Options for Protection

OPTIONS FOR PROTECTION

Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the emergency, the first important decision is whether you stay where you are or evacuate. You should understand and plan for both possibilities. Use common sense and available information, including what you are learning here, to determine if there is an immediate danger. In any emergency, local authorities may or may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet often for information or official instruction as it becomes available. Further information on staying put or sheltering in place.

EMERGENCY INFORMATION

Find out what kinds of disasters, both natural and man-made, are most likely to occur in your area and how you will be notified. Methods of getting your attention vary from community to community. One common method is to broadcast via emergency radio and TV broadcasts. You might hear a special siren, or get a telephone call, or emergency workers may go door-to-door.

EMERGENCY PLANS

You may also want to inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work,daycare and school. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one. Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together in the event of an emergency. You will be better prepared to safely reunite your family and loved ones during an emergency if you think ahead and communicate with others in advance. Read more: School and Workplace.

COMMUNITY & OTHER PLANS

Ask local officials about your community’s disaster plans.

Ask local officials the following questions about your community’s disaster/emergency plans.

  • What hazards are most likely?
  • How will I get alerts and warnings?
  • What is the advice and plans for sheltering and evacuation for the hazards that may impact the community?
  • Are there emergency contact numbers I should have for different situations?
  • Are there opportunities for preparedness education and training?
  • Does my community have a plan?
  • Can I obtain a copy?
  • What does the plan contain?
  • How often are plans updated?
  • What should I know about this plan?
  • What hazards does it cover?

In addition to finding out about you community’s plan, it is important that you know what plans are in place for you workplace, your children’s school or day care center and any places you frequent like entertainment and sporting events, recreation areas, shopping centers and places of worship.

Ask your employer about workplace policies regarding disasters and emergencies, including understanding how you will be provided emergency and warning information, evacuation and shelter plans.

Contact your children’s school or day care center to discuss their disaster procedures.

EVACUATING YOURSELF & YOUR FAMILY

Prepare now in the event of an evacuation.

Evacuations are more common than many people realize. Fires and floods cause evacuations most frequently across the U.S. and almost every year, people along coastlines evacuate as hurricanes approach. In addition, hundreds of times a year, transportation and industrial accidents release harmful substances, forcing many people to leave their homes.

In some circumstances, local officials decide that the hazards are serious and require mandatory evacuations. In others, evacuations are advised or households decide to evacuate to avoid situations they believe are potentially dangerous. When community evacuations become necessary local officials provide information to the public through the media. In some circumstances, other warning methods, such as sirens, text alerts, emails or telephone calls are used.

The amount of time you have to leave will depend on the hazard. If the event is a weather condition, such as a hurricane, you might have a day or two to get ready. However, many disasters allow no time for people to gather even the most basic necessities, which is why planning ahead is essential.

Plan how you will assemble your family and supplies and anticipate where you will go for different situations. Choose several destinations in different directions so you have options in an emergency and know the evacuation routes to get to those destinations.

SHELTER

Choosing to take shelter is necessary in many emergencies.

Taking appropriate shelter is critical in times of disaster. Sheltering is appropriate when conditions require that you seek protection in your home, place of employment or other location when disaster strikes. Sheltering outside the hazard area could include staying with friends and relatives, seeking commercial lodging or staying in a mass care facility operated by disaster relief groups.

To effectively shelter, you must first consider the hazard and then choose a place in your home or other building that is safe for that hazard. For example, for a tornado, a room should be selected that is in a basement or an interior room on the lowest level away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls.

The safest locations to seek shelter vary by hazard. Be Informed about the sheltering suggestions for each hazard.

There may be situations, depending on your circumstances and the nature of the disaster, when it's simply best to stay where you are and avoid any uncertainty outside by “sheltering in place.” Get more information about choosing to shelter in place or evacuate and creating a safe shelter

The length of time you are required to shelter may be short, such as during a tornado warning, or long, such as during a winter storm or a pandemic. It is important that you stay in shelter until local authorities say it is safe to leave. Additionally, you should take turns listening to radio broadcasts and maintain a 24-hour safety watch.

During extended periods of sheltering, you will need to manage water and food supplies to ensure you and your family have the required supplies and quantities. Read more about Managing Water and Managing Food.

WARNING SYSTEMS & SIGNALS

Stay informed during a disaster through emergency broadcasts.

Find out what kinds of disasters, both natural and accidental, are most likely to occur in your area and how you will be notified.

Methods of getting your attention vary from community to community. One common method is to broadcast via emergency radio and TV broadcasts. You might hear a special siren, or get a telephone call or emergency workers may go door-to-door.

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) can address the entire nation on very short notice in case of a grave threat or national emergency. Ask if your local radio and TV stations participate in EAS.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio (NWR) is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from a nearby National Weather Service office to specially configured NOAA weather radio receivers. Determine if NOAA Weather Radio is available where you live. If so, consider purchasing a NOAA weather radio receiver.

Many communities also offer emergency alert notifications through their own systems. Check with your state or local government to learn what is available in your area.