Severe Weather and Disaster Plans

severe weatherBy the time severe weather hits, it's already too late. Disaster preparedness is about having an established safety plan. Whether it's preparedness for floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, or fires, the key to survival in disasters is planning. Use our preparedness section to stay informed, make a plan, and most importantly—remain safe in an emergency. The following information is not all inclusive, as your needs may be different than others. It is meant to be a guideline to provide information you may not have thought of.

Severe weather can happen anytime, in any part of the country. Severe weather can include hazardous conditions produced by thunderstorms, including damaging winds, tornadoes, large hail, flooding and flash flooding, and winter storms associated with freezing rain, sleet, snow and strong winds.

Who can you call or contact

It Never Hurts to be Prepared.

You can contact us via email, the contact form below or by phone at 202-557-6869 to discuss what your disaster plan needs are.



We have compiled a list of some of the most useful sites and phone numbers for you to gather any other information. Take a look if your area has more than usual severe weather.

Federal Emergency Management Agency/Customer service 1 (800) 621-3362.

Let Your Family Know You’re Safe
If your community has experienced a disaster, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well Web site available through to let your family and friends know about your welfare. If you don’t have Internet access, call 1-866-GET- INFO to register yourself and your family.

You can help people affected by disasters, such as hurricanes by donating to the American Red Cross. To make a donation, please visit


hurricaneHurricanes are types of tropical storms that form in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and eastern Pacific Ocean. Hurricanes affect millions of people who live along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts each year. Parts of the Southwest United States and the Pacific Coast can also experience severe weather associated with hurricanes, which include tornadoes, floods, and heavy winds. The dangers of a storm include torrential rains, high winds and storm surges. They lose force when they move over land or colder ocean waters.


tornadoTornadoes can strike quickly with little or no warning, giving those in impacted areas barely enough time to take shelter. A tornado is a violent destructive whirling wind accompanied by a funnel-shaped cloud that progresses in a narrow path over land. The long, funnel-shaped cloud extending toward the ground is made visible by both condensation and debris. They are also called twisters, they travel across the ground at high speeds and can kill in only a matter of seconds. Tornadoes are outgrowths of powerful thunderstorms. They extend from a thunderstorm to the ground with violent winds that average 30 miles per hour. Also, they can vary in speed dramatically from being stationary to 70 miles per hour. With a loud roar that sounds similar to a freight train. Every state is at some risk from tornadoes and the severe storms that produce them. These same destructive storms also cause strong gusts of wind, lightning strikes, and flash floods.


flooded cityFloods are one of the most common hazards in the United States. They occur when land that is normally dry experiences an overflow of water. Several events cause floods, including hurricanes and tropical storms, failed dams or levees, and flash floods that occur within a few minutes or hours of excessive rainfall.

The physical destruction of a flood can vary, with some carrying away everything in its path, including houses, bridges, cars, and even people who may be trapped or wading in water.

Man Made Disasters

emergency hospitalOther disasters which may call for an Emergency Action Plan.

Chemical and Hazardous Material Spills, Explosions, Household Hazards, Radiological Incidents, Biological Agents, Bombs and Other Explosive Devices, Chemical Attacks, Cyber-terrorism, Nuclear and Radiological Attacks, Suspicious Mail, Disease & Epidemic, Heat Waves, Oil Spills, Droughts, Mass Shootings, Food Safety, Poisoning, Water Safety, Train Accidents, Plane Crashes, or Groundwater Contamination.

Wild Fires

wild fireWildfires are usually triggered by lightning or accidents and often go unnoticed at first. They can spread quickly and are especially destructive if they occur near forests, rural areas, remote mountain sites, and other woodland settings where people live.

More than four out of every five wildfires are caused by people. An average of 1.2 million acres of U.S. woodland burn every year. A large wildfire is often capable of modifying the local weather conditions or producing “its own weather."



  • Listen for emergency information and alerts.
  • Follow evacuation or shelter orders. If advised to evacuate, do so early. Reduce your ash exposure by doing the following:
    • Limit your time outdoors and use a dust mask or cloth mask as a last resort if you must be outside.
    • Avoid areas downwind and river valleys downstream of the volcano.
    • Take temporary shelter from volcanic ash in the location where you are.
    • Cover ventilation openings and seal doors and windows.
    • Avoid driving in heavy ash. If you must drive, keep the windows up and do not use the air conditioning system.
    • Do not get on your roof to remove ash.
    • Stay indoors until authorities say it is safe to go outside.

Heavy Rain

heavy rainHeavy rainfall can lead to numerous hazards, for example: flooding, including risk to human life, damage to buildings and infrastructure, loss of crops and livestock, landslides. Heavy rain can cause pooling, overflowing rivers and runoffs, and flooding.

These events may result in evacuations, power outages, supply shortages, traffic obstructions and road closures, infrastructure damage and debris.

Getting stuck driving in heavy rains can be a scary experience. Your car could hydroplane, it’s harder to brake quickly and accidents are much more common. Here are some tips for safe driving in a rainstorm.

Turn your headlights on

Rain reduces visibility on the road, making it harder to see approaching cars and judge distance. Headlights (not bright lights) will help other cars see you more clearly. Many states also have laws that require drivers to turn their lights on whenever the windshield wipers are going.  

Slow down

You should always drive at or even below the speed limit when it’s raining, especially on the highway. Slowing down will help you avoid hydroplaning and will make it easier to brake if there is an incident on the road.

Leave room

Tailgating cars and riding bumpers is always dangerous, but it’s particularly bad during a storm. Water on the road makes it harder to stop safely. Your car will slide more on the water, and you might skid if you brake too quickly. Increase the distance between you and the car in front of you to avoid an accident.

Don’t turn your hazards on

When it starts pouring rain and visibility is drastically reduced, many people turn on their flashing hazard lights, thinking that will make it easier for other drivers to see them. This is extremely dangerous, and illegal in many states. Hazard lights signal that your car is stopped and can be confusing for approaching cars.


If at any point you feel unsafe driving in any type of weather, pull over and stop driving. Get off the road or highway and find a parking lot, gas station or restaurant and wait out the storm. If you do happen to be stopped on the side of the road, use your hazard lights.

Types of Winter Weather

snow stormA winter storm is a combination of heavy snow, blowing snow and/or dangerous wind chills. A winter storm is life-threatening.

Blizzards are dangerous winter storms that are a combination of blowing snow and wind resulting in very low visibilities. While heavy snowfalls and severe cold often accompany blizzards, they are not required. Sometimes strong winds pick up snow that has already fallen, creating a ground blizzard.

An ice storm is a storm which results in the accumulation of at least .25” of ice on exposed surfaces. They create hazardous driving and walking conditions. Tree branches and power lines can easily snap under the weight of the ice.

Lake effect storms are not low pressure system storms. As a cold, dry air mass moves over the Great Lakes regions, the air picks up lots of moisture from the Great Lakes. This air, now full of water, dumps the water as snow in areas generally to the south and east of the lakes.

Snow squalls are brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds. Accumulation may be significant.

Dangers of Snow, Wind and Wintery Weather

Hypothermia occurs when the normal body temperature (98.6°F) drops to less than 95°F. Exposure to cold temperatures causes the body to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up the body’s stored energy.

Frostbite is when exposure to freezing temperatures damages areas of your skin and the tissues underneath

In addition to cold stress, there are other winter weather-related hazards that you may be exposed to:

  • Winter Driving
  • Stranded in a Vehicle
  • Shoveling Snow
  • Using Powered Equipment like Snow Blowers
  • Clearing Snow from Roofs
  • Slips on Snow and Ice
  • Downed or Damaged Power Lines

Be prepared before a winter storm if you must drive. Have gas tank full, if possible, have a blanket, gloves, hat, water, snacks, garbage bags, toilet paper, paper towels, DO NOT use cruise control. STAY SAFE.

Don't forget about our furry pets

pets sadie and winstonPLEASE keep pets in mind when severe weather strikes. Bring pets indoors.

Dogs and cats are more than pets—they’re family. And just like any other family member, pets deserve to be cared for and protected.

Emergency preparedness is important during severe weather, particularly in areas where pet owners may be forced to leave their home. During severe storms it may be best to take shelter in a basement or small interior room like a bathroom. Make sure pets are acquainted with—and comfortable in—that area of your house and will go there with you easily if need be.

Many pets have storm or firework anxiety and may be prescribed medications to help them cope.

Among the items you should have handy are leashes and/or or carriers, food, medication and water. Some places will ask for proof of Rabies Vaccination, so you should have either their tag or a copy of the certificate. A lot of veterinarians have apps from which you can access their records. Pet owners should know where favorite hiding places are for pets so they can be easily found during emergencies.

  • Know which hotels and motels along your evacuation route will accept you and your pets in an emergency. Call ahead for reservations if you know you may need to evacuate. Ask if no-pet policies could be waived in an emergency.
  • Most Red Cross shelters cannot accept pets because of health and safety concerns and other considerations. Service animals that assist people with disabilities are allowed in Red Cross shelters.
  • Know which friends, relatives, boarding facilities, animal shelters or veterinarians can care for your animals in an emergency. Prepare a list with phone numbers.
  • Although your animals may be more comfortable together, be prepared to house them separately.
  • Include your pets in evacuation drills so that they become used to entering and traveling in their carriers calmly.
  • Make sure that your pet’s vaccinations are current and that all dogs and cats are wearing collars with securely fastened, up- to-date identification. Many pet shelters require proof of current vaccinations to reduce the spread of disease.
  • Consider having your pet “microchipped” by your veterinarian.

What Should You Do?

Assemble a portable kit with emergency supplies for your pets. Keep items in an accessible place and store them in sturdy containers so that they can be carried easily. Your kit should include:

  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that they can’t escape.
  • Food, drinking water, bowls, cat litter/pan and a manual can opener.
  • Medications and copies of medical records and their chip number if they are microchiped, stored in a waterproof container.
  • A first aid kit.
  • Current photos of you with your pet(s) in case they get lost. Since many pets look alike, this will help to eliminate mistaken identity and confusion.
  • Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.
  • Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable.

After a Disaster ...

pet berlinThe behavior of pets may change dramatically after a disaster, becoming aggressive or defensive, so be aware of their well-being and protect them from hazards to ensure the safety of other people and animals.

    Watch your animals closely and keep them under your direct control as fences and gates may have been damaged.Pets may become disoriented, particularly if the disaster has affected scent markers that normally allow them to find their home.

    Be aware of hazards at nose and paw or hoof level, particularly debris, spilled chemicals, fertilizers and other substances that might not seem to be dangerous to humans.Consult your veterinarian if any behavior problems persist.

Livestock and Horses

horse runningIf you have large animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats or pigs on your property, be sure to prepare before a disaster. Have a plan in place.

Ensure all animals have some form of identification.
Evacuate animals whenever possible. Map out primary and secondary routes in advance.
Make available vehicles and trailers needed for transporting and supporting each type of animal. Also make available experienced handlers and drivers.
Ensure destinations have food, water, veterinary care and handling equipment.
If evacuation is not possible, animal owners must decide whether to move large animals to shelter or turn them outside. There are many sites online that have more information regarding this situation.

For information on disaster planning and emergency actions to take for livestock, horses, birds, reptiles or other small animals, such as gerbils or hamsters, please visit, the Humane Society of the United States ( or

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