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Danger at your Doorstep: Disaster Tips

By: Ryan Maye Handy
April 2, 2015 Updated: April 3, 2015 at 10:12 am


FLOODS Know the Difference

Flood/Flash Flood Watch: Flooding or flash flooding is possible in your area.

Flood/Flash Flood Warning: Flooding or flash flooding is occurring or will occur soon in your area.

What should I know/do?

  • Follow local news websites, alerts and tweets, and listen to local radio and TV reports and NOAA Weather Radio for flood reports and critical weather and evacuation information.
  • Be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice.
  • When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
  • Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon water that is flowing higher than your ankles, stop, go another way.
  • If you come upon a flooded road while driving, go another way.
  • If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of your car and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by fewer than 2 feet of moving water.
  • Keep children out of the water.
  • Be especially cautious at night.

What do I do after the flood?

  • Return home only when officials have declared the area safe.
  • Before entering your home, look outside for loose power lines, damaged gas lines, foundation cracks or other damage.
  • If you smell natural or propane gas or hear a hissing noise, leave immediately and call the fire department.
  • Do not step in puddles or standing water if power lines are down.
  • Keep children and pets away from hazardous sites and floodwater.
  • Materials such as cleaning products, paint and batteries can contaminate water and mud.
  • During cleanup, wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots.
  • Discard items including canned goods, water bottles, plastic utensils and baby bottle nipples that have come in contact with floodwater. When in doubt, throw it out!
  • Do not use water that could be contaminated.
  • Contact your local or state public health department for specific recommendations for boiling or treating water.

WILDFIRES What should I do to prepare ahead of time?

  • Learn about wildfire risks in your area.
  • Talk with members of your household about wildfires how to prevent them and what to do if one occurs.
  • Make sure driveway entrances and your house number or address are clearly marked.
  • Set aside household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, ax, handsaw or chainsaw, bucket and shovel. You may need to fight small fires before emergency responders arrive.
  • Select building materials and plants that resist fire.
  • Regularly clean roofs and gutters.
  • Plan and practice two ways out of your neighborhood in case your primary route is blocked.
  • Select a place for family members to meet outside your neighborhood in case you cannot get home or need to evacuate.

What should I do if there are reports of a wildfire in my area?

  • Be ready to leave at a moment's notice.
  • Watch local news websites, alerts and tweets, and listen to local radio and TV reports for updated emergency information.
  • Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.
  • Confine pets to one room so you can find them if you need to evacuate quickly.
  • Arrange for temporary housing outside the threatened area.
  • Limit exposure to smoke and dust.
  • Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent smoke from getting in.
  • Use the recycle or re circulate mode on the air conditioner in your home or car.

Returning home after a wildfire

  • Do not enter your home until fire officials say it is safe.
  • Use caution when entering burned areas as hazards may still exist, including hot spots, which can flare up without warning, and damaged trees that can fall without warning.
  • Avoid damaged or fallen power lines, poles and downed wires.
  • Watch for ash pits and mark them for safety.
  • Keep animals under your direct control.
  • Follow public health guidance on safe cleanup of ash and safe use of masks.
  • Wet debris down to minimize breathing dust particles.
  • Wear leather gloves and heavy soled shoes.
  • Ensure your food and water are safe.
  • Discard any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.
  • Do not use water that you think may be contaminated
  • .

What supplies do I need if I must evacuate?

  • Water: At least a three day supply; one gallon per person per day.
  • Food: At least a three day supply of nonperishable, easy to prepare food.
  • Flashlight
  • Battery powered or hand crank radio (NOAA weather radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First Aid kit
  • Medications (seven day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses and solution, syringes, cane, etc.)
  • Multipurpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list, medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cellphone and charger
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Emergency blankets
  • Maps of the area
  • Baby supplies (bottles, formula, food, diapers)
  • Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
  • Tools/supplies for securing your home
  • Extra set of car keys and house keys
  • Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
  • Rain gear
  • Camera (insurance purposes)

Let others know you're safe

Register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well website or call 866 GET INFO to let your family and friends know about your welfare.


  • Don't assume you'll be covered in the event of a disaster. Flood insurance is separate from home insurance polices. Some private companies carry it, but it also available from the federal government through the National Flood Insurance Program. Learn more at flood insurance program.
  • Take inventory and estimate damage costs to fully repair or replace property, regardless of whether you believe you are covered. Keep written records of all conversations regarding your claim, including with the government and professionals outside your insurance company.
  • Know your rights and advocate for yourself if you feel your insurance company is refusing to pay for what you are entitled to. You can reach the Colorado Division of Insurance at 303 894 7499. Get a second, professional opinion before giving up that your claim won't be paid.
  • Document losses fully and don't skimp when reporting to the insurance company. Find out whether your policies cover replacement cost and be prepared to fight for what was promised in your policy.
  • Find more advice at help/property.
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