Natural Emergencies

Planning ahead and preparing for inclement weather and natural disasters can help keep you and your family safe.

Severe Winter Weather

Cold weather puts extra strain on the heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice about performing strenuous work like shoveling the driveway in the cold. If you do have to work outside, be sure to dress in layers and work slowly.

  1. Before a storm:
  • Protect your home:
    • Insulate walls and attic
    • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows
    • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside
    • Insulate any water lines that run along outer walls (water will be less likely to freeze)
    • Service snow-removal equipment
    • Have chimney and flue inspected
    • Install easy-to-read outdoor thermometer
  • Protect your car:
    • Have the radiator system serviced, or check the anti freeze level yourself with an anti freeze tester. Add anti freeze, as needed
    • Replace windshield wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture
    • Replace any worn tires, and check the air pressure
    • During winter, keep the gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines
  • Stock up on emergency supplies:
    • Communication Checklist:
      • Make sure you have a battery powered radio
      • Find out how your community warns residents about sever weather (siren, radio, TV)
      • Listen to emergency broadcasts
      • Know what winter storm warning terms mean
    • Food and Safety Checklist:
      • Drinking water
      • Canned/no cook foods
      • Non-electric can opener
      • Baby food and formula (if baby in the household)
      • Prescription drugs and other medications
      • First aid kit
      • Rock salt to melt ice on driveway
      • Supply of cat litter or bag of sand to provide traction on walkways
      • Flashlight and extra batteries
      • Battery powered lamps or lanterns
    • Water Checklist:
      • Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously
      • Keep the indoor temperature warm
      • Allow more heated air near pipes
      • If your pipes do freeze, do not thaw them with a torch. Thaw pipes slowly with warm air from an electric hair dryer
      • If you cannot thaw pipes, or if they have broken open, use bottled water
      • Have bottled water on hand
      • In an emergency—if no other water is available—snow can be melted for water. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most germs but won’t get rid of chemicals sometimes found in snow
    • Heating Checklist:
      • Have at least one of the following heat sources in case the power goes out: fire place with plenty of dry firewood or gas log fireplace, or portable space heaters
      • Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water
      • Use electric space heaters with: automatic shut off switches and non glowing elements
      • Keep heat sources at least three feet away from furniture and drapes
      • Have the following safety equipment: chemical fire extinguisher, smoke alarm in working order, carbon monoxide detector
      • Never use an electric generator indoors, inside the garage, or near the air intake of your home because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
  1. During a storm:
  • Be safe indoors:
    • Heat your home safely
    • Cook Safely
    • Light your home safely
    • Conserve heat
    • Monitor body temperature
    • Keep a water supply
    • Eat and drink wisely
  • Be safe outdoors:
    • Dress warmly and stay dry
    • Avoid frostbite and hypothermia
    • Avoid exertion
    • Understand wind chill
    • Avoid ice
    • Be safe during recreation
    • Be cautious about travel


  1. Before lightning strikes:
    • Keep an eye on the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of light, or increasing wind.
    • Listen for the sound of thunder.
    • If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning.
    • Go to safe shelter immediately. Listen to radio or television broadcasts for the latest weather forecasts.
  2. When a storm approaches:
    • Find shelter in a building or a car.
    • Keep windows closed.
    • Know that telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity.
    • Unplug appliances.
    • Avoid using the telephone or other electronic appliances.
    • Avoid taking a bath or shower.
    • Turn off the air conditioner.
    • Draw blinds and shades over windows – if windows break due to objects blown by wind, the shades will prevent glass from shattering into your home.
  3. If caught outside:
    • If you are in the woods, take shelter under shorter trees.
    • If you are boating or swimming, return to land and seek shelter immediately.
    • Go to a low-lying, open place away from trees, metal poles, or other tall objects.
    • Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.
    • Be a very small target – squat low to the ground, place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Do not lie flat on the ground – this will make you a larger target.
  4. After the storm passes:
    • Stay away from storm-damaged areas.
    • Tune into the radio or television for information and instructions.
  5. If someone is struck by lightning:
    • People struck by lightning carry no electrical charge and can be handled safely.
    • Call 9-1-1 or local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) immediately.
    • The injured person may have received an electrical shock and may be burned, both where they were struck, and where the electricity left their body. Check both places for burns.
    • Give first aid. If breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing. If the heart has stopped beating, a trained rescue person should give CPR.


  1. Basic tips:
    • Learn about your community’s emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes, and locations of emergency shelters.
    • Plan and practice a flood evacuation route with your family.
    • Post emergency phone numbers at every phone.
    • Identify potential home hazards and know how to secure/protect them before the flood strikes.
    • Buy and install sump pumps with back up power.
    • Have a licensed electrician raise electric components at least 12“ above your home’s projected flood elevation level.
    • For drains, toilets and other sewer connections, install backflow valves to prevent floodwaters from entering.
    • Anchor fuel tanks which can contaminate your basement if torn free.
  2. If you are under a flood watch or warning:
    • Gather emergency supplies and stay tuned to local radio or television stations for updates.
    • Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary.
    • Fill bathtubs, sinks and plastic soda bottles for clean water.
    • Bring outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills and trashcans inside or tie them down securely.
  3. If you are ordered to evacuate:
    • Take only essential items with you.
    • If you have time, turn off the gas, electricity, and water.
    • Disconnect appliances to prevent electrical shock when power is restored.
    • Follow the designated evacuation routes and expect heavy traffic.
    • Do not attempt to drive or walk across creeks or flooded roads.
  4. If you are NOT ordered to evacuate:
    • Monitor the radio or television for updates.
    • Prepare to evacuate to a shelter or to a neighbor’s home if your home is damaged, or if you are instructed to do so by emergency personnel.
  5. Emergency supplies you may need:
    • Several clean containers of water
    • A 3-5 day supply of non-perishable food and a non-electric can opener
    • A first aid kit and any prescription drugs or medications being taken
    • A battery powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries
    • Sleeping bags and extra blankets
    • Water purifying supplies
    • Disposable cleaning cloths such as baby wipes for the whole family to use if bathing facilities are not available
    • Personal hygiene supplies
    • An emergency kit for your car with food, flares, booster cables, maps, tools, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, etc.
    • Rubber boots, study shoes, and waterproof gloves
    • Insect repellent

For more information about weather-related emergencies, visit:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

National Weather Service


New York State Division of Homeland Security