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Disaster Preparedness Safety Rules


downtown nashville flooding 2010

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio and local stations for the latest weather information, watches and warnings.
  • Flood or Flash Flood Watch means conditions are detected that could result in flooding of a certain area.
  • Flash flood or River Flood Warning means flooding is imminent in a specific location and you should take precautions immediately.
  • Do not drive through flooded areas, especially at night when it is harder to gauge the depth of water. TURN AROUND...DON'T DROWN!
  • If your vehicle stalls in water, abandon it immediately and seek higher ground.


tornado siren collage

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio and local stations for the latest weather information, watches and warnings. If you hear the outdoor Tornado Warning Sirens, seek shelter immediately.
  • Tornado watch means conditions are favorable for tornadic activity.
  • Tornado warning means a tornado is imminent and has either been spotted on radar and/or by a trained spotter on the ground.
  • Move to an underground shelter, basement or safe refuge area/room.
  • Abandon mobile homes or portable classrooms/offices immediately and go the nearest sturdy building or shelter.
  • If you are caught outdoors, or a sturdy building is not available, immediately drive to the closest sturdy shelter if able.
  • If you can not drive or if flying debris occurs while you are driving (as a last resort), stay in your vehicle with the seat belt on, put your head down below the windows and cover your head as much as possible.
  • If you can get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car, lie in the low lying area/ditch and cover your head.


Lightning photo courtesy of NOAA

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio and local stations for the latest weather information, watches and warnings. If you hear the outdoor Tornado Warning Sirens, seek shelter immediately.
  • If caught outdoors, take shelter in a building or a hardtop vehicle. If in your vehicle, avoid contact with metal surfaces.
  • Avoid being under trees, in sheds or in soft top vehicles.
  • Stay away from telephone lines, power lines, metal pipes and metal fences.
  • Inside your home, avoid using the telephone or other electrical appliances unless it is an emergency.
  • If you are in an isolated area and you feel your hair stand on end, this indicates that lightning is about to strike. Drop to your knees, roll forward onto the balls of your feet, place your hands on your knees and tuck your head down. Do NOT lie flat on the ground.


sun photo courtesy of NOAA USDA

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio and local stations for the latest weather information, outlooks, advisories, watches and warnings.
  • Excessive Heat Outlooks are issued when the potential exists for an excessive heat event in the next 3-7 days.
  • Excessive Heat Watches are issued when conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event in the next 24 - 72 hours.
  • Excessive Heat Warning/Advisories are issued when an excessive heat event is expected in the next 36 hours. Advisories are for less serious conditions that cause significant discomfort or inconvenience and could lead to a threat to live if caution is not taken.
  • During extreme hot and humid weather, the body's ability to cool itself is affected. When the body heats too rapidly to cool itself properly, or when too much fluid or salt is lost from dehydration or sweating, the body temperature rises and heat related illnesses may develop.
  • Heat related illnesses can range from heat cramps to heat exhaustion to more serious situations such as heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention!
  • Some factors or conditions can make some people more susceptible to heat related illnesses than others. These include older adults and young children, obesity, fever, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, prescription drug and alcohol use, and sunburn.
  • Do not leave pets outside during extreme heat.
  • Slow down, reduce, eliminate or reschedule strenuous activity until the coolest time of the day.
  • Dress for summer by wearing lightweight, light colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
  • Drink plenty of water, non-alcoholic and decaffeinated fluids. Avoid alcoholic beverages and limit caffeinated beverages.
  • During excessive heat periods, spend more time in air conditioned places.
  • Don't get too much sun. Sunburns reduce your body's ability to dissipate heat.

Beat the Heat! Check the Back Seat!

Information on Heat Related Illnesses and First Aid.


Each year, dozens of children and untold numbers of pets left in parked vehicles die from hyperthermia, because the body absorbs more heat than it can handle. This can even occur on a mild day. Studies have shown that the temperature inside a parked vehicles can rapidly rise to a dangerous level for children, pets and even adults. Leaving the windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate.

hot car animation

This animation shows just how quickly a vehicle can become a death trap for a child, pet or anyone! Note how fast it goes from a comfortable 80 degrees, to over 123 degrees! Animation courtesy of General Motors.

  • If you see a child unattended in a hot vehicle, call 9-1-1 immediately!
  • Always make sure all children have left the vehicle when you reach your destination.
  • Don't leave sleeping infants in the car ever.
  • Make sure your child's safety seat and safety belt buckles aren't too hot before securing your child in a safety restraint system.
  • Never leave your child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down.
  • Teach children not to play in, on, or around cars.
  • Always lock car doors and trunks, even at home, and keep keys and remote entry devices out of children's reach.
  • Try placing your purse or briefcase in the back seat as a reminder that you have your child in the car.
  • Have a plan in place that your childcare provider will call you if your child does not show up for school.

Winter Weather

snow and ice courtesy of NOAA

Severe winter weather takes many forms in Middle Tennessee: heavy snow, ice storms, extreme cold, sleet and icy driving conditions.

There are a few terms to be familiar with:

Freezing rain - is when frozen precipitation melts in warm air, then the rain falls and freezes on cold surfaces as a sheet of ice.

Sleet - is when frozen precipitation again melts in warn air, then refreezes into sleet before hitting the ground.

Exposure to cold can cause frostbite and hypothermia, and can become life threatening. Infants and the elderly are most at risk. During extreme cold, pipes may freeze and break in homes that are poorly insulated or without heat.

Wind Chill is how the wind and cold feel on exposed skin. As the wind increases, heat is carried away from the body, driving down the body temperature. Animals are affected by wind chill, but plants are not.

A few basic preparedness tips for winter weather:

  • Wear loose, lightweight warm layers of clothes, a hat, mittens and waterproof shoes.
  • Keep dry.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite; these can include loss of feeling, white/pale appearance in fingers/toes/tip of the nose.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia; these can include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, slurred speech and disorganization.
  • If frostbite or hypothermia is suspected, get medical help as soon as possible.
  • Be careful when heating your home. Heating related house fires occur often during the winter. According to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters account for 33% of home heating fires and 81% of home heating fire deaths. The leading factor contributing to home heating fires (28%) is failure to clean, principally creosote from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys. Read more on Winter Fire safety on the NFPA website.
  • Never use a generator inside a home or garage, even if doors and windows are open. Only use generators outside and far away from windows, doors and vents. Read more on Carbon Monoxide safety here at the US EPA website.
  • Do not leave animals outside during extreme cold situations.

The National Weather Service states that when it relates to injuries due to ice and snow, about 70% are from vehicle accidents. So during wintry weather, here are a few extra precautions to take when driving in snow and ice:

  • Make sure your vehicle is prepared/winterized/maintained.
  • During the winter months, keep your gas tank full, or almost full.
  • Keep a disaster kit in the trunk of your car, that includes winter essentials such as blankets, flashlights, gloves, flares, first aid kit, food and water, a shovel and a bag of salt/sand/non-clumping kitty litter, to help you get traction if you get stuck.
  • Travel only when necessary, and avoid traveling alone, especially at night.
  • Keep your windshield clean and free from snow and ice.
  • Decrease your speed and leave plenty of room to stop; allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the vehicle in front of you.
  • Use low gears to keep traction, mainly on hills.
  • Avoid using cruise control on icy roadways.
  • Use extreme caution on bridges and overpasses, as they tend to freeze first.
  • During times of snow, have your lights on to be more visible.

The National Safety Council suggests the following methods if your vehicle starts to skid; however, it is important to check your owner's manual for specific tips for driving with your vehicle:

  • If your rear wheels skid...Take your foot off the accelerator. Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they're sliding right, steer right. If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control. If you have standard brakes, pump them gently. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse -- this is normal.
  • If your front wheels skid...Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don't try to steer immediately. As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in "drive" or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.

If stuck in your vehicle during a winter storm:

  • Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat, after making sure the exhaust pipe is not buried under the snow or in dirt.
  • Open the window a little for fresh air, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Turn on your dome light at night when running the engine, so your visible to rescuers.
  • If able to, tie a colored cloth, preferably to your antenna or door, and/or put flares in front and behind your vehicle at night.
  • From time to time, move arms, legs, fingers and toes vigorously to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.

Chemical Releases

hazardous materials incident

Chemicals and hazardous materials are a part of our every day life - whether being moved through neighborhoods on roadways and rail lines, or stored in our garages and under the kitchen sink. On most days, hazardous materials are used, stored and transported all over the city without incident. But the potential for an explosion or chemical spill is always there. If an explosion or chemical spill does occur, you may be asked to evacuate or shelter in-place/remain inside. Often, sheltering in-place is the safest option and here's what you should do:

  • Go inside, and don't forget your pets.
  • Listen to the NOAA Weather Radio and local broadcasts for instructions.
  • Turn off air conditioners, heaters, fans, etc.
  • Shut all doors and windows tight.
  • Do not use fireplaces. Extinguish any fire and close the dampers.
  • Do not sue the phone unless it is an emergency.
  • Best interior room for sheltering in place during a chemical release is going to be upstairs in the most interior room away from windows.

If you are asked to evacuate the area, you should take the following steps:

  • Evacuate as soon as possible, don't wait or hesitate
  • Take your emergency kit and be sure to have your medications, diapers and other essentials
  • Take your pets and enough food and water for your animals
  • Tune your car radio to local news broadcasting
  • Follow all traffic instructions
  • As soon as you are out of danger, call your family's emergency contact and let them know you are safe.


san francisco earthquake 1989

Earthquakes occur without any warning and you will never know if the initial earthquake jolt will turn out to be the start of the big one.

  • Stay inside if you are inside, and outside if you are outside.
  • The area near the exterior walls of a building is the most dangerous place to be. Windows, facades and other architectural details are often the first parts of the building to collapse.
  • Avoid exterior walls, windows, hanging objects, mirrors, tall furniture, large appliances and cabinets with heavy objects or glass. Do not go outside!
  • Immediately DROP to the ground where you are before the earthquake drops you. Shaking may be so violent that you cannot run or crawl.
  • Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table. If there isn't a table or desk near you, drop to the floor against the interior wall and cover your face and head with your arms. You are much more likely to be injured by falling or flying objects than to die in a collapsed building.
  • Do NOT run outside, get into a doorway or try to run to another room just to get under a table.
  • HOLD ON! The floor or the ground could jerk strongly sideways or out from under you, so hold on to something sturdy and stay where you are until the shaking stops. Once the shaking stops, move carefully. Do not run as there may be strong aftershocks and there could be broken glass and fallen items blocking your exit.
  • Before you leave a building, consider the outside surroundings. Move to a clear area away from wires, buildings and anything that could fall and hurt you. Think about what you can do right away to secure your space so you'll be safer when strong shaking starts.

If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow.

If you are in a wheelchair, lock the wheels once you are in a safe position. If unable to move quickly, stay where you are and cover your head and neck with your arms.

If you are outdoors, move to a clear area if you can safely do so, avoid power lines, trees, signs, buildings, vehicles and other hazards.

If you are driving, pull over to the side of the road, stop and set the parking brake. Avoid overpasses, bridges, power lines, signs and other hazards. Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking is over. If a power line falls on the car,stay inside until a trained person removes the wire.

If you are in a high rise building, Drop, cover and hold on. Avoid windows and other hazards. Do not use elevators. Do not be surprised if sprinkler systems or fire alarms activate.

If you are in a stadium of theater, stay at your seat and protect your head and neck with your arms. Don't try to leave until the shaking is over. Then slowly walk out watching for anything that could fall in the aftershocks.

If you are below a dam, understand that dams can fail during a major earthquake. Catastrophic failure is unlikely, but if you live downstream from a dam, know flood zone information and have prepared an evacuation plan for your family.