How to prepare for major natural disasters, from wildfires to hurricanes

How to prepare for major natural disasters, from wildfires to hurricanes

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A series of historic natural disasters have hit the United States this year, from tropical storms to deadly wildfires, and experts say planning ahead is key to mitigating the impact.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, floods cause 90% of all natural disasters in the United States and cause more human, property, and economic losses than any other natural disaster. There are several different types of active floods but the three most common are flash floods, river floods, and storm surges or coastal floods. Flash floods are caused by extremely short periods of heavy rainfall rather than sudden surges and can cause water levels to rise rapidly within minutes. Therefore, it is important to prepare to evacuate if advised by local authorities. Storm surge occurs in areas along the coast and is caused by tsunamis or severe windstorms occurring at the same time as high tides.

If the local government declares an evacuation, moving from the coast to the mainland is the safest way. River flooding, as it is called, can affect any type of water, such as lakes and streams, and can often be predicted in advance, as reported by the U.S. Geological Survey. Knowing what types of flooding are likely in an area will help develop a household plan.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the plan should include evacuation routes and areas, nearby shelters, planned transportation, identified shelters, and packing supplies, such as food, water, and first aid boxes. To prepare for short-term flooding, you should unplug all electrical equipment, lift important items to the second floor, attic or closet, and turn off the water and gas supply lines. To prepare in the medium term, place a sandbag barrier around the house to reduce water damage and anchor propane and fuel oil tanks. For long-term preparation, elevate your home, water heater, electrical system, and install a backwater valve.


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