Health & Safety Guidelines  »  Be Prepared for Disasters & Threats

Knowledge is power! Be aware of warning signs for certain disasters. Learn actions to take to increase the chance for your safety and the safety of others.

For Weather Disasters

  1. Find out and be prepared for disasters that are likely to occur in your area (e.g., floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc.).

  2. Tune in, daily, to weather forecasts. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) uses radio and TV stations to issue a WATCH (for an expected emergency) or a WARNING (for an emergency in progress or one that is about to occur). Contact The National Weather Service at

  3. Heed the warnings given. Emergency sirens may also sound. Know when your area does a practice drill for sirens. Then you won’t confuse this with a real emergency.

  4. Watch for fallen power lines. Avoid them.

For Bomb Threats

  1. Don’t touch strange packages.

  2. Be suspicious if packages have a ticking sound or have wires or aluminum foil sticking out from them.

  3. Leave the building as fast as you can.

  4. Call local police and the building manager.

  5. When leaving a building, try not to walk by windows.

For Biological Terrorism

Biological terrorism includes anthrax, smallpox, and other biological agents. If a biological attack occurs, the public will be informed and told what to do. Stay calm and listen for instructions on the radio or television. {Note: For up-to-date information on biological agents, contact The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at 888.246.2675 or}

For Explosions and Fires

A study funded by the Department of Justice found that sexual assault and stalking of college females are widespread and grossly underestimated. U.S. statistics report:

  1. Follow fire prevention measures. Install and maintain smoke alarms. Plan escape routes from both your home and your place of work. {Note: For a more complete list of fire prevention tips, contact the National Fire Protection Association at or contact}

  2. Know the building’s emergency plan.

  3. Know where fire exits are.

  4. Keep fire extinguishers handy. Make sure they work.

  5. Learn first aid.

  6. Keep a battery-operated radio, flashlights, and extra batteries, a first-aid kit, and bright tape to mark off unsafe areas on each floor.

  7. Stay calm. Exit the building quickly.

  8. If things fall from above, get under a strong table or desk. Exit as soon as you can.

For Harmful Chemical Exposures

Once in awhile, you hear about chemical leaks from industrial sites. The threat of chemical warfare is also on the minds of Americans. Of utmost concern is to keep your home safe.

What Can You Do?

  1. Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home and garage. Follow instructions given.

  2. If the alarm sounds, open windows and doors. Leave the building right away. Call 9-1-1 if persons are dizzy, weak, short of breath, confused, etc. If not, turn off all appliances that use fuel. Have a qualified person inspect your home.

  3. Don’t run cars and lawn mowers in the garage. Don’t use gas ranges for heat.

  4. Have your home furnace, chimney, and flue checked by a qualified person every year. If you think there is a gas leak, open a window and leave the house. Then, call the local gas company. Follow their advice.

  5. Use common sense. Biohazard suits and expensive gas masks are a waste of money.

  6. If you work at a company where a harmful chemical leak or exposure could occur, follow your workplace safety guidelines. Follow instructions on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs). These tell you how to use chemicals safely.

  7. In the event of a chemical leak or exposure, follow the advice of local officials. You may be told to “evacuate” or “shelter in place.”

Shelter in Place

If told to “shelter in place,” stay in your home or workplace. Contact with chemicals can kill. For this reason, do not leave the shelter to help victims. Persons trained to deal with harmful chemicals should treat victims.

  1. Close and lock windows and outside doors.

  2. Turn off heating and cooling units and fans.

  3. Close the fireplace flue.

  4. Get your emergency supply kit, if available.

  5. Turn on the radio and listen for what to do.

  6. If you can, go to an inside room above ground level. Choose a room with no or few windows.

  7. Seal vents and cracks around doors with duct tape and wet towels. Tape all the faucets and drains, too.

Get information on other types of disasters, such as shootings, arson, hijackings, and kidnappings, from:

When Inside a Building Where a Fire Occurs

A study funded by the Department of Justice found that sexual assault and stalking of college females are widespread and grossly underestimated. U.S. statistics report:

  1. Get out! Stay low (crawl). Cover your nose and mouth with a wet cloth. Exit the building as fast as you can.

  2. Feel the top, middle, and bottom of a closed door for heat. If the door is not warm, brace yourself against the door and open it slowly. If the door is warm, find another way out.

  3. Always stay below the smoke. After you are out, call 9-1-1!

When Trapped in a Collapsed Building

  1. Use a flashlight, if you have one.

  2. Don’t move more than necessary so you won’t kick up dust. Cover your nose and mouth with clothing.

  3. To help someone find you, tap a pipe or wall or whistle. Don’t yell. Yelling can cause you to breathe in dangerous amounts of dust. Shout only as a last resort.

  4. Wait for emergency workers. (Untrained people should not try to go inside a collapsed building for any reason.)


  1. If told to leave the area, do so right away.

  2. Take your emergency supply kit, if available.

  3. Wear pants, long-sleeves, and sturdy shoes.

  4. Take pets.

  5. Lock your home.

  6. Travel on routes approved by local officials.

  7. Shortcuts could be dangerous or closed.

  8. Watch for fallen power lines and avoid them.

For Smallpox

Smallpox is caused by a specific virus. It was wiped out as a disease in 1977, but may exist in labs in some foreign countries. This makes it possible for use in germ warfare. Smallpox is very contagious.

What Can You Do?

  1. Listen to the news on a regular basis. If a confirmed case of smallpox occurs, the public will be told what to do.

  2. For people exposed to smallpox, a vaccine (from an emergency supply) can be given to lessen the severity of the illness or even prevent it. The vaccine needs to be given within 4 days after exposure, though.