Surviving a natural disaster is an essential life skill that everybody should know.
This guide will teach you how to prepare for a natural disaster and how to survive it. What it will not teach you is how to survive after a natural disaster.
Let’s say you’re stranded in the wild after escaping a tsunami. Do you know how to survive?
That is something that you should learn before starting out with this 101 guide on natural disaster survival. So, for example, if you don’t know how to get drinkable water anywhere or how to prep a medical bag, then you should check out our previous posts and prepare yourself for surviving any situation.
If you have your survival basics mastered, this is what you need to know when facing a natural disaster:
Types of Natural Disasters
There are a lot of natural disasters known to man. Depending on your location, some of you might have experienced natural disasters or at least heard about them.
As you might know, some areas are more susceptible to one type of natural disaster than others. For example:
- Coastlines and islands are prone to tsunamis — examples being Japan and the Philippines
- Areas with convergent and transform boundaries are prone to earthquakes — examples being the Pacific Ocean basin and the Mediterranean-Asiatic Belt
- Areas with hot temperatures and low humidity levels are prone to wildfires — examples being California, Australia, and Canada’s Boreal forest zones
When it comes to classifying natural disasters, we have:
- Geological disasters — earthquakes, avalanches, volcanic eruptions, etc.
- Hydrological disasters — floods, tsunamis, etc.
- Meteorological disasters — hurricanes, storms, blizzards, droughts, etc.
- Space disaster — impacts in space, solar flares, etc.
Once you have a basic understanding of the types of natural disasters, you need to figure out which disasters are more prone to hit your specific location.
Now, if you have lived in the same area for a long period of time, you will know what are the most common natural disasters and how to survive them. But if you just moved, you need to start doing your research.
Here’s what you need to know (besides what kinds of natural disasters are most likely to strike your area): how to prepare a survival kit, the evacuation routes, the areas meant for shelter, the landscape, and of course, the area itself.
Tip: Check your survival kit regularly to make sure that everything is still in good condition and ready to be used. You should also update your kit depending on the season. For example, if winter is close, you should make sure you have a Mylar blanket, warm clothing, and a shovel in your backpack, besides your other survival essentials.
How to Prepare to Survive a Wildfire
Wildfires can take everybody by surprise. It doesn’t take much to start a wildfire. All it takes is one strike of lightning hitting a tree, a cigarette being thrown carelessly in the woods, or a campfire not being put out correctly.
There are quite a few things that you can do to prevent a fire, prepare for a fire, and survive a fire.
What to Do Before a Wildfire
If the area is susceptible to wildfires, then investing in noncombustible materials for your home, fire-resistant shrubs and trees, fire alarms, and fire-resistant drapes is always a good idea.
Having a survival kit and a well-designed evacuation and emergency plan is also a must.
Other than purchasing fire-resistant items for your home, you can also:
- Clean the roof, chimneys, and gutters regularly
- Clear out the area surrounding your house of flammable vegetation, like leaves and twigs
- Remove vines and branches that come too close to your home or to power lines
- Store flammable materials (firewood, gasoline, oily rags) at a safe distance from your house
- Identify water sources close to your home
- Dispose of garbage, newspapers, and ashes in appropriate ways — for example, soak grill ashes in water for one to two days and bury the ashes
What to Do During a Wildfire
Once a wildfire starts, the most important thing is to be informed. Watch local news channels for any updates and call the emergency line if you haven’t heard any news regarding evacuations.
If told to evacuate, grab your survival kit and leave the area immediately, choosing a route that is not affected by the fire.
Before leaving, grab important paperwork and your pets, take your valuables with you or place them in water, and turn on some lights to make the house visible.
If you have not been told to evacuate, here are some effective tips:
- Close off the doors and shutter to your home to prevent a draft
- Shut off the gas at the source
- Fill large containers with water
- Douse your roof with water when and if possible
- Take flammable objects to the center of the house
If you’re trapped in your home, call the authorities and turn on the lights to help the firefighters find you. Wear protective masks (N95 respirators, for example) and take shelter in a room that has not been contaminated with smoke.
How to Prepare and Survive a Flood
Floods can be more predictable than wildfires, but they are just as devastating. They are caused by long periods of heavy rain or the melting of snow and ice. Generally, areas that are close to rivers are more susceptible to flash floods.
What To Do Before a Flood
In case of a flood, make sure that:
- Your survival kit is ready
- You know your evacuation routes
- You have knowledge of flash flood protocol
If you have time to prepare, move your paperwork and valuables in waterproof bags, or take them to the higher levels of your home. The same should be done with electrical devices.
Ensure that your drains and gutters work properly and if you can, invest in a sump pump. A sump pump is especially useful if the home has a basement, which is one of the first places to get flooded.
Power failure can happen frequently during any natural disaster, so having a battery-operating pump is always a plus.
Besides a sump pump, you can protect your home from a flood with:
If you know that the area you live in is prone to flooding, then a good tip is to keep the furnace, electric panel, and water heater in a more elevated place.
What to Do During a Flood
Staying informed is vital. Watch the news or stay in contact with local authorities to see if evacuation is necessary.
If you don’t need to evacuate, then you should put into practice the following tips:
- Move all members of your household and all the essentials you have on the higher levels of your home
- Collect fresh water in jugs and bottles
- Turn off electricity, gas, and the water supplies
- Put plugs in sinks and baths and weigh them down with something heavy
If you are told to evacuate, do so immediately. If you are not directed towards an evacuation center, make sure you head for higher grounds, avoiding the areas that are already flooded.
Beware of the water, as only six inches of moving water can take down an adult. Once it is past two feet, the water can move a car. In this situation, it’s best to avoid moving or driving through water.
Once authorities deem it safe to return to your home, you can inspect the damage and prepare for a clean-out.
How to Prepare and Survive an Earthquake
Earthquakes can essentially happen anywhere and at any time, but there are areas more susceptible to earthquakes. A few areas prone to earthquakes in the United States are Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Washington, and the Mississippi River Valley.
Depending on the situation, earthquakes can cause other natural disasters, such as landslides, fires, tsunamis, or avalanches. When getting prepared for an earthquake, it is good to get ready for the other natural disasters that might occur.
What to Do Before an Earthquake
Whether you live in an area prone to earthquakes or not, staying safe and knowing what to do in case of an emergency is important.
Here’s how you can prepare:
- Make a plan with your family or friends
- Prepare a survival kit and stock on non-perishable foods, water, and medicine in case services get cut off
- Secure your home
- Practice your Drop, Cover, and Hold On strategy and make sure everybody in your household knows it
- Identify places that can keep you safe (under sturdy furniture, against a wall, away from items that could cause injuries, such as glass, etc.)
When securing your home, you should place breakable or very heavy objects on lower shelves. Shelves should be sturdy and items such as refrigerators, closets, bookcases, etc. should be secured to the wall.
Investing in sturdy tables might be a good idea, as it is common practice to take shelter under them during earthquakes.
What to Do During an Earthquake
Depending on the location, there are different safety procedures that you should follow. If you are:
- In a car, then stop the car and pull the parking breaks
- Outdoors, then stay away from buildings
- Indoors, then stay inside and avoid doorways
The Drop, Cover, and Hold On procedure is essential in this situation. This is what you have to do:
- Drop to your hands and knees (if you’re in use of a wheelchair, then lock the wheels)
- Cover your head and your neck with your arms
- If possible, crawl under a desk or near a wall and grab onto it, while protecting your head and neck
Once the earthquake is over, check to see if the building is damaged. If it is, get out and stay away from any other damaged buildings. If you are trapped, call the authorities. If there is no signal, then try finding a pipe or a wall to hit and alert people around you that you are trapped.
How to Prepare and Survive a Drought
Although droughts can sometimes be predicted, the complexity of each area’s climate makes them hard to forecast. They generally appear during dry seasons, and their severity is mostly influenced by the duration of the drought.
How to Prepare for a Drought
You want to be as prepared as possible for a drought. To do so, here are a few tips:
- Fix any leaks you might have
- Purchase appliances that don’t consume a lot of water
- Invest in rain collecting systems and irrigation devices, like soaker hoses
- Plant drought-resistant plants and trees
If you’re living in the countryside and you have animals and crops, you might want to rotate crops to ensure the quality of the soil and prepare yourself and the area for your livestock. Your livestock will need a water supply, food, and shade to survive the dry season and drought.
How to Survive a Drought
The best tip during a drought is to conserve as much water as possible. To do so, there are things that you can do inside and outside the household.
Inside the household, you can:
- Take shorter showers and place a bucket to catch any extra water
- Don’t let the water run carelessly
- Operate washers and dishwashers only when they are at full capacity
- Use lighter and shorter washing programs to wash clothes and dishes
- Reuse any water that you can
Outside the household, you can:
- Wash your car only when necessary and do it on the grass
- Don’t overwater the lawn
- Invest in a water-saving pool filter and cover the pool to avoid evaporation
In many communities, officials will give tips on water conservation or even implement certain procedures. Depending on the severity of the drought, these procedures can be more or less extreme.
How to Prepare and Survive a Tsunami
Tsunamis, or seismic sea waves, are a series of gigantic waves hitting the land. They are caused by underwater disturbances, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and less commonly, meteorites.
The areas that will be most affected by tsunamis are areas near the sea that are also prone to earthquakes. In the United States, these areas are Hawaii, Alaska, and the U.S. west coast.
How to Prepare for a Tsunami
Like all natural disasters, tsunamis can be devastating and destructive. Although they are not easy to predict, there are signs that can help you figure out if a tsunami is about to hit your area or not.
Here is what you should pay attention to:
- Other natural disasters, especially earthquakes — earthquakes are the most common cause of tsunamis. If your area is hit by an earthquake, make sure you protect yourself and start preparing for a tsunami.
- The pattern of the waves — if the water is receding unusually far, uncovering the seafloor, then you should head over to higher land.
- Ground shaking and any weird sounds coming from the ocean — if you hear a loud ocean roar, then you need to evacuate.
As always, you should have a survival kit prepared beforehand and know the emergency routes that can lead either to a local shelter or to safer grounds. Have everything that you would need in waterproof bags and in a place where they are easy to access.
You should also pay attention to the news and the radio for any official warnings. If the authorities tell you to evacuate the area, you should do so immediately.
How to Survive a Tsunami
Being informed is vital during a tsunami. Pay attention to what the authorities are saying, but also be mindful of the signs you are encountering.
If you notice any of the signs mentioned above, then get your survival kit and your paperwork and leave. Do not wait for the authorities to give an official warning for evacuation, as tsunamis can travel with speeds reaching up to 500 miles per hour and can hit the coastline in a matter of seconds.
Make sure that you follow the escape routes and head over to higher land or to a specialized shelter.
If you are caught in a tsunami, you should do the following to maximize your chances of survival:
- Grab on to a piece of floating debris
- Try to climb on a roof and build a makeshift raft
- Stay where you are until the authorities come after you
- If you are out on a boat, then head towards the sea
How to Prepare and Survive a Hurricane
A hurricane, also called a tropical cyclone, is a storm that can be found in tropical and subtropical areas. The U.S. states that are most affected by hurricanes are Florida, Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, New York, Mississippi, and Virginia.
Although the Atlantic hurricane season starts on June 1 and lasts until Nov. 30, hurricanes can hit at any time, so it’s best to be prepared for one.
How to Prepare for a Hurricane
If you are living in an area prone to hurricanes and you know hurricane season is coming, then you need to start gathering your supplies.
It is recommended to have a survival kit ready at all times, just in case a natural disaster hits or an emergency happens. Besides this, you should also stock on:
- Nonperishable and canned foods
- Drinkable water
- Medical supplies
You can also take action and prepare your property for a hurricane. To do so, you will have to:
- Bring lightweight objects found on your property inside (furniture, garbage containers, etc)
- Anchor heavier or unsafe objects (gas grill)
- Keep the branches of nearby trees trimmed
- Reinforce doors, windows, screens, and rooftops
- Clean gutters and drains periodically
- Waterproof the basement and consider purchasing a battery-operated backup sump pump
- Install a retention valve in the sewer lines to prevent flooding
- Design a safe room where you can take shelter when the hurricane hits
How to Survive a Hurricane
If you are informed by the authorities to leave the area, then take your survival kit and your supplies and evacuate. Go to your local shelter or move to higher grounds.
If you do not have to evacuate your home, then make sure you shut your blinds and move away from the windows. Move your supplies in the room you are taking shelter and keep in mind that electricity and water can be cut off during and even after the hurricane.
Do not go outside during a hurricane, as this can put you in serious danger. Keep a radio or a mobile device on you to receive updates about the hurricane and see when it is safe to leave your home.
If you have evacuated the area, return to your home only after you get the okay from your local authorities. Assess the damage to your home and start the cleaning process. Keep in mind that flooding can also happen during a hurricane, so you should be prepared for a flood as well.
Take Safety with You No Matter Where You Go
Natural disasters can hit at any time. This is why you need to be prepared and make sure you and your family have the highest chance of survival.
Luckily, you now know what you need to do in order to prepare and survive some of the most vicious disasters out there.
If you want to make sure that you remember all of these tips, you can download the PDF version of this guide and have it with you at all times.
And if you want to get consistent survival tips and news, then the Freedom Prepper is the place for you.