From loss of life to extensive and expensive damage to property and the local economy, severe weather is always a major risk.

There is a level of uncertainty in predicting extreme weather conditions for any given area, and that is why you should be prepared to protect yourself against any natural or man-caused disaster.

Severe weather can happen anytime and can include hazardous conditions produced by thunderstorms, including damaging winds, tornadoes, large hail, flash flooding, and winter storms associated with freezing rain, sleet, snow and strong winds.

Disasters can strike quickly and sometimes without warning, and can force you to evacuate your home or neighborhood, or even confine you to your home for a long period of time.

“We as an agency are getting ready and we want the citizens to do their part and be ready as well,” says Robert Pena, public affairs officer at Lancaster Emergency Management Agency.

While Pennsylvania doesn’t have a coastline, hurricanes, tropical storms, tornados, floods and their remnants still cause problems throughout the state, ravaging properties, disrupting the power supply and endangering residents.

According to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, flooding is the most frequent and damaging natural disaster that occurs throughout the state because many communities are located along waterways.

“We get so much rain that the ground gets saturated, and the water doesn’t have anywhere to go,” says Pena.

Fire hazards are rated the third most severe of man-caused disasters. Fires in residential, commercial or industrial areas cause the most extensive property loss.

What would you do if basic services like water, food, gas, electricity or telephones were cut off?

Local officials and relief workers will be ready to assist after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone right away. If disaster strikes, you need to know how to take care of yourself and your family.

“Be prepared to be on your own for at least three days,” says Pena. “Have enough supply of food and water. That’s one gallon per person per day, food that doesn’t require extensive cooking or doesn’t need to be heated at all.”

The thought of a natural disaster can be stressful and frightening, but you can prepare yourself and your family by being informed, planning ahead and taking action.


Get ready NOW

  • Pay attention to weather reports. Heed the warnings of local or state officials, and evacuate the area if necessary.
  • If you are under a tornado or flood warning, find safe shelter right away. Personal safety should be your primary concern during hazardous conditions.
  • Make a family emergency plan; sign up for emergency alerts and review evacuation zones and routes.
  • Know the types of flood risk in your area. Keep important documents in a waterproof container. Create password-protected digital copies.
  • Protect your property. Move valuables to higher levels. Declutter drains and gutters. Install check valves. Consider a sump pump with a battery.
  • Have disaster supply kits ready. Gather supplies in case you have to leave immediately, or if services are cut off. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Don’t forget the needs of pets. Obtain extra batteries and charging devices for phones and other critical equipment.
  • When thunder roars, go indoors. A sturdy building is the safest place to be during a thunderstorm. While indoors, avoid running water or using landline phones. Electricity can travel through plumbing and phone lines. If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find a sturdy, grounded shelter or vehicle immediately. Do not touch anything metal.
  • Be aware of the risk of electrocution. Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water. If it is safe to do so, turn off the electricity to prevent electric shock.
  • Avoid wading in floodwater, which can contain dangerous debris and be contaminated. Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge the water.
  • Never use generators, grills, camp stoves or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside, or even outside near an open window.



  • Keep listening to EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, and local authorities for updated information.
  • Stay clear of fallen power lines or broken utility lines.
  • Do not enter damaged buildings until you are told that they are safe. Structures can sustain damage from high winds, flooding and storm-carried debris during a storm event.
  • Save your phone calls for emergencies. Phone systems are often down or busy after a disaster. Use text messaging or social media to communicate with family and friends.
  • Be careful during clean up. Wear thick-soled shoes, long pants and work gloves.
Sources: Lancaster Emergency Management Agency, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, NOAA, Ready.gov, Center for Science Education