EPA-Preparedness and Response

General Information for Disaster Preparedness and Response

ALWAYS CALL 911 if you are in immediate danger and need emergency help.

This page lists general information for homeowners, communities, schools, and facilities, that can apply to many different disaster situations. Much of this information is repeated on pages about specific types of natural events or disasters. More about how EPA responds to natural disasters.

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General:

Individuals, Homeowners:

Communities, Schools, Facilities:


General:

What You Can Do

Planning – Preparing for natural disasters can greatly reduce the risks to health and the environment. Hurricanes or floods can contaminate drinking water sources. Forest fires or volcanoes harm air quality. Tornadoes or earthquakes, by damaging factories or storage facilities, can release contaminants where people live or into the environment.

  • Individuals and homeowners can plan ahead to protect health for themselves and family members.
  • Communities, schools, and businesses can plan ahead to reduce risks and possible costs of storm-related spills or cleanup.
  • Learn about making an emergency plan, from Ready.gov

Recovery – Understanding risks will help speed recovery efforts and help keep problems from becoming worse. Improper use of portable generators or heating devices can release deadly carbon monoxide to indoor air. Ice-melting agents used improperly can pollute waterways. Large amounts of debris can present serious disposal problems for state and local communities. Owners or operators of damaged facilities may be responsible for reporting spills.

  • Individuals and homeowners can learn more about what, and what not, to do to protect health of themselves and family.
  • Communities, schools, and businesses can learn more about address large-scale risks and be aware of any legal requirements they may have under applicable regulations.

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Report suspected spills, contamination, or possible violations.

  • To report oil, chemical, or hazardous substance spills, call the National Response Center 800-424-8802.
  • Report a suspected environmental violation online. When you don’t have Internet access, call the US EPA office for your state.
  • For pesticide poisoning, call 911 if the person is unconscious, has trouble breathing, or has convulsions. Otherwise, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

Generator Safety

People get sick or die each year from carbon monoxide or “CO” poisoning due to unsafe use of generators.

Know how to get emergency alerts and messages before you need them:

  • FEMA Wireless Emergency Alerts – FEMA works with US cell phone carriers to send free emergency texts to cell phones (that can get text messages) within range. You don’t have to sign up to receive the messages.
  • Emergency Alert System – is a public warning system that uses existing TV, radio, cable, and other systems to send critical messages to the general public. Messages are local or national, depending on the situation.
  • NOAA Weather Radio – is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from the nearest National Weather Service office. NWR broadcasts official Weather Service warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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Individuals, Homeowners:

Returning home: Dealing with Debris and Damaged Buildings

Drinking water recovery

Home wastewater

  • What do I do with my home septic system after a flood? Do not drink your well water until it is tested and safe. Do not use (flush) the sewage system until water in the soil absorption field is lower than the water level around the house. If you have a small business and your septic system has received chemicals, take extra precautions to prevent contact with water or inhaling fumes. Proper clean-up depends on the kinds of chemicals in the wastewater.

Limit contact with flood water

Flood water may have high levels of raw sewage or other hazardous substances. Early symptoms from exposure to contaminated flood water may include upset stomach, intestinal problems, headache and other flu-like discomfort. Anyone experiencing these and any other problems should immediately seek medical attention.

Mold

Eliminate standing water where mosquitos can breed

Mosquitos can sharply increase after a flood, due to the sudden availability of standing water which they require for breeding — even very small amounts of water. As flood waters recede be sure to drain, overturn, or empty areas — no matter how small — to reduce mosquito breeding areas and help reduce the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

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Communities, Schools, Facilities:

Facility wastewater – Communities or facilities

Disaster debris

Communities should plan ahead to handle exceptionally large amounts of disaster debris from damaged or destroyed buildings, supplies, trees or other green waste, carcasses, or other materials. Disposal problems can result from large amounts of debris but also from hazardous or toxic substances in the debris that can contaminate air, water, land, and food if not handled properly. Burning large amounts of debris to reduce volume may not be an option. More information on disaster debris.

Hazardous waste and homeland security

Pesticides, chemical and oil spills, hazardous waste

  • Call the National Response Center 800-424-8802 (24 hours a day every day). For those without 800 access, please call 202-267-2675.
  • Industries and businesses that encounter spills or discharges in the aftermath should contact the National Response Center immediately. You or your organization may have legal requirements for reporting or for taking other actions, depending on the spill.
  • National Pesticide Information Center: 1-800-858-7378. Pesticide contacts
  • How to Report Spills and Environmental Violations

Renovation and rebuilding

Lead-safe work: By law, contractors need to use lead-safe work practices on emergency renovations on homes or buildings built before 1978. Activities such as sanding, cutting, and demolition can create lead-based paint hazards. Lead-contaminated dust is harmful to adults, particularly pregnant women, and children.

  • Important information about lead-safe clean-up and renovation

Asbestos: Anyone working on demolition, removal, and cleanup of building debris needs be aware of any asbestos and to handle asbestos materials properly. People exposed to asbestos dust can develop serious lung health problems including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Although the use of asbestos has dramatically decreased in recent years, it is still found in many residential and commercial buildings and can pose a serious health risk.

Underground Storage Tanks

During a flood, underground storage tank (UST) systems may become displaced or damaged and release their
contents into the environment, causing soil, surface water, and groundwater contamination.

Fuel Waivers

EPA works with the Department of Energy to address fuel supply disruptions caused by disasters or emergencies, by issuing fuel waivers for certain fuel standards, in affected areas.

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https://www.epa.gov/natural-disasters/general-information-disaster-preparedness-and-response

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A Call to Action-Prepare

September is National Preparedness Month: “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.”

National Preparedness Month is an annual campaign to encourage Americans to prepare for emergencies and disasters. This effort is led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and is sponsored by the Ready Campaign in partnership with Citizen’s Corp. This September marks the thirteenth annual National Preparedness Month, and this year’s theme is “Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today”. The FEMA urges people to prepare for specific threats such as a flood, wildfire, hurricane, and power outage, and to get involved in National PrepareAthon! Day (September 30th).​

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is actively engaged in preparedness initiatives and focuses on the following weekly theme areas: family, neighborhood, workplace and school, global, and online. Also, see the CDC Caring for Children in a Disaster Web page.

AAP Call to ​Action

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) asks members to take specific actions to promote​ pediatric emergency readiness in September. Select ideas follow:

Enhance Inf​​luenza Prevention and Control

  • Get your annual flu shot and encourage others to do the same! See the AAP policy Influenza Immunization for All Health Care Personnel: Keep It Mandatory.
  • Arrange to identify and talk with parents of children at highest risk of influenza complications (eg, children with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes mellitus, hemodynamically significant cardiac disease, immunosuppression, or neurologic and neurodevelopmental disorders). Make sure these children get vaccinated as soon as vaccine is available and that parents have a plan for prompt antiviral treatment when the child has symptoms of influenza-like illness. Encouraging three-way communication among the parents, primary care provider, and specialist is beneficial!
  • Do not delay antiviral treatment while waiting for a definitive influenza test result. Early therapy provides the best outcomes, as the benefit of antiviral treatment is greatest when initiated within 48 hours of symptom onset.
  • Some children 6 months through 8 years of age require two doses of flu vaccine, given 4 weeks apart and no later than June 30th. The appointment for a second dose is sometimes missed, so attention and follow-up is needed for this group of children.
  • Encourage vaccination for pregnant women. A May 2016 article in Pediatrics, “Influenza in Infants Born to Women Vaccinated During Pregnancy“, noted that infants ages 6 months and younger were 70% less likely to get the flu if their moms got the flu vaccine during pregnancy. The article also referenced an 80% decrease in flu-related hospitalizations among infants whose mothers were vaccinated during pregnancy.
  • Take steps to improve child care center preparedness for pandemic influenza. Review the May 2017 AAP Pediatrics article, “Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Among Child Care Center Directors in 2008 and 2016“.
  • Promote influenza vaccine use and infection control measures. Review the recent AAP policy Recommendations for Prevention and Control of Influenza in Children, 2017-2018.
  • Refer families to HealthyChildren.org and share with families a series of YouTube videos that cover common questions of parents related to vaccines. For more information, see Families Fighting Flu and Prevent Childhood Influenza.

A total of 102 influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported during the 2016-2017 flu season (through May 27, 2017). Even one influenza-associated pediatri​c death is too many. See the CDC FluView Web page and refer to the AAP/CDC What’s the Latest with the Flu messaging series.

Improve Person​​al Preparedness Planning

Share Emergency Prepar​edness Stories

The AAP and the CDC collected the following stories that highlight lessons learned or ste ps that doctors or families can take to improve disaster preparedness for children.

Res​ources

https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Children-and-Disasters/Pages/National-Preparedness-Month.aspx

September is National Preparedness Month-CDC

You Have the Power to Prepare

Throughout September, CDC and more than 3000 organizations—national, regional, and local governments, as well as private and public organizations—will support emergency preparedness efforts and encourage Americans to take action.

This year, the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response will focus on four important topics – READY… STEADY… SHOW… GO! Each week, we will publish a Public Health Matters Blog post, social media messages, and graphics.

Week 1: READY… Build a kit. Make a plan. Be informed.

Many emergencies happen without warning, so it is important that you take steps ahead of time to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy. One important way you can prepare is by having a kit ready in case you do not have access to food, water, or electricity for several days after a disaster. In addition to building a kit, talk to your loved ones about an emergency planwith the steps you all will take in different types of emergencies and how you will contact one another. Finally, stay informed to make sure you get the information you need when an emergency happens, especially the types of emergencies that might happen in your area.

Week 2: STEADY…Review your plans and update your kit.

Preparing does not stop after you have your kit ready and your emergency plan in place. In a real emergency, you may become overwhelmed or confused, so it is important to practice your emergency plan – review the plans and have practice drills with your whole family. Review and replace the contents of your emergency kit every six months. Be sure to check expiration dates on food, water, medicine, and batteries and add any personal items that are unique to your needs.

Week 3: SHOW… Inspire others to prepare.

Research shows that talking about preparedness increases the likelihood of others taking steps to get prepared. Talk to your family and friends about the important steps they can take to be prepared. Be a preparedness role model – volunteer in your community, take a first aid and CPR class, or share a photo of your emergency kit or a selfie of you and your family at your emergency meeting place.

Week 4: GO! Take immediate action to save lives.

It is vital that people take not only immediate but also the appropriate protective action when an emergency happens. Local officials will ask you to shelter in place (take shelter in a basement or windowless interior room) in some situations; and to evacuate your home, workplace or community in response in others. For example, a wildfire or an approaching hurricane. Know when to go (or stay), where to go, how to get there and what to do BEFORE an emergency. The most important thing is to take immediate and decisive action.

Get involved

Follow us on social media (@CDCemergency on Twitter and CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response on Facebook), bookmark our Public Health Matters blog, and sign up for GovDelivery email updates.

If you would like to partner with us for Preparedness Month, or want more information, contact us at phprcommunications@cdc.gov.

Infographic

 https://www.cdc.gov/phpr/npm/powerofpreparedness2017.htm

2017 Arkansas Emergency Management Conference

Pictured are AJ Gary, Director of Arkansas Department of Emergency Management and Crawford County, AR Judge, Dennis Gilstrap (previous Crawford County Department of Emergency Manager).

Tornado Strikes Tulsa

Tornado Strikes Tulsa, Causing Dozens of Injuries and Damage

An uncommon August tornado struck Tulsa early Sunday, damaging buildings, toppling utility poles and injuring around 30 people, authorities said.

No deaths were reported when the tornado struck at around 1:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m. ET) The National Weather Service said it confirmed damage from an EF-2 tornado in the central part of the city.

 Tornado rips through Tulsa shopping district, injures at least 30 2:08

Eight people were hospitalized after a TGI Fridays restaurant collapsed, trapping people inside.

“It completely collapsed right on top of everybody so it’s, it’s lucky that people came out with their lives,” restaurant manager Zane McCollough said.

More than 14,000 people in the Tulsa area lost power at one point due to the tornado and severe storms, utility provider Public Service Company of Oklahoma said. Around 125 utility poles were broken or damaged.

The city’s warning sirens did not sound before the tornado struck. Tulsa Area Emergency Management Director Roger Jolliff described it as a fast-moving storm that left little time for warning.

“To have warned we would have been warning after the fact, which would have not been the right thing to do,” Jolliff said.

The Tulsa Fire Department said 13 people were transported to hospitals, including a firefighter who was burned in a house fire. A spokesperson for St. Francis Hospital said the medical center received 30 patients with minor injuries like lacerations, and most had been released by Sunday afternoon.

National Weather Service meteorologist Amy Jankowski told the Associated Press that while tornadoes can strike any time, they are generally associated with the spring months.

“I wouldn’t say outrageously rare, but it is uncommon,” to see an August tornado, Jankowski said.

Crews were clearing streets Sunday and Tulsa Police Sgt. Shane Tuell warned people to stay out of damaged areas if possible.

An uncommon August tornado struck Tulsa early Sunday, damaging buildings, toppling utility poles and injuring around 30 people, authorities said.

No deaths were reported when the tornado struck at around 1:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m. ET) The National Weather Service said it confirmed damage from an EF-2 tornado in the central part of the city.

 

Image: A man stands near a damaged building after a storm moved through the area in Tulsa, Oklahoma Aug. 6, 2017. A possible tornado struck near midtown Tulsa and causing power outages and roof damage to businesses.
A man stands near a damaged building after a storm moved through the area in Tulsa, Oklahoma Aug. 6, 2017. Tom Gilbert / AP

He said that after the deadly tornado in Joplin, Missouri in 2011, a study showed that some residents did not initially heed warning sirens because of what was perceived as past false alarms, and emergency managers are reluctant to sound sirens too often.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2011 did find that many residents interviewed after that deadly tornado said the first siren did not immediately trigger concern because of what was perceived as past false alarms.

The E-5 Joplin tornado that struck on May 22, 2011, killed 159 people and injured more than 1,000 others. It was the seventh-deadliest tornado in U.S. history.

Image: A man stands outside a Fridays restaurant after a storm moved through the area in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Aug. 6, 2017. A possible tornado struck near midtown Tulsa and causing power outages and roof damage to businesses.
A man stands outside a Fridays restaurant after a storm moved through the area in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Aug. 6, 2017. Tom Gilbert / AP

The Tulsa Fire Department said 13 people were transported to hospitals, including a firefighter who was burned in a house fire. A spokesperson for St. Francis Hospital said the medical center received 30 patients with minor injuries like lacerations, and most had been released by Sunday afternoon.

National Weather Service meteorologist Amy Jankowski told the Associated Press that while tornadoes can strike any time, they are generally associated with the spring months.

“I wouldn’t say outrageously rare, but it is uncommon,” to see an August tornado, Jankowski said.

Crews were clearing streets Sunday and Tulsa Police Sgt. Shane Tuell warned people to stay out of damaged areas if possible.

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 Tornado Destroys Businesses, Injures Dozens in Tulsa, Oklahoma

“Right now we’re still identifying dangerous areas of power lines, gas leaks that are in the area, and other debris that can still cause severe injury to individuals,” he said.

Elliott Wilson, franchise owner of the bed and mattress store Mattress Firm, assessed the damage to his store Sunday.

“There’s definitely going have to be some tile and carpet repaired,” Wilson said. “Yeah, it’s going to keep us down for a little bit.”