Surviving a Natural Disaster
Surviving a natural disaster is difficult no matter which type of natural disaster it is.
Knowing how to prepare for natural disaster will give you the best chance for survival.
In this article are 10 natural disasters types and how to survive them.
Surviving a Natural Disaster Contents
How to Escape a Fire
This will teach you how to escape fire whether you are at home, in the car, or in the wilderness.
Signs of Fire
The first sign of fire is the smell of smoke. Animals will smell this before you so watch for strange animal behavior.
You may hear the roar of the fire before seeing the flames.
Fire Escape Plan for Home
A fire can destroy everything in its path. But for most people, abandoning the family home to escape from the fire is a last resort.
To avoid this, minimize and fuel for the fire around your house:
- Keep gutters clean.
- Keep surrounding vegetation to a minimum.
- Store flammable materials well.
In addition, educate your family. Have fire extinguishers in the kitchen and in other places fires are likely. Make sure everyone knows how to use them.
If a fire is approaching douse your house with water.
Have a fire escape route and use it to escape the fire if it gets too close.
If you live in an apartment building, check the fire escape staircase works every few months. You can install fire escape stairs if you have a multilevel house.
If you do not evacuate in time, or if the fire is passing near you, stay inside. Block all the gaps around doors and windows and close all blinds and curtains.
Stay away from outside walls and wait for the fire to pass.
Once the fire passes, you can put out any small fires outside.
If the fire is inside and too big to extinguish, you must evacuate. Shut all doors on your way out to contain it.
Stay low and test door handles with the back of your hand before opening them.
Extinguishing a Fire
To put out a fire, you need to deprive it of oxygen. Smother it with sand, fire blankets, fire extinguishers, or other firefighting tools.
Water works too but if it is an electrical or oil fire, it will make it worse.
As soon as you feel you cannot control a fire get out of danger and call for help.
How to Make a Firebreak
Making a fire break is good if the fire is some distance away and there is no way of avoiding it.
The object is to burn off all the fuel in an area so that the main fire has nothing to burn.
The burnt area you create is the fire break and is safe for you to stand in.
Make sure you determine the wind direction before setting your fire.
The fire break width is as wide a line as possible. Good fire break guidelines are to make it 100+ meters wide. It can work as little as 10 meters depending on the size of the fire and strength of the wind.
Maintaining fire breaks if you are in a bush fire area is a must.
Saving a Person on Fire
Everyone has heard of Stop, Drop, and Roll for if you catch on fire.
Use the same principles on others on fire. This goes for animals too.
Your own safety comes first, so wait until they are clear of the main fire.
Push them to the ground, smother them with a blanket, and tell them to roll around. The heavier the fabric of the blanket the better it will work.
Cool any burned areas of the victim’s skin with lots of water and get them to a hospital.
It is good practice to keep a fire extinguisher in your car. Not in the trunk! It must be somewhere easy to get to.
Beer cans make a good improvised fire extinguisher for small fires. Shake it up and open it facing the fire. The carbon dioxide will starve the fire of oxygen.
Protecting the fuel tank is the priority.
When you are in the car that catches on fire, try to put it out. If it that fails, evacuate.
Get out of the car even if the fire is out. The fumes will be toxic.
When a vehicle is on fire in a confined space you can try to remove it from the building, but don’t get into it.
From the outside, put it in a low or reverse gear and bounce the car out with short bursts of the ignition. Be careful. It will jerk forward.
Ways to Escape a Forest Fire
When you see a fire in the wilderness, avoid it.
First try to go around it.
The next best option is to move downhill and/or into the wind. These are the directions that fire travels the slowest. Smoke is a good indicator of wind direction.
When that is not possible, head for a natural firebreak. Natural firebreaks are things like water, a large clearing, a deep ravine, etc.
If you can’t avoid the fire, you can try to run through it as long as the vegetation is not thick.
If you plan to do this, the sooner the better.
Cover as much exposed skin as you can and soak yourself in water. Protect your mouth and nose with a damp cloth.
As a last resort, bury yourself.
Clear the area of foliage and dig as much of a hollow as possible. Throw the dirt onto a coat, blanket, or something similar.
Lie face down and pull the coat with the dirt on it over the top of yourself.
Cup your hands over your mouth and nose and try to hold your breath as fire passes over.
When you are in a vehicle, stay in it.
Don’t drive through thick smoke. Instead, park in a clear area.
If there is no clear areas, pull off the road but don’t risk getting bogged.
Turn on your headlights, shut the windows, and seal the air vents.
How to Survive Flood as a Natural Disaster
Flood is a natural disaster that often happens as an aftermath to some other disaster such as hurricanes or tidal waves.
If you expect a flood, avoid it by getting to higher ground.
How to Survive a Flood at Home
If you are at home or in a building during a flood, prepare survival kits and a raft as soon as possible.
Also, turn off gas, electricity and water at the mains.
Once you are ready, move to an upper floor or roof with a shelter.
If it is a sloping roof, tie everyone on. Stay put as long as possible.
How to Survive a Flood in a Car
When evacuating, or if caught in a flash flood in a car, be extra careful on the roads.
Do not cross water unless certain of the depth. It must be shallower than the center of your vehicles wheels or your knees if on foot.
Bridges underwater may have missing sections and even a small drop in a hill can make a big difference in water level.
If your car dies, abandon it.
How to Survive Massive Flood – The Aftermath
Once the flood is over, you need to be very careful of contamination and disease. Do not walk around in, drink, or bathe in flood water.
Purify all water and clean anything that has come in contact with flood water before consuming it.
Don’t eat animal corpses or any fresh food that has come in contact with flood water.
Burn the dead.
What to Do During a Landslide
There can be multiple names for natural disasters. Landslides, mudslides, debris slides, etc. are all the same.
Indications of a Landslide
One of the important survival skills during landslides is to recognize when one is approaching.
Signs of a landslide include:
- A change from clear to muddy water.
- Cracks appearing on your walls.
- Doors or windows jamming.
- Landscape changes, e.g., leaning trees.
- Rumbling and/or cracking sounds of nature moving.
- Widening cracks in the ground.
- Stairs, outside walls etc. pulling away from buildings.
- Sudden increase or decrease in water flow.
- Water surfacing from the ground.
Landslides are most likely to occur:
- After heavy rain.
- After snow melt.
- In heavy saturated ground.
- In past landslide areas.
- On embankments along roadsides.
- With or after other natural disasters (earthquake, flooding, volcanic eruption, etc.)
How do you Prepare For a Landslide?
When you suspect a landslide, move away and get to high ground as fast as possible.
If you get caught in a landslide, roll into a tight ball on the ground. Protect your head.
After the Landslide
Once the landslide is over, keep away from the disaster area in case there are more.
Watch for associated dangers including broken electrical, water, gas, etc.
Repair and replant in damaged ground as soon as possible.
What to do During a Lightning Storm
In this section you will learn how to stay safe in a lightning storm including what not to do during a lightning storm.
The chances of getting struck by lightning are smaller, but you get hit your chances of survival are even smaller.
Knowing how to stay safe during a lightning storm is as easy as staying inside.
How to be Safe During a Lightning Storm Outdoors
When outside during a thunderstorm, avoid high ground and isolated tall objects.
You can try to find natural shelter, but not in the mouth of a cave or under an overhang of rock. Deep inside a cave is okay, but have at least one meter of space around you.
If you feel a tingling of the skin and/or hair standing on end, crouch down and place your hands on the ground. Make yourself as compact as possible and try to get on something for insulation – nothing metal or wet.
What to do in a Blizzard
A blizzard is a snowstorm which lasts 3+ hours and has 50km+ winds.
There are also ground blizzards where it is not snowing. Instead, strong winds blow the loose snow on the ground up.
This section aims to answer the question “what should someone do if they are caught in a blizzard?”
The best advice on how to prepare for a blizzard is to take shelter until it passes.
If camping in a snow blizzard stay inside your shelter. One of the biggest dangers of camping in blizzard conditions is getting buried in snow. Make sure you have tools inside your shelter so you can dig yourself out.
How to Survive a Blizzard in Your Car
- If you have fuel to spare run the engine for heating.
- Cover the engine so you lose as little heat as possible, but make sure the exhaust is clear.
- If you feel drowsy stop the engine and open a window.
- Only keep the heater on as needed.
- If the snow is building up get out and build a snow shelter. This will prevent you getting trapped inside the car.
How to Build a Snow Cave
Building a blizzard shelter is the answer for how to survive a blizzard outside.
An easy to build emergency snow shelter is the boy scout snow cave. Here are the steps:
- Try to find a level site not in danger of an avalanche.
- Make a large pile of snow and stomp it down as much as you can.
- Wait for the pile to harden so you won’t get a snow cave collapse.
- Dig down about a meter, then a few meters into the snow on a slight upward angle.
- Hollow out enough space for the amount of people you have. Consider sleeping and sitting space.
- Create a ventilation hole.
- Put something in the entrance to stop the wind.
- Smoothing the roof on the inside will help with dripping.
- Consider making levels so the cold air settles beneath you.
- Insulate the ground if you can. Greenery will work if you have nothing else.
- Be sure snowfall does not trap you in. Keep your snow cave tools inside.
Moving in a Blizzard
If you need to move from your shelter during a blizzard, make sure you can find it again. Hang something bright off it.
Never move at night!
Tips to Survive a Hurricane
The term hurricane covers a few kinds of natural disasters including cyclones, typhoons, and other large storms.
All these types of storms are a little different, but the steps to survive them is the same.
During a hurricane, there will be a period of calm. This is the eye of the storm and may last up to an hour before the storm picks up again.
Signs of a hurricane include:
- Abnormal barometric pressure variations.
- Dense cirrus clouds converging towards the storm.
- Increased ocean swell, especially if coupled with colored sunsets or sunrises.
If you have time before the hurricane hits, go as far inland as possible and away from river banks.
You best chance of surviving a typhoon is to stay indoors. Board up windows and secure any outdoor objects that might blow away.
Get as low as possible, e.g., in the basement.
If you are outside, try to find natural shelter such as a cave.
A ditch is the next best place and failing that, to the lee side of any solid structure. The lee side is the side that shelters you from the wind.
If there is no shelter, lie flat on the ground.
If you move, keep as low as possible.
During the calm eye of the storm, move to the other side of your windbreak or find better shelter.
Try to stay clear of things that may turn into flying debris during the storm. Examples include fences, coconuts, small trees, etc.
When at sea during a hurricane you need to batten down the hatches, stow all gear, and take down any canvas.
If your boat is small, tie yourself to it.
Tips to Survive a Tornado
You can hear tornadoes from great distances. They sound like a spinning top. They also have a calm eye like that of a hurricane.
Your best chance for surviving a tornado is to take shelter below ground.
If there is no below-ground or re-enforced shelter, close all doors and windows.
Go to the center of the lowest floor and into a small room such as a bathroom or closet. Stay away from glass and where there is heavy furniture on the floor above you.
Get under sturdy furniture or cover your body with a mattress.
How to Survive a Tornado in a Car
Do not stay in a car or caravan unless there is no other option. Any building is better than a car.
If you have no choice, put your seatbelt on, cover yourself, and keep low.
How to Survive a Tornado Outdoors
When there is no shelter, go to an open area.
Move at right angles to the tornado’s predicted path and take shelter in a ditch or depression.
Lie flat and cover your head with your arms.
What to do in a Volcanic Eruption
What is a volcanic eruption? A volcanic eruption is when lava and gas spurt from a volcano. It poses many threats. All are life-threatening.
Knowing what to do in case of volcanic eruption starts with recognizing the signs.
Signs of volcanic eruption include:
- Acid rain.
- Signs of activeness from the volcano like rumblings, steam, etc.
- Sulfurous smells from rivers.
What to do before a volcanic eruption? Evacuate!
Volcanoes give warning most of the time, so the best answer for how to stay safe during a volcanic eruption is to get out of the danger zone.
Volcanic Eruption Hazards and Action
Here is what happens during a volcanic eruption and tips for how to survive a volcanic eruption.
You can outrun lava but it won’t stop until it hits a valley or cools off.
Missiles can be of ash, rock, molten lava, etc. Wear a hard hat.
Ash and Acid Rain
Ash will make the roads slippery so be extra careful when driving.
Cover your mouth and nose with a damp cloth or an industrial mask and wear goggles that seal around the eyes.
Once you reach shelter, remove your clothing. Wash any exposed skin well, and flush your eyes with clean water.
Take refuge in an underground shelter or under water while it passes overhead.
Mud flows can occur during the eruption or after it has finished. Deal with them in the same way as land slides.
Knowing what to do after a volcanic eruption depends on which of the above things occurred. You will want to stay clear of the area for a while. Follow what the rescue services say.
I hope these volcano survival tips help you decide what to do before, during, and after a volcanic eruption.
How to Survive an Avalanche
When in avalanche territory there are times and places where avalanche is more likely. They include:
- After a rise in temperature.
- After rain.
- In deep, snow filled gullies.
- In the afternoon if the morning has been sunny.
- On angles of 30° to 45°.
- On the side which faces away from the wind (leeward side).
- On snow covered convex slopes.
- Within 24 hours of snowfall lasting 2 or more hours.
When crossing avalanche territory carry an avalanche probe and a beacon.
Avoid small gullies and valleys with steep side walls. Instead, stick to ridges and high ground above avalanche paths.
After midday, keep on slopes already exposed to the sun.
Before noon, travel in shaded areas.
When in a group, which is best, keep at least 20 meters apart.
Rope together and use belays, unless skiing.
When you are skiing, ski down any slopes one at a time.
If Caught in an Avalanche
As soon as you see the avalanche approaching, get rid of access weight such as packs.
Use the freestyle swimming stroke to stay on top of the snow.
If you can’t stay on top, cover your mouth and nose.
As soon as you stop, make as big an area as possible whilst trying to reach the surface.
To figure out where the surface is, use gravity and an object or your spit to determine which way is down. Dig up.
You can use your ski pole to poke the snow to find open air.
Note: It is common to find people buried next to trees and benches.
Tips to Survive an Earthquake
When you live in an earthquake prone area, having an earthquake preparedness plan is a must.
How to Prepare for a Earthquake
Often you will have prior warning. If this is the case gather all useful provisions such as medical and survival kits as soon as possible.
Prepare your home by turning off gas, electricity, and water at the mains. Also, remove large and heavy objects from high places.
Continue to listen to the media and do as instructed.
Here’s how to survive an earthquake at school, what to do in an earthquake in an apartment, or in any building.
The number one rule to survive and earthquake in a building is to stay inside the building. The lower you are the better, e.g., basement.
Get to one of the following (in a rough order of preference):
- Inside a well-supported interior door frame.
- Under a large piece of furniture (hang onto it).
- An inside corner of the building.
- In a hallway.
Avoid being underneath unstable objects, including on the floor above you.
Also avoid elevators, glass, the kitchen, tool sheds, etc.
How to Survive an Earthquake in a Car
When you are in a car and an earthquake hits stop in an open area and stay inside it. Crouch below seat level.
Do not stop on or under a bridge!
Be extra careful on the road when you resume driving.
How to Survive an Earthquake if You’re Outside
If you are outside during an earthquake your best bet is to find an open space and lie flat.
Beaches not below cliffs are safe during the earthquake but evacuate as soon as the major tremors finish in case of a tidal wave.
Do not go underground or in any tunnels and get away from tall structures including trees.
The safest place on a hill is on the top.
What to do After an Earthquake
After the earthquake there is likely to be structural damage. Do not take shelter in a damaged building. Build a temporary one from debris instead.
When at home, shut off electricity, gas, and water at the mains. If your gas is already off, let the gas company turn it back on.
Do not make any sparks or flames or use electricity until 100% sure there are no gas leaks.
Keep your phone line available for emergency calls. If your phone line is down, send someone for help.
Be careful when opening cupboards.
When venturing outside, stay clear of downed electrical lines and other hazards.
Add this book to your collection,
because knowledge is the most important survival tool you have!
Surviving a Natural Disaster Conclusion
Now you know how to prepare for a natural disaster, and how to survive a natural disaster too.
The above natural disaster list does not include all the natural disasters you may face but I think it covers a good range.
Knowing the facts about natural disasters is important and managing natural disasters is different in different places.
Learn the information you need to survive natural disasters in any area you plan to be in.
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Bert Luxing is the creator of the Survival Fitness Plan.
Apart from all the subjects on this website, he also enjoys traveling, reading, watching movies, and learning languages.