Recently, the United States has seen a rise in natural disasters that have affected communities and left behind a wake of economic devastation. With so many different natural disasters occurring at an alarming pace, it’s essential to stay ahead of Mother Nature and what she might throw our way.
Ensuring your home or business is safe and secure in a natural disaster is essential. Because each state has unique laws and procedures regarding a natural disaster response, it’s up to you to stay informed on communication specific to your region. This blog provides an overview of what to expect and how to respond when natural disasters strike.
Natural disasters, also known as natural hazards, are extreme and sudden events caused by environmental factors such as storms, floods, droughts, fires, and heat waves.
In the United States, residents have felt the impact of natural disasters in every region, such as hurricanes, tornados, floods, and earthquakes. And while some areas are more prone to certain types of disasters than others, no part of the country is immune from extreme weather events.
Tornadoes. Every year, the United States is hit by an average of 1,300 tornadoes, more than any other country in the world. These violent whirlwinds can cause sudden and severe damage, leaving entire communities in ruins. In addition to the physical destruction, tornadoes can lead to severe injuries and potential fatalities. While tornadoes are often associated with the Midwest, they can occur anywhere in the country.
Hurricanes and Tropical Storms. Hurricanes and tropical storms can have a particularly disastrous effect on coastal areas. In the United States, these storms often occur in Florida and the Gulf Coast and can reach areas as north as New England. When hurricanes and tropical storms make landfall, they can bring intense winds, heavy rains, and a storm surge that can inundate coastal communities.
In some cases, the damage caused by hurricanes can sometimes take years to recover and rebuild; Hurricane Katrina’s impact on New Orleans in 2005 is a clear example. The flooding and other dangerous conditions brought on by these storms can threaten human life. As a result, coastal residents should be aware of any hurricanes or tropical storms in the forecast.
Flood. Floods are one of the most common natural hazards in the United States. They can occur anywhere, anytime, and often with little warning. Flooding can cause extensive damage to property and infrastructure and lead to loss of life. In recent years, floods have caused billions of dollars in damage across the country.
Flooding can result from heavy rain, melting snow, storms, and hurricanes. Flood waters can damage homes and businesses, destroy crops, and disrupt transportation. Even just a few inches of flood water can cause significant damage.
Wildfires. One of the most destructive natural disasters in the United States is wildfires. They can occur anywhere, especially in areas with dense vegetation. They are fueled by high winds, low humidity, and dry weather conditions. Once a wildfire starts, it can spread quickly and become out of control. Strong winds can blow the fires from one area to another, and hot temperatures can intensify the flames. Wildfires can destroy homes, businesses, and natural habitats, leaving nothing behind but ashes and embers.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), 58,985 wildfires were registered in 2021, burning nearly seven million acres. These fires have burned an average of seven million acres of land each year, an area about the size of Massachusetts. Some of the most destructive wildfires in recent history have been in California. In 2018, the Camp Fire burned more than 153,000 acres of land and destroyed more than 18,000 buildings. It was the deadliest wildfire in California history, killing 85 people.
Earthquakes. In the United States, earthquakes occur relatively frequently, particularly along the West Coast. Our country is home to some of the most active seismic regions in the world, including the famed San Andreas Fault. While most earthquakes are relatively small and cause minor damage, some can be large enough to cause extensive property damage and loss of life.
Ice Storms. An ice storm is one type of natural disaster that can surprisingly cause significant damage. Ice storms occur when freezing rain or sleet falls from the sky and accumulates on trees, power lines, and other surfaces. According to the National Weather Service, an ice storm forms at least 1 ⁄ 4 inch (6.35 mm) of ice on exposed surfaces.
The ice’s weight can snap tree limbs and make roads and walkways extremely slippery. Moreover, ice storms can cause widespread power outages due to downed power lines. In the United States, ice storms typically occur in the northeastern and midwestern states. They often occur during December and January, when temperatures are cold enough for precipitation to freeze on contact.
Avalanches and Landslides. In the United States, avalanches and landslides typically occur in mountainous regions, although they can also occur in other areas affected by heavy rains or severe flooding.
Avalanches occur when a large mass of snow and ice breaks loose from a mountainside and tumbles down the slopes. They’re often triggered by natural causes such as heavy rainfall or earthquakes, but they can also be caused by human activity, such as skiing or snowboarding.
Landslides occur when a slope’s mass fails, and the ground shifts downward, usually during intense rainfall or earthquake activity. Landslides can be particularly destructive, causing damage to homes, roads, and infrastructure. In some cases, they can even cause loss of life.
The Psychological Impact of a Natural Disaster
Natural disaster events can take a psychological toll on those affected. People can become overwhelmed and helpless in the face of insurmountable loss, and the stress of dealing with disaster recovery can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Climate change also influences everything we do, from what we eat to our way of life.
Disaster Recovery Safety Tips
After natural disasters have affected your area, be sure to recognize the potential hazards that may exist as a result. During the disaster recovery phase, your safety is vital. Here are a few general safety tips to keep in mind:
- Monitor local conditions and get natural disaster response updates from reputable sources, such as the federal government.
- Be aware of your surroundings and look out for debris, downed power lines, and other risks caused by natural disasters.
- Do not touch fallen power lines and assume all downed wires are live.
- Watch for animals that were displaced by the disaster and be cautious of snakes, insects, and other wildlife.
- If you smell gas or there is flooding in your home, evacuate immediately and contact authorities.
- Avoid using candles, as they can increase the risk of fire.
- Use caution when operating generators and other fuel-powered equipment. Be aware of any potential electrical hazards if electrical circuits and equipment have been exposed to water.
- Be prepared for aftershocks following an earthquake and avoid damaged buildings.
- Invest in disaster insurance to safeguard your property.
Natural Disaster Response and Cleanup
Because natural disasters occur without warning, many communities are left scrambling to respond afterward. Cleanup is crucial in the days and weeks after a storm, but hazardous conditions can often complicate such recovery efforts.
The priority is always to make sure that everyone is safe. Once the immediate danger has passed, attention should turn to repairing damage and clearing debris. This process can be costly and time-consuming, but it is essential for getting life back to normal. Depending on the severity of the disaster, cleanup may be a simple task or require professional help.
If you can clean the damage yourself, start by discarding anything that’s unsalvageable. Items damaged beyond repair can include soaked carpeting, furniture, and clothing. Wear safety gear and apparel like eye goggles, gloves, and masks to avoid injury. Once you’ve removed all damaged items and hazardous materials, you can begin cleaning up what’s left. It may be best to do this outdoors to avoid cluttering your indoor space.
If weather-related disasters have left your home uninhabitable, you should consider finding alternate accommodations. This may mean staying with family or friends, renting a hotel room, or living in a temporary shelter. People can apply to disaster relief organizations, like The Red Cross, for assistance. These organizations provide essential supplies like food, water, and medical care. They also work to rebuild damaged homes and businesses and help families to get back on their feet.
No matter the type of natural disaster, they occur without warning and can significantly affect human health and life. No one is ever fully prepared for extreme weather events, but knowing disaster prevention, recovery tips, and what to do in the immediate aftermath can help ease the burden of the disaster recovery process. Disaster resilience is of the utmost importance in getting you and your property back to normal.
For Professional Damage Restoration, Call the PuroClean Remediation Experts
The recovery process after severe weather can be challenging. If you require assistance restoring your property after unexpected natural disasters, contact a professional damage restoration company like PuroClean. We have the experience and equipment to get your home to its pre-loss condition. To reach our team 24/7, please call (800) 775-7876.