAT STROKE. If heat exhaustion is left untreated it can lead to heat stroke. Both conditions are serious, however, heat stroke is a major medical emergency and getting victim’s body temperature cooled down is more critical than getting fluids in their body. Heat stroke can lead to death.

Things to watch for…

  • Heat Cramps
    • Muscle pains and spasms (usually first sign that body’s having trouble with the heat)
  • Heat Exhaustion
    • Cool, clammy, or pale skin;
    • Light-headed or dizzy and weak;
    • Racing heart;
    • Sick to the stomach (nausea);
    • Very thirsty or heavy sweating (sometimes)
  • Heat Stroke (also called Sunstroke) –
    • Very hot and dry skin;
    • Light-headed or dizzy;
    • Confusion, drowsiness or fainting;
    • Rapid breathing and rapid heartbeat;
    • Convulsions, passes out or slips into a coma

What to do…

  • Get victim to a cool or shady place and rest.
  • Lightly stretch or massage muscles to relieve cramps.
  • Loosen clothing around waist and neck to improve circulation and remove sweaty clothes.
  • Cool down victim’s body – put wet cloths on victim’s face, neck and skin and keep adding cool water to cloth… or if outdoors, use hose or stream. Also, fan the victim or get inside air-conditioned place.
  • Have victim sip cool water (NO alcohol – it dehydrates!)

If victim refuses water, pukes or starts to pass out:

  • Call for an ambulance or call 9-1-1.
  • Put victim on their side to keep airway open.
  • Keep cooling down their body by placing ice or cold cloths on wrists, neck, armpits, and groin area (where leg meets the hip) or keep adding water to cloths. Also fan the victim.
  • Check victim’s ABCsAirway, Breathing, & Circulation.
  • Stay with victim until medical help arrives.

Remember, HEAT STROKE (a.k.a sunstroke) is a medical emergency and can cause the victim to slip into a coma — getting a victim’s body temperature cooled down is more important than getting fluids in their body!

Disclaimer: These procedures are not substitutes for proper medical care. Above data extracted from IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? by Bill and Janet Liebsch


Winter Safety Tips for Pets and Livestock

December 23, 2014

winter-tips-pets-livestock4Unfortunately many people think since animals have fur or thick hide they are able to withstand the cold better than humans, but often this is not the case. Cold weather can be as hard on critters as it is on people and may lead to serious illness, injury or death.

Gimme shelter: When the temperatures drop in the winter months, bring your pets and critters indoors since they can be susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. If you don’t have a barn or structure for livestock and other outdoor animals, at least make some type of windbreak to help keep them safe and out of the wind.

If you do keep livestock indoors, make sure the barn / building is well ventilated since ammonia can build up. Also add plenty of dry bedding (such as straw) to stalls, coops and cages so animals aren’t standing or lying on the cold ground, and provide a blanket for pets to sleep on. Space heaters and heat lamps should be avoided because of the risk of burns or fire. Heated pet mats should also be used with caution because they are still capable of causing burns.

Water and food: Make sure pets and livestock have plenty of fresh food and water, and constantly check their bowls and troughs to ensure their water isn’t frozen. Increase feed amounts for pets and livestock during cold snaps since they’ll burn more calories trying to keep warm. Also try to keep at least several weeks worth of feed on hand since you don’t want to run out when it may be difficult to have another load delivered.

Watch for signs: Take extra time to observe livestock, looking for early signs of disease and injury. Ready.gov explains severe cold-weather injuries or death primarily occur in the very young or in animals that are already debilitated. Cases of weather-related sudden death in calves often result when cattle are suffering from undetected infection, particularly pneumonia. Sudden, unexplained livestock deaths and illnesses should be investigated quickly so that a cause can be identified and steps can be taken to protect the remaining animals.

winter-tips-petsAnimals suffering from frostbite don’t exhibit pain. It may be up to two weeks before the injury becomes evident as the damaged tissue starts to slough away. At that point, the injury should be treated as an open wound and a veterinarian should be consulted.

Your pets will give you signs too. If it is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia.

Also, the AVMA suggests you check your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. During a walk, a sudden lameness may be due to an injury or may be due to ice accumulation between his/her toes. You may be able to reduce the chance of iceball accumulation by clipping the hair between your dog’s toes.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association…

  • Frostbite happens when an animal’s (or person’s) body gets so cold it pulls all the blood from extremities to the body’s core to stay warm. An animal’s ears, paws, and tail can get so cold that ice crystals form in the tissue damaging it. Frostbite can be tricky because it is not immediately obvious. Sometimes the tissue doesn’t show signs of damage for several days. If you suspect your pet may have frostbite, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • Hypothermia is body temperature that is below normal. This condition occurs when an animal is unable to keep its body temperature from falling below normal. It occurs when an animal spends too much time in cold temperatures, or when an animal with poor health or circulation is exposed to cold. In mild cases, the animal will shiver and show signs of depression, lethargy, and weakness. As the condition progresses, muscles will stiffen, the heart and breathing rates slow, and the animal will stop responding to stimuli.

winter-tips-pets-cat-ck2Cat check: Outdoor and feral cats have a tendency to curl up against a warm vehicle engine during cold spells so check beneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to scare the critters away.

Hoof check: If you have hooved livestock, hoof care is very important during winter months since wet ground combined with dirty conditions (esp. bacteria and fungi) may cause thrush and foot rot. Robyn Scherer (author of “Managing Livestock in Winter Conditions” article in Countryside magazine) explains regular trimmings should be performed to keep feet in good condition. Also, if you own horses in cold country, pick their feet on a regular basis to prevent ice balls from forming, as this can cause stress on tendons and ligaments.

Antifreeze: It only takes a few tablespoons of highly toxic antifreeze to seriously jeopardize an animal’s life. Ethylene glycol, the most common ingredient in antifreeze, can cause crystals to form in an animal’s kidney, ultimately leading to kidney failure and death. Learn more about this sweet but deadly toxin on USFRA

winter-tips-pets-tinsel-by-petflowHoliday food and decorations: Avoid giving your pets rich, fatty foods like ham, turkey or goose since they can cause stomach problems, plus bones can splinter easily. And keep toxic foods such as onions, grapes, raisins, xylitol (a sugar substitute) and chocolate away from dogs, as well as plants like poinsettia, holly and mistletoe.

Dogs – esp. puppies – like to chew and eat anything … and cats love to play with shiny, dangly things so keep an eye on decorative strings of lights (both indoors and out) as well as ribbons, tinsel, ornaments and candles.

Heaters: Check your furnace to make sure it’s working efficiently, and install (and test) carbon monoxide detectors to keep your pets and family safe. Carbon monoxide is odorless and invisible, but it can cause problems ranging from headaches and fatigue to trouble breathing to even death. Also use space heaters with caution since they can burn your pets or the units can be knocked over, potentially starting a fire.

Move it: Exercise is good for pets, livestock and humans during the long winter months, but just make sure you don’t overdo it in the chilly temps and watch for signs of frostbite or hypothermia (see above). Also make sure you wipe down pet’s paws after playing or walking outside to remove any ice chunks or salt that may have gotten wedged in their pads or between their toes.

Be prepared: Cold weather also brings the risks of severe storms, blizzards, tornadoes and power outages. Create disaster supplies kits for your home and vehicles and don’t forget to pack supplies and water for your critters too. Download the Family Emergency Plan section and several topics from our IT’S A DISASTER! book to help you and others get prepared.

Sources:
American Animal Hospital Association
American Veterinary Medical Association
Countryside magazine
Grit.com
Ready.gov
U.S. First Responders Association  

Above appeared in our Dec 2013 enews

Additional Resources:

Holiday Fire Safety Tips  (about Christmas trees, lights, candles, etc.)  

Preparing for winter storms (tips to winterize home, prevent ice dams and more)

Winter Driving Tips  … and download our Winter Storm preparedness and safety tips (PDF)

12 Days of Winter Safety (a comprehensive + cost effective list by FLASH.org)

‘Tis the season for Pet safety (infographic in PDF by Pets Unlimited)

 


Get Ready to #ShakeOut October 16, 2014 (world’s largest earthquake drill)

October 9, 2014

ShakeOut_GetReady_2014-lgOn October 16, 2014 at 10:16 a.m. (your local time) people across North America and around the world will participate in the Great ShakeOut earthquake drill.

The main goal of #ShakeOut is to get people prepared for major earthquakes and use the event as an opportunity to learn what to do before, during, and after an earthquake.

You might think “I don’t have earthquakes where I live”, but did you know every continent on the planet experiences earthquakes? The U.S. Geological Service estimates there are several million earthquakes a year globally and, while a vast majority of these are very small or undetected, about 100,000 quakes per year are felt.

All 50 U.S. states and territories have earthquakes so the ShakeOut is an opportunity to practice how to protect ourselves during earthquakes. Anyone can participate and basically, wherever you are at that moment—at home, at work, at school, anywhere—you should Drop, Cover, and Hold On as if there were a major earthquake occurring at that very moment, and stay in this position for at least 60 seconds. ShakeOut also has been organized to encourage everyone to update emergency plans and supplies, and to secure your space in order to prevent damage and injuries.

Learn how to register and find games, resources and more at www.shakeout.org … and, if you’re on Twitter, join ShakeOut, America’s PrepareAthon!, and the American Red Cross at 3p (Eastern) on October 15 using #EQChat. Experts will provide safety tips and other information to get you prepared for earthquakes.

Also check out my recent interview on DestinySurvival Radio since John and I discuss the ShakeOut, earthquake preparedness, and some things to expect in the aftermath of a disaster. Let us know how you plan to ShakeOut and stay safe out there, j & B

 


Fire Prevention Week October 5 – 11, 2014

October 5, 2014

The National Fire Prevention Agency’s Fire Prevention Week runs from October 5 – 11, 2014 and this year’s official theme is “Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month!”

Did you know that many people don’t test their smoke alarms as often as they should? When there is a fire, smoke spreads fast. You need working smoke alarms to give you time to get out so test your alarms every month.

For example, did you know…

  • Almost three of five (60%) of reported home fire deaths in 2007 to 2011 resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
  • Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half.
  • In fires considered large enough to activate the smoke alarm, hardwired alarms operated 93% of the time, while battery powered alarms operated only 79% of the time.
  • When smoke alarms fail to operate, it is usually because batteries are missing, disconnected, or dead.
  • An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, or where extra time is needed, to awaken or assist others, both types of alarms, or combination ionization and photoelectric alarms are recommended.

It is best to install both smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in your home, apartment and/or RV. And remember to test alarms at least once a month, replace batteries once a year, and get new units every 10 years.

And, if you haven’t already, take some time to make an Escape Plan that includes two escape routes from every room in the house. Draw a floor plan of your home showing doors, windows and stairways. Mark locations of first aid and disaster kits, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, ladders, and utility shut-off points. Next, use a colored pen to draw a broken line or arrow charting at least 2 escape routes from each room … and walk through the routes with your entire family.

Also…

  • Make sure your windows are not nailed or painted shut.
  • Make sure security bars on windows have a fire safety opening feature so they can be easily opened from the inside…and teach everyone how to open them!
  • Teach everyone how to stay LOW to floor (air is safer).
  • Pick a spot to meet after escaping fire (meeting place).
  • Practice, practice, practice! Set aside time each month or several times a year and do fire drills with your family.

Fire Prevention Week is the perfect time to reach out and share resources that empower people to have a hand in preventing home fires and protecting their families.

Learn more at www.fpw.org and please share the link and this post with others. And for the little ones, visit Sparky the Fire Dog® site at www.sparky.org to find free apps, games, videos and more.

Stay safe, j & B

 

 

 


Preparing for a Wildfire (fire mitigation + safety tips)

April 25, 2014

rim-fire-usfsAccording to the National Park Service, as many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans. Some human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, negligently discarded cigarettes, recreational vehicles, target shooting (including exploding rifle targets), and intentional acts of arson. The remaining 10 percent are started by lightning or lava.

As our population continues to grow, more and more people are building homes in places that were once pristine wilderness areas. Homeowners who build in remote and wooded areas must take responsibility for the way their buildings are constructed and the way they landscape around them.

Wildfire Mitigation Tips

Use Fire Resistant Building Materials – The roof and exterior structure of your home and other buildings should be constructed of non-combustible or fire-resistant materials. If wood siding, cedar shakes or any other highly combustible materials are used, they should be treated with fire retardant chemicals.

Landscape wisely – Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees to minimize the spread of fire and space your landscaping so fire is not carried to your home or other surrounding vegetation. Remove vines from the walls of your home.

wildfire defensible space md dnrCreate a “safety zone” or defensible space around the house

  • Mow grass regularly.
  • Stack firewood at least 30 to 100 feet (10 to 30 m) away and uphill from home.
  • Keep roof and gutters free of pine needles, leaves, and branches and clear away flammable vegetation at least 30 to 100 feet (9 to 30 m) from around structures.
  • Thin a 15-foot (4.5 m) space between tree crowns and remove limbs within 10-15 feet (3 – 4.5 m) of the ground.
  • Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
  • Prune tree branches and shrubs within 10 feet (3 m) of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
  • Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures.
  • Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
  • Keep combustibles away from structures and clear a 10-foot (3 m) area around propane tanks, boats, etc.
  • Review Cal Fire’s helpful diagrams on making a Defensible zone

Protect your home

  • Install smoke detectors, test them each month and change batteries once a year.
  • Install protective shutters or fire-resistant drapes.
  • Inspect chimneys twice a year and clean every year.
  • Cover chimney and stovepipe flue openings with 1/2 inch (1 cm) or smaller non-flammable mesh screen.
  • Use same mesh screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas and home itself. Also screen openings to attic and roof.
  • Soak ashes and charcoal briquettes in water for two days in a metal bucket.
  • Keep a garden hose connected to an outlet.
  • Have fire tools handy (ladder, shovel, rake, ax, etc.)
  • Put your address on all structures so it can be seen from the road.

Campfire Safety – Campfires are a common cause of brush fires or wildfires so please be careful when you’re out in deserts, mountains, or any other heavy vegetation areas.

NEVER leave a campfire burning – make sure it is completely out using plenty of water before leaving the area. Stir the coals around with a stick or log while pouring water over them to ensure all the coals get wet and they are no longer hot. Any hot coals left unattended can be easily ignited by wind since they can stay hot for 24 – 48 hours.

When building a campfire, always choose a level site, clear away any branches and twigs several feet from the fire, and never build a fire beneath tree branches or on surface roots. Also, build at least 10 feet (3 m) from any large rocks that could be blackened by smoke or cracked from a fire’s heat.

See your local Forest Service office or Ranger Station for more information on campfires and permits or visit www.fs.fed.us or www.pc.gc.ca

wildfire-USFS

 

BEFORE A WILDFIRE (FIRE SAFETY TIPS):

Prepare – See Mitigation tips above.

Learn fire laws – Ask fire authorities or the forestry office for information on fire laws (like techniques, safest times to burn in your area, etc.)

Could they find & reach you? – Make sure that fire vehicles can get to your property and that your address is clearly marked.

Safety zone – Create a 30-100 foot (9-30 m) safety zone around your home.

Teach kids – Explain to children that matches and lighters are TOOLS, not toys… and if they see someone playing with fire they should tell an adult right away. And teach kids how to report a fire and when to call 9-1-1.

Tell authorities – Report hazardous conditions that could cause a wildfire.

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to local authorities and leave if you are told to evacuate.

 

DURING A WILDFIRE:

Listen – Have a radio to keep up on news, weather and evacuation routes.

Evacuate? – If you are told to leave – do so … and IF you have time also…

  • Secure your home – close windows, vents, all doors, etc.
  • Turn off utilities and tanks at main switches or valves.
  • Turn on a light in each room to increase the visibility of your home in heavy smoke.
  • See Mitigation tips above.

Head downhill – Fire climbs uphill 16 times faster than on level terrain (since heat rises) so always head down when evacuating the area.

Food & water – If you prepared ahead, you’ll have your Disaster Supplies Kit handy to GRAB & GO… if not, gather up enough food and water for each family member for at least 3 days or longer!

Be understanding – Please realize the firefighters main objective is getting wildfires under control and they may not be able to save every home. Try to understand and respect the firefighters’ and local officials’ decisions.

 

AFTER A WILDFIRE:

Don’t go there – Never enter fire-damaged areas until authorities say it’s okay and watch for signs of smoke or heat in case the fire isn’t totally out.

Critters – Don’t try to care for a wounded critter — call Animal Control.

Utilities – Have an electrician check your household wiring before you turn the power back on and DO NOT try to reconnect any utilities yourself!

Damage – Look for structural damage (roof, walls, floors) — may be weak.

Call for help – Local disaster relief services (Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.) can help provide shelter, food, or personal items that were destroyed.

Insurance – Call your insurance agent or representative and…

  • Keep receipts of all clean-up and repair costs
  • Do not throw away any damaged goods until an official inventory has been taken by your insurance company.

If you rent – Contact your landlord since it is the owner’s responsibility to prevent further loss or damage to the site.

Move your stuff – Secure belongings or move them to another location.

Above extracted from It’s A Disaster! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? by Bill & Janet Liebsch

 

Additional Resources:

Firewise Communities

National InciWeb

National Interagency Fire Center

Ready.gov Wildfire safety

Smokey the Bear

US Fire Administration Wildfire safety


Landslide and debris flow safety tips

March 26, 2014
landslide-fema-la_conchita-ca

1995 landslide in La Conchita, CA Photo: FEMA

According to US Geological Survey, landslides in the United States cause approximately $1-$2 billion in damage and kill more than 25 people on average each year. Worldwide, landslides cause thousands of casualties and billions in monetary losses every year.

Researchers at UK’s Durham University recently reported that landslides kill ten times more people across the world than was previously thought. Their Durham Fatal Landslide Database (DFLD) showed that 32,300 people died in landslides between 2004 and 2010. Previous estimates ranged from 3,000 to 7,000 fatalities.

One of the worst landslides and subsequent loess [sediment] flows on record happened in 1920 when the 8.5 magnitude Haiyuan Earthquake shook China for 10 minutes killing over 100,000 people.

Although landslides and debris or mud flows are primarily associated with mountainous regions, they also occur in low elevations too. According to Science Daily some key landslide hotspots include China, the Philippines, Central and South America, and India, but slides can happen anywhere in North America too.

Landslides are basically masses of rock, earth or debris that move down a slope often triggered by many natural events such as earthquakes, floods or volcanic eruptions. The term “landslide” encompasses five modes of slope movement: falls, topples, slides, spreads, and flows and can be further subdivided by the type of geologic material (bedrock, debris, or earth).

Mudflows or debris flows (a type of landslide) are rivers of rock, earth, and other debris soaked with water mostly caused by melting snow or heavy rains creating a slurry. A slurry can travel several miles from its source and grows in size as it picks up trees, cars, and other things along the way. They can even move houses off their foundations or bury a place within minutes due to their incredibly strong currents.

Whidbey Island WA 2013 mudslide before after

Before and after photo of 2013 mudslide on Whidbey Island / Photo: Washington Department of Natural Resources

In addition to Mother Nature’s fury causing land movements, human activities like deforestation, cultivation, stresses on groundwaters, and construction on unstable land also play large roles.

There are some warning signs to indicate if you have a potential problem.

BEFORE A LANDSLIDE OR MUDFLOW:

Learn risks – Ask your local emergency management officeif your property is a “landslide-prone” area. Or call your County or State Geologist or Engineer or visit the USGS Landslide Hazards Program

Recent fires? – Be aware that areas hit by wildfires have an increased risk of landslides and mudflows once the rainy season starts.

Get insurance…? – Talk to your agent and find out more about the National Flood Insurance Program since mudflows are covered by NFIP’s flood policy.

Be prepared to evacuate – Listen to local authorities and leave if you are told to evacuate.

Where would we go? – Decide in advance where you would go in case you can’t return home for weeks or months .. or ever. If your home is damaged or destroyed or you’re forced to leave your home due to on-going threats (like mudslides or flooding), you’ll need to find temporary or permanent living quarters. This could mean staying in a public shelter or hotel, living with friends or relatives, or renting a home or apartment in the middle of all the chaos, so discuss several options now. Then, write down those options and share them with relatives and friends.

Reduce risks – Plant ground cover on slopes and build retaining walls.

Inspect – Look around home and property for landslide warning signs:

  • cracks or bumps appear on hill slopes, ground or roads
  • water or saturated ground in areas not normally wet
  • evidence of slow, downhill movement of rock and soil
  • tilted trees, poles, decks, patios, fences or walls
  • underground utility lines break
  • doors and windows stick or cracks appear on walls, etc.

Call an expert…? – Consult a professional for advice. Or visit the National Landslide Information Center

 

DURING A LANDSLIDE OR MUDFLOW:

Strange sounds – Listen for trees cracking, rocks banging together or water flowing rapidly (esp if near a stream or river) – debris flow may be close by.

Move it! – Whether you are in a vehicle, outside, or in your home – GET TO SAFER GROUND! Avoid low-lying areas, washes and river valleys and look upstream before crossing a bridge in case a debris flow is coming.

Listen – Tune in to local radio or TV reports to keep you posted on latest updates especially since other disasters like earthquakes, storms, flooding or volcanic eruptions may be associated with debris flows.

Be small – If there is no way to escape, curl into a tight ball and protect your head the best you can.

 

AFTER A LANDSLIDE OR MUDFLOW:

Listen – Local radio and TV reports will keep you posted on latest updates or check with your local police or fire departments.

Don’t go there – Stay away from the area until authorities say all is clear since there could be more slides or flows.

Things to watch for:

  • flooding – usually occur after landslides or debris flows
  • damaged areas – roadways and bridges may be buried, washed-out or weakened — and water, gas & sewer lines may be broken
  • downed power lines – report them to power company

Inspect – Look for damage around home and property and watch for new landslide warning signs:

  • check foundation, chimney, garage and other structures
  • report any broken utility lines or damaged roads to local authorities
  • watch for tilted trees, poles, decks, patios, fences or walls
  • notice doors or windows stick, cracks appear, etc.

Replant – Try to fix or replant damaged ground to reduce erosion, possible flash flooding or future landslides.

Call an expert…? – Consult a professional landscaping expert for opinions and advice on landslide problems. Also call an expert out if you discover structural damage to home, chimney or other buildings.

Insurance – If your home suffers any damage, contact your insurance agent and keep all receipts for clean-up and repairs.

Some additional things to check and do…

  • Check for gas leaks (smells like rotten eggs, hear a hissing or blowing sound or see discolored plants or grass)
  • Check electrical system (watch for sparks, broken wires or the smell of hot insulation)
  • Check appliances after turning off electricity at main fuse and, if wet, unplug and let them dry out. Call a professional to check them before using.
  • Check water and sewage system and, if pipes are damaged, turn off main water valve.
  • Consider having your house tested for mold.
  • Secure valuable items or move them to another location, if possible

Emotional recovery tips –   Disasters and emergencies may cause you to leave your home and your daily routine and deal with many different emotions, but realize that a lot of this is normal human behavior. Read more

Remember… the more you prepare before disaster strikes, the better off you and your loved ones will be financially, emotionally and physically.

 

Sources: It’s A Disaster! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? book and our “Slip Sliding Away” article in PREPARE magazine’s Sep 2013 issue

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those impacted by the recent #530slide in Washington state. Stay current on news and learn how to help the victims at www.snohomishcountywa.gov/2354/530-Slide  j & B


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