Natural Disaster Preparedness Myths Debunked for Your Citizens

Written by Cari Tate

Share these natural disaster myths and facts with the citizens in your community

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“That will never happen here.”

“There are always emergency responders nearby.”

“If a disaster happens, no preparation will help anyway.”

These are just a few of the disaster preparedness myths you may hear from citizens in your community. Unfortunately, believing such myths could have dangerous consequences. Every state in the U.S. is at risk of at least one type of natural disaster, from tornadoes to wildfires, to winter snowstorms to hurricanes. At CivicReady® our goal is to provide comprehensive safety solutions and education to local government public safety departments. To further these efforts, we encourage you to share these natural disaster myths and facts with the citizens in your community.

MYTH: Nothing bad could happen here.

FACT: 1816 became known as the “Year Without a Summer” after snow fell in some states in June, killing crops. In 1878,  hurricane-force winds from Hurricane Agnes impacted Pennsylvania—a state not on the Atlantic coast, and an average of 1,224 tornadoes touch down every year, impacting every state in the continental U.S. The point is that a natural disaster can strike anywhere, at any time. Also, human-made disasters like hazardous materials spills, transportation accidents, or wildfires can be just as deadly and require equal risk awareness and preparation 

MYTH: If a disaster strikes, no one will help.

FACT: Every community has access to public safety personnel and often volunteers who are trained to assist in an emergency. When a disaster is widespread, however, emergency responders must triage the response efforts of their resources to those areas and citizens in the greatest danger. The best thing you can do is be prepared for any disaster and be prepared with emergency supplies and an emergency evacuation plan to keep yourself and your family out of harm’s way so that emergency personnel can dedicate their efforts to those in the greatest need.

MYTH: If there’s an emergency in our community, all I need to do is call 911 for immediate help.

FACT: A large-scale natural disaster will maximize local emergency responders and community emergency response team (CERT) resources. For example, if a winter storm knocks down a tree on your property which cuts power to your home and damages your roof, you may be one of 15 homes in your community with a similar issue waiting for assistance. Your first line of defense in an emergency situation is to be prepared for any disaster and be ready to implement a home emergency response or evacuation plan.

MYTH: I only need to stock my home safety kit with enough supplies to last three days.

FACT: A comprehensive kit will provide enough food, water, batteries, medication, and emergency medical supplies for a minimum of two weeks. If you live in a climate at risk of heavy snow or cold, you also need to ensure you keep safety supplies in your vehicle, such as a shovel and blankets.

MYTH: All I have to do is dial 9-1-1, and emergency responders will know my exact location.

FACT: Always describe your exact location when speaking with emergency personnel. If you are calling from a cell phone, the only discernible location for an operator will be the nearest cell phone tower. Even if are you calling from a landline, responders may not be able to discern your exact location if you are surrounded by floodwaters, felled trees, or are without electricity.

MYTH: In an emergency, I should only focus on the needs of my family.

FACT: If a natural disaster or local emergency negatively impacts your community, as long as you are not putting yourself or your family at risk, you may be able to offer valuable help, support, and resources to those around you. Consider the needs of citizens with disabilities in the event of a natural disaster. If you know of a neighbor who may be alone and need help, consider checking on him or her and offering assistance

MYTH: Instead of putting up storm shutters, I can duct tape my windows to prepare for a hurricane.

FACT:  Tape does not prevent windows from breaking during a hurricane, nor will it guard against the flying debris that causes most hurricane-related injuries and fatalities.

MYTH: During an earthquake, I should run out of my house or stand in a doorway.

FACT: You are at greater risk of being injured by falling debris or wires, or unsteady ground if you are standing outside your home or in a doorway. During an earthquake, hide under a desk or table that is as far away from a window as possible.

MYTH: If I’m trapped, I should scream for help.

FACT: If you are trapped under a building and scream for yelp, you put yourself at risk of inhaling dangerous toxins. Instead, tap on a wall and do your best to remain calm until someone hears you and comes to your aid.

Natural disasters are not the only threat facing your community. Instances of active shooter events are on the rise and are posing increased risks to citizens across the nation.