The best way to survive an emergency is to be prepared for one. The information below is a guideline for dealing with natural disasters. The additional important links will keep you connected to our community as events unfold.
Seventy million people in 39 states are at high risk from earthquakes. People in all states, however, are at some risk. Earthquakes can cause buildings to collapse, disrupt utilities and trigger landslides, avalanches, flash floods, fires, hazardous materials spills, tsunamis, and volcanoes. Since 1840, more than 900 earthquakes have been felt in Washington. Approximately 1,000 earthquakes occur in Washington State every year.
Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural disasters and can occur nearly anywhere in the United States. The sheer force of just 6 inches of swiftly moving water can knock people off their feet. Cars are easily swept away in just two feet of water.
Flooding along rivers is a natural and inevitable part of life. Some floods occur seasonally when winter or spring rains, coupled with melting snow, fill river basins with too much water, too quickly. Winds from intense offshore storms can also drive water inland and cause significant flooding. Escape routes can be cut off and blocked by high water.
The National Weather Service will issue a "flood potential outlook" when forecasts indicate that significant heavy precipitation may occur that would either cause flooding or aggravate existing high water or flooding. The "flood potential outlook" is generally issued 36 hours or more before the potential event. Persons along rivers should stay tuned to weather forecasts and be prepared to take action if necessary.
A "flood watch" is issued when meteorological conditions raise the threat of flooding, but occurrence is neither certain or imminent. A "flood watch" is generally issued 12 to 36 hours before the potential event. Persons along rivers should be prepared to take whatever actions are necessary and monitor the latest weather forecasts for potential flood information.
A "flood warning" is issued when flooding is expected within 12 hours or is in progress. Forecast crest information is provided for specific communities or areas along main stem rivers. A general flood warning is issued covering geographical areas beyond main stem rivers. Persons along these rivers should take action to protect lives and property immediately.
Before a flood:
Find out if you live in a flood-prone area and identify earthen, irrigation, hydro-electric, etc. dams that are upstream from your area and could be sources of potential problems.
Ask your local emergency manager about official flood warning signals.
Know the terms "Flood Watch", "Flood Warning", and "Urban and Small Stream Warning."
Plan for evacuation.
Consider purchasing flood insurance.
Take steps to flood-proof your home. Call your local building department or emergency management office for information.
Keep all insurance policies and your household inventory in a safe place.
During a flood:
Listen to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio, local radio or television stations for local information.
Be aware of streams, drainage channels and areas known to flood suddenly.
If local authorities issue a flood watch, prepare to evacuate.
Secure your home. If time permits, secure items located outside the house.
If instructed, turn off utilities at the main switches or valves.
Fill your car with fuel.
Fill the bathtub with water in case water becomes contaminated or services are cut off. Sterilize the bathtub first.
Stay away from flood waters.
When deep flooding is likely, permit the flood waters to flow freely into your basement to avoid structural damage to the foundation and the house.
Do NOT attempt to drive over flooded roads. The depth of water is not always obvious. The road bed may be washed out under the water, and you could be stranded or trapped.
After a flood:
Stay away from flood waters.
Stay away from moving water. Moving water six inches deep can sweep you off your feet.
Be aware of areas where flood waters may have receded and weakened road surfaces.
Stay away from and report downed power lines.
Stay away from disaster areas unless authorities ask for volunteers.
Continue listening to radio for information about where to get assistance.
Consider health and safety needs. Wash your hands frequently with soap and clean water if you come in contact with flood waters.
Throw away food that has come in contact with flood waters.
Call your insurance agent.
Take photos of or videotape your belongings and your home.
Don't throw away damaged goods until an official inventory has been taken.
Remember flood waters can be extremely dangerous. The best protection during a flood is to leave the area and go to shelter on higher ground.
The State of Washington has experienced many violent windstorms: The Columbus Day Storm, November 1981 Windstorm, Inaugural Day Storm, and most recently, the Windstorm of 1995. These storms have damaged homes, businesses, and public utilities and have left thousands without power for several days.
The Inaugural Day Storm of 1993 caused widespread damage from Longview to Bellingham. The effects of this storm were significant:
Five fatalities were documented
870,000 customers lost electrical power
27 single-family homes were destroyed, an additional 189 homes incurred major damages
31 mobile homes were destroyed; an additional 45 incurred major damage
4 apartment buildings were destroyed; an additional 15 incurred major damage
16 Red Cross shelters opened across Washington, housing more than 600 citizens and serving more than 3,200 meals
The Windstorm of 1995 was forecast well in advance by the National Weather Service. This early warning gave state and local emergency management offices, utility companies, communities, governmental offices, schools, etc. time to prepare and brace for the winds that arrived. Because this pro-active approach was taken, injury and property damage were minimized.
What to do before and during a windstorm:
Assemble a disaster supply kit, being sure to include extra batteries and a battery-powered radio.
Anchor outdoor objects such as garbage cans that can blow away.
If you have an electric garage door opener, locate the manual override.
Fill vehicles with gasoline in case local gas stations lose power.
Stay indoors, away from windows.
Do not drive in heavy winds.
If traffic lights are out, treat the intersection like a four-way stop.
Turn off stove if you're cooking when the power goes out.
Stay away from downed power lines.
Use the phone for emergency calls only.
If the power goes out, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to keep food frozen for two days.
Do not use charcoal indoors.
When using kerosene heaters, gas lanterns, or stoves inside the house, maintain ventilation to avoid a buildup of toxic fumes.
Don't plug auxiliary generators into the main house current. Use an extension cord for the appliances you want serviced.
If a windstorm is forecast in your area, stay tuned to your NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio, or local radio or television station for weather reports and emergency information.
Persons with Disabilities
Special emergency preparedness instructions must be given to citizens in our community who are members of special-needs populations or are participating in activities being conducted at facilities where large groups of people are congregated.
Meet with household members or your personal care attendant to discuss the dangers of fire, severe weather, earthquakes, floods and other emergencies that might occur in your community.
Determine what you will need to do for each type of emergency.
Create a plan with family or neighbors in order to obtain emergency information or assistance with evacuation. If possible, begin preparations for evacuation early.
People with disabilities have the same choices as other community residents about whether to evacuate their homes and about where to go when an emergency threatens. Listen to the advice of local officials. Decide whether it is better to leave the area, stay with a friend, or go to a public shelter. Each of these decisions requires planning and preparation.
Create a self-help network of relatives, friends, and co-workers to assist in an emergency. Make sure they know where you keep your emergency supplies. Give a key to a neighbor or friend who may be able to assist you in a disaster.
Check for hazards in the home. Anything that can move, fall, break or cause a fire is a home hazard.
Have disaster supplies on hand. In addition to the basic items in your disaster supply kit, make sure your kit includes any special diet items, prescription drugs, and the name and phone number of your physician and pharmacy.
Anchor items such as medical equipment, heavy appliances, bookcases, and hanging plants. Place heavy objects on low shelves. Move beds away from heavy picture frames and windows.
Remove barriers such as bookcases which may block your safe exit after a disaster. Install security night lights to provide emergency lighting if the power goes off.
Wear a medical alert tag or bracelet to identify your disability.
Know the location and availability of more than one facility if you are dependent on a dialysis machine or other life-sustaining equipment or treatment.
If you have a speech, language, or hearing disability, tap the space bar when calling 9-1-1 to indicate a TDD call. Store writing pads and pencils to communicate with others. Remind friends that you cannot completely hear warnings or emergency instructions. Ask them to be your source of emergency information if it comes in over their radio.
If you are visually impaired, keep extra canes well placed around your home and office, even if you use a guide dog. Store extra food, water, and supplies for your dog. If you have a guide dog, remember that the dog may become confused or disoriented in an emergency.
Remember, in most states guide dogs for persons with disabilities are allowed to stay in emergency shelters with their owners.
If you use a wheelchair, tie a lightweight drawstring bag to the wheelchair where you can keep medicines, sanitary aides, a hard hat, a small flashlight, and a horn to signal for help. Show relatives and friends how to operate your wheelchair so they can move you if necessary. Make sure your friends know the size of your wheelchair in case it has to be transported. It's also a good idea to store a manual wheelchair at a neighbor's home, school, or your workplace.
This information prepared by the Washington State Military Department, Emergency Management Division
NOAA Radio NOAA Weather Radio is a service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA) of the Department of Commerce. NOAA Weather Radio provides continuous broadcasts of the latest weather information directly from the National Weather Service offices across the country. Weather messages are taped and run in a cycle lasting on an average of four to six minutes, and are updated frequently throughout the day. The NOAA Weather Radio network broadcasts from over 400 FM transmitters across the country on seven frequencies in the VHF band, ranging from 162.40 to 162.55 MHz above the commercial FM band. Fourteen NOAA Weather Radio stations broadcast in Washington.
During severe weather, the National Weather Service can interrupt the routine weather broadcasts and air special flood, weather watch, warning, or advisory messages. Specially designated warning receivers can be activated. Such receivers either sound an alarm indicating that an emergency exists, alerting the listener to turn the receiver up to audible volume, or, when operated in mutated mode, are automatically turned on so that the warning message is heard. "Warning Alarm" receivers are especially valuable for homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, public-safety agencies, and news media offices.
Under a January 1995 White House policy statement, NOAA Weather Radio was designated the SOLE government operated radio station to provide direct warning information into private homes and businesses for both natural disasters and nuclear attack. This includes hazardous conditions that pose a threat to life and safety, both at a local and national level.
NOAA weather radio broadcasts are made on one of seven high-band FM frequencies ranging from 162.40 to 162.55 MHz. These frequencies are usually not found on the average radio, but require a specially built receiver to pick up the broadcasts.
NOAA weather radio broadcasts can usually be heard as far away as 40 miles from the antenna site, often further. The effective range depends on many factors, including height of the antenna, terrain, quality of the receiver, and atmospheric conditions.
NOAA Weather Radio in Washington and Surrounding Areas:
NOAA weather radios can be purchased at Radio Shack and many other electronics stores nationwide. Prices will most likely vary from location to location, and will also depend on the type of radio you buy. Most receivers can be purchased for around $15 to $30.
Emergency Phone Numbers
Cowlitz County Emergency Management
312 SW 1st Ave.
Kelso, WA 98626
Cowlitz County Health Department - Information
Cowlitz Substance Abuse Coalition
Cowlitz County Sheriff (non-emergency)
Longview Police Department (non-emergency)
Kelso Police Department (non-emergency)
Castle Rock Police Department (non-emergency)
Washington State Adult Protective Services
Washington State Child Protective Services - 24 Hour Hotline
Washington State Domestic Violence Hotline
Washington State Nursing Home Residence Abuse and Neglect
Battered Women - Emergency Support Shelter - 24 Hour Hotline