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How to prepare for an earthquake, tsunami, tornado and hurricane
Knowing what to do when a natural disaster strikes can be a matter of life or death. Being prepared can not only help ensure the safety of your loved ones, it can reduce the chaos caused by an emergency situation. We've compiled information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Red Cross to help you prepare for four natural disasters: earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes and hurricanes.
Surviving an earthquake and reducing its health impact requires preparation, planning, and practice. Far in advance, you can gather emergency supplies, identify and reduce possible hazards in your home, and practice what to do during and after an earthquake. Learning what actions to take can help you and your family to remain safe and healthy in the event of an earthquake.
- Take a few minutes with your family to discuss a home evacuation plan. Sketch a floor plan of your home, plan a second way to exit from each room or area and indicate the location of your family's emergency outdoor meeting place.
- Gather and store important documents, such as birth certificates, social security cards, ownership certificates and insurance policies, in a fire-proof safe.
- If an earthquake strikes, try to take cover under a heavy desk or table. It can provide you with air space if the building collapses. If you get under a table and it moves, try to move with it.
- Inner walls or doorframes are the least likely to collapse and may also shield against falling objects. If other cover is not available, go to an inner corner or doorway, away from windows or glass panels.
Learn more about what to do in the event of an earthquake.
A tsunami can strike suddenly, violently and without warning. "Tsunami" comes from the Japanese words for harbor ("tsu") and wave ("nami"). Since a tsunami consists of a series of waves, the danger can last for many hours.Identifying potential hazards ahead of time and advance planning can reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss of life or harm to the environment.
The following information on tsunami preparedness is provided courtesy of the American Red Cross.
- Be aware of the signs of a tsunami:
- A strong earthquake lasting 20 seconds or more near the coast.
- A noticeable rapid rise or fall in coastal waters.
- Know the best source of information:
- The International Tsunami Warning System monitors ocean waves after any Pacific earthquake with a magnitude greater than 6.5. If waves are detected, warnings are issued to local authorities who can order the evacuation of low-lying areas if necessary. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s National Weather Service operates two tsunami warning centers:
- The West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WC/ATWC) in Palmer, Alaska serves Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada.
- Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in Ewa Beach, Hawaii serves Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific territories, and as an international warning center for the Pacific and Indian oceans and the Caribbean Sea.
- Find out if your home, school, workplace or other frequently visited locations are in tsunami hazard areas. Know the height of your street above sea level and the distance of your street from the coast or other high-risk waters. Evacuation orders may be based on these numbers.
- Plan evacuation routes from your home, school, workplace and other places you could be where tsunamis present a risk. If possible, pick areas 100 feet (30 meters) above sea level or go as far as 2 miles (3 kilometers) inland, away from the coastline. If you cannot get this high or far, go as high or far as you can.
- Practice your evacuation routes.
- If you are in a coastal area and feel an earthquake that lasts 20 seconds or longer:
- Drop, cover and hold on. You should first protect yourself from the earthquake.
- When the shaking stops, gather members of your household and move quickly to higher ground away from the coast. A tsunami may be coming within minutes.
- Avoid downed power lines and stay away from buildings and bridges from which heavy objects might fall during an aftershock.
 Information provided courtesy of the National Weather Service.
Learn more about what to do in the event of a tsunami.
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