Emergency Preparedness

Extreme Temperatures

Preparing for Extreme Heat:

A heat wave is an extended period of extreme heat, and is often accompanied by high humidity. These conditions can be dangerous and even life-threatening for humans who don’t take the proper precautions.

  • Prepare for a heat wave by checking to see if your home’s cooling system is working properly.
  • Make sure your home is well insulated and that you have weather stripping around your doors and window sills to keep the cool air inside.
  • Plan on being inside a cool building during the hottest time of the day.
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activities.
  • Make sure you remain properly hydrated by drinking plenty of water and limiting intake of alcoholic beverages.
  • Eat light, well-balanced meals.
  • Dress in light, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Never leave children or pets alone in a closed vehicle.
  • Visit NOAA Watch for more weather-related information.

Stay informed about the types of medical conditions that can result from heat waves, and the proper First Aid measures that should be taken. For more specific information, please refer to http://www.fema.gov/areyouready/heat.shtm.

Preparing for Winter Weather:
  • Make sure your home is well insulated and that you have weather stripping around your doors and window sills to keep the warm air inside.
  • Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify winter weather.
  • Freezing Rain creates a coating of ice on roads and walkways.
  • Sleet is rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes roads to freeze and become slippery.
  • Winter Weather Advisory means cold, ice and snow are expected.
  • Winter Storm Watch means severe weather such as heavy snow or ice is possible in the next day or two.
  • Winter Storm Warning means severe winter conditions have begun or will begin very soon.
  • Blizzard Warning means heavy snow and strong winds will produce a blinding snow, near zero visibility, deep drifts and life-threatening wind chill.
  • Frost/Freeze Warning means below freezing temperatures are expected.
  • Include adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm.
  • If you have a car, fill the gas tank in case you have to leave.
  • Visit NOAA Watch for more weather-related information.

For more specific information, please refer to http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=2160.

Introduction on Hurricanes

Hurricanes are tropical cyclones that rotate counterclockwise with wind speeds in excess of 74 mph. Most hurricanes form over warm seas near the equator. They are created when the sun heats the ocean surface, causing heated water vapor to rise, condense, and form clouds. These clouds begin to spiral as the earth rotates. More air is pulled underneath and a large vortex is formed. On average, six Atlantic hurricanes develop each year. When a hurricane moves toward coastal areas it often causes severe damage. Strong winds create storm surges, floods, rip tides and even spawn tornadoes. As the hurricane moves forward, its right front quadrant is typically where the most devastation occurs. Hurricane Season begins June 1st and continues through November 30th. Be sure to practice hurricane preparedness and learn about hurricane safety and survival.

Hurricane Basics
The Saffir-Simpson Scale:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses this disaster potential scale. There are five categories, one being the least potential damage and five being the worst. Every hurricane is a potential threat to life and property. The category of the storm does not directly relate to the damage it will inflict. It is imperative to take every storm seriously.

Category Wind Speeds Storm Surge Effects
1 74 - 95 mph 4 - 5 ft. Minor Damage
2 96 - 110 mph 6 - 8 ft. Major Damage
3 111 - 130 mph 9 - 12 ft. Extensive Damage
4 131 - 154 mph 13 - 18 ft. Extreme Damage
5 155+ mph 19 - 25 ft. Catastrophic Damage
Storm Terminology:

Tropical Disturbance: A moving area of thunderstorms in the tropics.

Tropical Wave: A westward-moving, low-pressure trough in the deep easterly current that tends to organize low-level circulation. It sometimes travels thousands of miles with little change in shape, producing showers and thunderstorms along its path.

Tropical Depression: An area of low pressure, rotary circulation of clouds and winds up to 38 miles per hour.

Tropical Storm: Counterclockwise circulation of clouds and winds (develops over warm tropical waters) with wind speeds ranging from 39-73 miles per hour. At this stage, the storm is assigned a name.

Hurricane: A tropical storm with wind speeds of 74 miles per hour or more, and dangerously high water and waves.

“Eye” of the Hurricane: The relatively calm area near the center of the storm where winds are light and the sky often is partly cloudy. The calm area is deceptive because it is bordered by maximum-force winds and torrential rains; it can last from several minutes to more than an hour.

Storm Surge: An abnormal rise in sea level produced by the strong winds and low pressure within a hurricane. The storm surge occurs in the right half of the storm as it makes landfall. The storm surge potentially could elevate sea level from 2-20 feet. (9 out of 10 hurricane-related deaths occur as a result of storm surge rather than winds.) For more information about storm surge, visit

Advisory: Hurricane and storm information delivered to the public every six hours.

Intermediate Advisory: Hurricane and storm information updated every 2-3 hours, or as necessary.

Special Advisory: Hurricane and storm information delivered when there is a significant change in storm-related weather conditions or warnings.

Gale Warning: An advisory that 39-54 mph sustained winds and strong wave action are expected.

Storm Warning: An advisory that 55-73 mph sustained winds and strong wave action are expected.

Hurricane Watch: An announcement of possible hurricane conditions, for a particular area, within 36 hours.

Hurricane Warning: An advisory that a hurricane is expected to strike a specified area within 24 hours or less.

Hurricane Preparedness
Checklist
  • Is your disaster supplies kit ready?
  • Gas up your vehicles.
  • Have your evacuation plan ready.
  • Secure loose items outside of your home.
  • Frequently check on the progress of the storm.
  • Check batteries and stock up on canned food, first-aid supplies, drinking water and medications.
  • Store valuables and papers in waterproof containers.
  • Secure your boat.
  • Inform loved ones as to where you will be during the storm.
  • Insure your weather radio is in working condition.
  • Locate you local shelters.
Securing Your Property & Insurance

Some low cost mitigation measures you can take to protect yourself and your home from losses from wind and/or flooding:

  • Analyze your home’s structural weaknesses
  • If you are building a new home, consider a hip roof with a pitch of 30 degrees or less
  • Install storm shutters to protect windows
  • Install braces to give additional support to garage doors
  • Plant vegetation to serve as wind breaks
  • Buy flood insurance (see below)
  • Move valuables and appliances out of the basement
  • Make sure that any flood-proofing efforts are in compliance with the minimum NFIP requirements, and with state and local building codes
Links

For more info, visit the links below, or contact your local fire department.

National Hurricane Center

In less than 30 seconds a small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for a house to fill with thick black smoke and become engulfed in flames.

If there is a fire in your home or building you should leave immediately. Do not waste any time saving property.

Check closed doors for heat before you open them by using the back of your hand to feel the top of the door, the doorknob, and the crack between the door and door frame before you open it. Never use the palm of your hand or fingers to test for heat – burning those areas could impair your ability to escape a fire (i.e., ladders and crawling).

Do not open a Hot Door. Escape through a window. If you cannot escape, hang a white or light-colored sheet outside the window, alerting fire fighters to your presence.

If the door feels cool, brace your shoulder against the door and open it slowly. If heat and smoke come in, slam the door and make sure it is securely closed, then use your alternate escape route such as a window. If clear, leave immediately through the door and close it behind you.

  • Crawl low under any smoke to your exit – heavy smoke and poisonous gases collect first along the ceiling. The air is clearer and cooler near the floor.
  • Keep your mouth covered. The toxic gases from the smoke can disorient you.
  • If your clothes catch on fire, you should stop, drop, and roll – until the fire is extinguished. Running only makes the fire burn faster.
  • Close doors behind you as you escape to delay the spread of the fire.
  • If you are trapped in a burning building, stay near a window and close to the floor and, if possible, signal for help.
  • Stay out once you are safely out. Do not reenter.
  • Call 9-1-1 when you are safely out.

Information compiled from the Department of Homeland Security’s US Fire Administration and FEMA.

What to do before a fire

FEMA Fire Info Guide

Mobile Home Fire Safety

Flooding is caused by heavy rains and storm surge, particularly that associated with a hurricane. Most coastal damage caused by hurricanes is the result of flooding from giant waves driven by the hurricane winds. Know what to do in such an emergency.

Obtain flood insurance (Homeowners insurance does not cover floods from natural disasters).

Floods cause more damage nationwide than any other natural disaster. If you live in a flood-prone area, be smart. Protect yourself and your family from the consequences of a flood disaster.

Before a Flood
Purchase Flood Insurance

If the community that you live in has joined the National Flood Insurance Program with a pledge to adopt flood plain management measures, you will be eligible to apply for it. Only a 5-day wait is required for your flood insurance policy to become effective. Renters can buy policies to protect their personal property against possible flood damage, too.

A federal program, the National Flood Insurance Program, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), makes this possible. A simple call to your insurance agent or broker starts the process to cover your home, possessions, and business. Your agent or broker will help you decide how much coverage you need.

Make A Personal Property Inventory

Make a list of your personal property. Document the contents of your home with still photographs or video. Keep this documentation, along with your policy, in a safe place — preferably a safe deposit box. It is a good idea to keep other important papers (mortgage, stock certificates, etc.) in the safe deposit too, as these documents could be destroyed during a flood.

Plan A Safe Escape Route

Determine where flood zones have been designated in your community. Avoid these flood zones during storm emergencies. If your home is located within a flood zone, plan a safe evacuation route. More information about the potential for inland flooding for Brunswick County is available at Brunswick County Planning Department.

If A Flood Occurs
Monitor Flood Reports

Keep your battery-powered radio tuned to a local station, heed warnings, and follow instructions. Remain calm

If Evacuation Is Necessary

If you are told to evacuate, promptly move out of the house or building to safe, higher ground.

Remember the following tips:
  • Avoid already flooded areas. Floods are deceptive. The situation could be more dangerous that you perceive.
  • Never drive where water is over roads. Under those flood waters, the road might already be washed away, and rapidly-rising water could lift the car and carry it away.
  • Be especially careful driving at night, when flood dangers are difficult to see. If, by mistake, you find yourself driving in water and the car stalls, immediately get out of the car and carefully climb to higher ground.
  • Never walk through water that is higher than your knees.
  • If you are caught in the house by suddenly rising flood waters, move to a higher level of your house — if necessary, to the roof. Take warm clothing, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, and extra (fresh) batteries with you. Even better, have a backpack with emergency supplies ready at all times. DO NOT try to swim to safety. Wait for help. Rescue teams will be looking for you.
“Turn Around, Don’t Drown!”
Turn Off Utilities

IF TIME PERMITS, turn off all utilities (gas, water, electric, cable) at the main switch. Do not touch any electrical equipment that is in a wet area. If possible, first consult an electrician as to what to do. If unable to do so, place a piece of dry wood nearby on which to stand. Put on rubber footwear and gloves to ground yourself.

Open Basement Windows

IF TIME PERMITS, open basement windows to equalize water pressure on the foundation and walls.

Move Valuables To Higher Ground

IF TIME PERMITS, move valuables to the highest level of your house. Place small valuables, or important papers, in waterproof containers or zip-lock bags. Write your name and contact phone number on the containers, in case they are separated from your home.

After a Flood
Call Your Insurance Company

If your home or business has been damaged, immediately notify your flood insurance carrier. The agent will submit a loss form, and an adjuster will be assigned to inspect your property. Have your policy and personal inventory (with support documentation) handy to facilitate your claim. Remember, the most serious cases will be handled first.

Safely Return To Your Home

When local officials deem it safe to return to your home, do so cautiously. Roadways might be washed out, and there is likely to be much debris in the area. Before entering your house, inspect the outside for structural damage. Do not enter a house that you suspect could collapse.

Avoid Dangers Within The House

Upon entering your house, DO NOT strike a match or use a flame of any kind. Escaping gas could cause a tragic explosion. Watch for live electrical wires. Be sure that electric current is turned off at the fuse box or breaker box. (Do not stand in water to turn off electric.) Do not attempt to operate electrical appliances until an electrician can determine that it is safe to do so.

Create Ventilation In House

Open windows and doors to let air circulate through the building. This will help dry out the house, let foul odors escape, and protect you from escaping gas.

Thoroughly Document Your Damage

Take still photographs or video of your house (inside and out) and your personal property. If you do not have a camera available, try to borrow one from a neighbor. This documentation will help the adjuster determine your loss. (Furthermore, the information might prove helpful for applicable tax deductions.)

Begin Cleanup

Throw out all perishable foods. Refrigerated foods will spoil after only a few hours without electricity. Frozen foods will last only about 48 hours, without electricity. Do not refreeze thawed foods. Clean appliances and furniture of dirt and debris. Do not discard items that you believe are destroyed until an insurance adjuster has inspected them.

Pump Out Basement

Pump out the basement, if it is flooded, but do it gradually. Drain 1/3 of the flood water each day to minimize further structure damage. Shovel out the mud while it is still moist. Dry drapery, rugs, and carpets thoroughly.

Make Temporary Repairs

Temporarily repair roof, windows, doors, and all other openings to help prevent further loss from the elements or from looting. Contact a professional electrician, plumber, and gas company for necessary repairs. Do not stay in your house if it is structurally unsafe.

Introduction

Nuclear Disasters are rare events. However, if you live near or in the vicinity of a nuclear power plant, you should be aware of the steps necessary to take in the unlikely event of a nuclear incident.

Leland is located in Brunswick County, North Carolina, which is served by the Brunswick Nuclear Power Plan. The plant site is adjacent to the town of Southport, and in close proximity of the Leland area.

Overview

Nuclear power plants use the heat generated from nuclear fission in a contained environment to convert water to steam, which powers generators to produce electricity. Nuclear power plants operate in most states in the country and produce about 20 percent of the nation’s power. Nearly 3 million Americans live within 10 miles of an operating nuclear power plant.

Although the construction and operation of these facilities are closely monitored and regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), accidents are possible. An accident could result in dangerous levels of radiation that could affect the health and safety of the public living near the nuclear power plant.

Leland Fire/Rescue, in conjunction with our local government and Brunswick County Emergency Services, has emergency response plans in the event of a nuclear power plant incident. The plans define two “emergency planning zones.” One zone covers an area within a 15-mile radius of the plant, where it is possible that people could be harmed by direct radiation exposure. The second zone covers a broader area, a 50-mile radius from the plant, where radioactive materials could contaminate water supplies, food crops, and livestock. This zone includes all of Leland area.

The potential danger from an accident at a nuclear power plant is exposure to radiation. This exposure could come from the release of radioactive material from the plant into the environment, usually characterized by a plume (cloud-like formation) of radioactive gases and particles. The major hazards to people in the vicinity of the plume are radiation exposure to the body from the cloud and particles deposited on the ground, inhalation of radioactive materials, and ingestion of radioactive materials.

Radioactive materials are composed of atoms that are unstable. An unstable atom gives off its excess energy until it becomes stable. The energy emitted is radiation. Each of us is exposed to radiation daily from natural sources, including the Sun and the Earth. Small traces of radiation are present in food and water. Radiation also is released from man-made sources such as X-ray machines, television sets, and microwave ovens. Radiation has a cumulative effect. The longer a person is exposed to radiation, the greater the effect. A high exposure to radiation can cause serious illness or death.

Nuclear Emergency Terms

Notification of Unusual Event: A small problem has occurred at the plant. No radiation leak is expected. No action on your part will be necessary.

Alert: A small problem has occurred, and small amounts of radiation could leak inside the plant. This will not affect you and no action is required.

Site Area Emergency: Area sirens may be sounded. Listen to your radio or television for safety information.

General Emergency: Radiation could leak outside the plant and off the plant site. The sirens will sound. Tune to your local radio or television station for reports. Be prepared to follow instructions promptly.

Before a Nuclear Power Plant Emergency

Obtain public emergency information materials from the power company that operates your local nuclear power plant or your local emergency services office. If you live within 10 miles of the power plant, you should receive these materials yearly from the power company or your state or local government.

Minimizing Exposure to Radiation

Distance: The more distance between you and the source of the radiation, the better. This could be evacuation or remaining indoors to minimize exposure.

Shielding: The more heavy, dense material between you and the source of the radiation, the better.

Time: Most radioactivity loses its strength fairly quickly.

During a Nuclear Power Plant Emergency

The following are guidelines for what you should do if a nuclear power plant emergency occurs. Keep a battery-powered radio with you at all times and listen to the radio for specific instructions. Close and lock doors and windows.

If you are told to evacuate:

  • Keep car windows and vents closed; use re-circulating air.

If you are advised to remain indoors:

  • Turn off the air conditioner, ventilation fans, furnace, and other air intakes.
  • Go to a basement or other underground area, if possible.
  • Do not use the telephone unless absolutely necessary.

If you expect you have been exposed to nuclear radiation:

  • Change clothes and shoes.
  • Put exposed clothing in a plastic bag.
  • Seal the bag and place it out of the way.
  • Take a thorough shower.

Keep food in covered containers or in the refrigerator. Food not previously covered should be washed before being put in to containers.

After a Nuclear Emergency

Follow the instructions given to you by the authorities. Keep a hand held radio available or tune in to messages from your local news channels.

If you think you have been exposed to radiation or if you have any unusual symptoms, such as nausea, which may be related to radiation exposure, seek medical attention.

Source: FEMA

Additional Information

Visit the link below for more information on Nuclear Emergencies.

FEMA - Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program

In the United States, lightning kills 300 people and injures 80 on average each year. All thunderstorms produce lightning and all have the potential for danger. Those dangers can include tornadoes, strong winds, hail, wildfires and flash flooding, which is responsible for more fatalities than any other thunderstorm-related hazard.

Lightning’s risk to individuals and property is increased because of its unpredictability. It often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall. Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening.

Preparing for a Severe Thunderstorm
  • Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a thunderstorm hazard, including understanding the difference between a severe thunderstorm watch and a severe thunderstorm warning.
  • A thunderstorm watch means there is a possibility of a thunderstorm in your area.
  • A thunderstorm warning means a thunderstorm is occurring or will likely occur soon. If you are advised to take shelter so immediately.
  • Get an emergency supply kit.
  • Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
  • Use the 30/30 lightning safety rule. If you see lightning and you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder, go indoors. Then stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
Have a Thunderstorm Plan
  • If a thunderstorm is likely in your area, postpone outdoor activities.
  • Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
  • Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades or curtains.
  • Avoid showering or bathing during a thunderstorm. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
  • Watch for darkening skies, lightning, increasing winds.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio for information.
  • Go quickly inside a home, building or hard top automobile, if possible.
  • If shelter is not available go to the lowest area nearby and make yourself the smallest target possible but do not lie flat on the ground.
  • If on open water, get to land and shelter immediately.
  • Things to avoid include:
    • Tall, isolated tree in an open area.
    • Hilltops, open fields, the beach, a boat on the water, isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.
    • Anything metal — tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs, and bicycles
Stay Informed
  • Local authorities may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should listen to your battery operated or hand crank NOAA Weather Radio, watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet often for official news and instructions as they become available.
  • Do not use electrical items such as computers or television sets as power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
  • A corded telephone should only be used in an emergency, but cordless phones and cell phones are safe to use.

Tornadoes

When a tornado is coming, you have only a short amount of time to make life-or-death decisions. Advance planning and quick response are the keys to surviving a tornado.

Before a Tornado Strikes
Conduct emergency drills each tornado season.

Designate an area in the home as a shelter, and practice having everyone in the family go there in response to a tornado threat.

Discuss with family members the difference between a “tornado watch” and a “tornado warning”.

Have disaster supplies on hand.
  • Flashlights and extra (fresh) batteries.
  • Portable, battery-powered radio and extra (fresh) batteries.
  • First Aid Kit containing bandages, antiseptic, aspirin; plus, any medications that must be taken regularly.
  • Baby supplies, such as food, canned milk or formula, disposable diapers, etc.
  • Special supplies for elderly or disabled family members.
  • Food that doesn’t need to be refrigerated or cooked, such as canned meats, vegetables, fruits, juices, etc. Store enough for several days.
  • Fresh water stored in non-breakable containers. Plan one quart per person, per day, for drinking.
  • Sturdy shoes, in the event you must walk for assistance.
  • Cash and credit cards.
  • Don’t forget about your pets. Keep a supply of food (along with any medications that they require) on hand for emergencies.
Develop an emergency communication plan.

In case family members are separated from one another during a tornado (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.

Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the family contact. After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance. Make sure that everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.

Watches and Warnings

A tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service when tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms. This is the time to remind family members where the safest places within your home are located, and listen to the radio or television for further developments.

A tornado warning is issued when a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. If a tornado warning is issued for your area and the sky becomes threatening, move to your pre-designated place of safety. Turn on a battery-powered radio and wait for further instructions.

Tornado Danger Signs
Watch for the following signs:
  • Dark, often greenish/grey sky
  • Wall cloud
  • Large hail
  • Loud roar — similar to freight train.
  • Some tornadoes appear as a visible funnel extending only partially to the ground. Look for signs of debris below the visible funnel.
  • Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while others are obscured by rain or nearby low-hanging clouds.
  • Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down, and the air may become very still.
  • An approaching cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado, even if a funnel is not visible.
  • Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.
Mobile Homes and Tornados

Mobile homes are particularly vulnerable. A mobile home can overturn very easily, even if precautions have been taken to tie down the unit. When a tornado warning is issued, take shelter in a building with a strong foundation. If shelter is not available, lie in a ditch or low-lying area a safe distance away from the unit.

During a Tornado
If you are at Home:
  • Go at once to the basement, storm cellar, or the lowest level of the building.
  • If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway or small inner room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet.
  • Move away from windows.
  • Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners, because they tend to attract debris.
  • Get under a piece of sturdy furniture, such as a workbench or heavy table, and hold on to it.
  • Use your arms to protect head and neck.
  • If in a mobile home, leave quickly for safer shelter.
If you are at work or school:
  • Go at once to the basement or hallway at lowest level of the building.
  • Avoid places with wide-span roofs — for example, auditoriums, cafeterias, large hallways, or shopping malls.
  • Take cover under a heavy desk or piece of furniture, and hold on to it.
  • Use your arms to protect head and neck.
If you are outdoors:
  • If possible, get inside a secure building.
  • If shelter is not available or there is no time to get indoors, lie in a ditch or low-lying area or crouch near a strong building. Be aware of the potential for flooding.
  • Use your arms to protect head and neck.
If you are in a car:
  • Never try to outdrive a tornado in a car or truck. Tornadoes can change direction quickly, and can lift up a car or truck and toss it through the air.
  • Get out of the car immediately and take shelter in a nearby building.
  • If there is not time to get indoors, get out of the car and lie in a ditch or low-lying area away from the vehicle. Be aware of the potential for flooding.
After a Tornado

Give first aid when appropriate. Don’t try to move the seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call 911 for help.

  • Turn on radio or television to get the latest emergency information.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately. Leave the building if you smell gas or chemical fumes.
  • Take pictures of the damage — both to the house and its contents — for insurance or tax deduction purposes.

Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance — for example, infants, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

Check for DANGERS and MITIGATE

If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve, if you can, and call the gas company from a neighbor’s house. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.

If you see sparks, broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you would have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, first call an electrician for advice.

If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes.

Mitigation includes any activities that prevent an emergency, reduce the change of an emergency happening, or lessen the damaging effects of unavoidable emergencies. Investing in preventative mitigation steps now — such as checking local building codes and ordinances about wind-resistant designs and strengthening unreinforced masonry — will help reduce the impact of future tornadoes.