General Information for Disaster Preparedness and Response
Public Service Announcements
Listen to or rebroadcast public service messages about flood safety and response. Topics include carbon monoxide, children's health, private wells contamination, mold cleanup, and many others.
Social media messages you can use.
English | en español | Tiếng Việt
Always call 911 if you are in immediate danger and need emergency help.
This page lists general information for homeowners, communities, schools, and facilities, that can apply to many different disaster situations. Much of this information is repeated on pages about specific types of natural events or disasters.
Report suspected spills, contamination or possible violations
- To report oil,chemical, or hazardous substance releases or spills, call the National Response Center 800-424-8802.
- For pesticide poisoning, call 911 if the person is unconscious, has trouble breathing, or has convulsions. Otherwise, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.
- Report a suspected environmental violation on EPA's reporting page. If you don't have internet access, call the EPA office in your area of the country. General info about reporting spills or violations.
Learn about government emergency messages before you need them:
- FEMA Wireless Emergency Alerts - FEMA works with US cellphone carriers to send free emergency texts to cell phones (that can get text messages) within range. You don't have to sign up to receive the messages.
Read a New York Times article about this.
- en español: Alertas - Sistema de alerta de emergencias
- Emergency Alert System - is a public warning system that uses existing TV, radio, cable, and other systems to send critical messages to the general public. Messages are local or national, depending on the situation.
- NOAA Weather Radio - requires a special radio receiver or scanner capable of picking up the signal. You can listen to some weather broadcasts online through third-party re-broadcasters but these should not be relied on during an emergency.
Individuals and homeowners:
People get sick or die each year from carbon monoxide or "CO" poisoning due to unsafe use of generators.
- ALERT: Generator exhaust is toxic. Always put generators outside well away from doors, windows, and vents. Never use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas. Carbon monoxide (CO) is deadly, can build up quickly, and linger for hours. More information.
- Listen: Public Service Announcement about carbon monoxide (Escuche: en español)
- en español: Proteja su vida y la de su familia: Evite el envenenamiento con monóxido de carbono (español) - conozca los síntomas del envenenamiento con monóxido de carbono. | Más: Tormentas de nieve y hielo
Drinking water and food preparation
- Make a kit of supplies. Keep at least a 3-day water supply per person -and don't forget pets. What you can do to protect your household well.
- Prepare food supplies for an emergency. Get a fridge thermometer to be sure of safe storage temperatures if you lose electricity. Freeze extra containers of water ahead of time. Use ice chests in case power is out for more than four hours.
- Making a plan, from Ready.gov
Drinking water and food recovery
- Dehydration danger for older adults – Make sure older adults have enough water to drink. Older adults may feel thirsty less, and dehydration can be life threatening to an elderly person.
- What to do about water from household wells after a flood– Do not turn on the pump due to danger of electric shock. Do not drink or wash with water from the flooded well.
- Keep food safe during an emergency Don't test spoiled food by tasting it!
Home or facilities wastewater
- What do I do with my home septic system after a flood? Do not drink your well water until it is tested. Do not use the sewage system until water in the soil absorption field is lower than the water level around the house. If you have a home-based or small business and your septic system has received chemicals, take extra precautions to prevent contact with water or inhaling fumes. Proper clean-up depends on the kinds of chemicals in the wastewater.
Limit contact with flood water.
Flood water may have high levels of raw sewage or other hazardous substances. Early symptoms from exposure to contaminated flood water may include upset stomach, intestinal problems, headache and other flu-like discomfort. Anyone experiencing these and any other problems should immediately seek medical attention.
- What do I about water from household wells after a flood? Do not turn on the pump due to danger of electric shock. Do not drink or wash with water from the flooded well until it is tested and safe to use. Read more.
- What do I do with my home septic system after a flood? Do not use the sewage system until water in the soil absorption field is lower than the water level around the house. If you have a home-based or small business and your septic system has received chemicals, take extra precautions to prevent contact with water or inhaling fumes. Proper clean-up depends on the kinds of chemicals in the wastewater. Read more
- Note - never try to drive through flood water. Attempting to drive through flood water is a leading cause of flood-related injury and death.
reentering a flooded home, from the CDC.
- Mold cleanup: Mold can cause serious health problems. The key to mold control is moisture control. After the flood, remove standing water and dry indoor areas. Remove and discard anything that has been wet for more than 24-48 hours.
- Basic mold hazards
- Mold cleanup in schools and commercial buildings. Information for building managers, custodians, and others who are responsible for commercial building and school maintenance.
- More about mold from Centers for Disease Control
Renovation and rebuilding
Lead-safe work: By law, contractors need to use lead-safe work practices on emergency renovations on homes or buildings built before 1978. Activities such as sanding, cutting, and demolition can create lead-based paint hazards. Lead-contaminated dust is harmful to adults, particularly pregnant women, and children.
- Important information about post-disaster renovations and lead-based paint
- Ways to protect against lead-based paint hazards
Asbestos: Anyone working on demolition, removal, and cleanup of building debris needs be aware of any asbestos and to handle asbestos materials properly. People exposed to asbestos dust can develop serious lung health problems including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Although the use of asbestos has dramatically decreased in recent years, it is still found in many residential and commercial buildings and can pose a serious health risk.
- More about the dangers of exposure to asbestos
- Asbestos Standard for the Construction Industry, from OSHA
Communities or businesses:
- Suggested activities to help facilities prepare for severe weather conditions. Please note, the linked information is written for hurricane preparedness but much of it will still apply to many types of preparedness.
- EPA offers tools communities can download to help plan for for disaster or security threats to water systems. More about community water-based resilency tools.
- Suggested post-hurricane activities to help facilities recover from severe weather conditions. Please note, the linked information is written for hurricane recovery, but much of it will apply to many types or recovery.
Communities should plan ahead to handle exceptionally large amounts of disaster debris from damaged or destroyed buildings, supplies, trees or other green waste, carcasses, or other materials. Disposal problems can result from large amounts of debris but also from hazardous or toxic substances in the debris that can contaminate air, water, land, and food if not handled properly. Burning large amounts of debris to reduce volume may not be an option.More information on disaster debris.
Underground Storage Tanks
During a flood, underground storage tank (UST) systems may become displaced or damaged and release their
contents into the environment, causing soil, surface water, and groundwater contamination.
- Learn more what UST owners or operators can do to minimize risks from damaged USTs on human health and the environment during flooding.
Pesticides, chemical and oil spills, hazardous waste
- Call the National Response Center 800-424-8802 (24 hours a day every day). For those without 800 access, please call 202-267-2675.
- Industries and businesses that encounter spills or discharges in the aftermath should contact the National Response Center immediately. You or your organization may have legal requirements for reporting or for taking other actions, depending on the spill.
- National Pesticide Information Center: 1-800-858-7378. Pesticide contacts
- Report spills or environmental violations