Posted by Discovery

When a couple is dropped in the middle of an island on “Naked and Afraid,” they learn one thing very quickly: Mother Nature can be fickle. No matter where you live, natural disasters can be a concern. So what exactly do you do when you’re in the path of an avalanche?  And how do you react if you’re caught in a dust storm? Here are some expert tips on how to protect yourself in a variety of extreme weather situations, even if you’re not a survivalist.


An avalanche is any amount of snow sliding down a mountainside, and occurs when snow packed on the surface can’t support its weight. Major temperature changes, rapid wind speed and even an errant step can cause an avalanche. Despite what we may see on the big screen, yelling cannot cause an avalanche. What usually causes fatalities during an avalanche are hypothermia, physical trauma and suffocation. Here’s what to do if you’re unable to get away from the avalanche as soon as it starts:

  • Distance yourself from any ski equipment you may have been using to minimize the risk of injury.
  • Use swimming motions to stay on the surface of the avalanche.
  • Grab onto trees to try to get away from the snow.
  • As the snow slows, create an air pocket by clapping your hand over your mouth and nose.

A monsoon is actually more than a storm; it’s a shift in wind direction that occurs seasonally and can change the weather. In North America, they’re often called southwest monsoons and they’re known for bringing heavy rainfalls and thunderstorms. But that’s not always the problem; dust storms and flash floods are the real danger. The No. 1 way to stay safe during monsoon season is to stay prepared. Be sure to keep up with current weather conditions to avoid being trapped outside or on the road during a dust storm or flash flood. Here are a few more tips:

  • Prepare a family disaster kit: Be sure to have three days worth of essential items like food, water, clothing and medications. Also keep candles, flashlights, batteries and a first aid kit on hand.
  • Flash floods: If you’re caught outside during a flash flood, don’t underestimate how deep the waters are or how fast they’re traveling. Be sure to keep children away from creeks, storm drains or washes. Never attempt to drive your car through standing water; it’s too difficult to determine how deep the water is and you could end up stranded.
  • Dust storms: Dust storms, also called haboobs, usually last no longer than an hour, so it’s best to stay where you are until it passes. If you’re driving, pull off the road when it’s safe to do so, put the car in park and turn off the headlights and taillights.

A hurricane is essentially a tropical cyclone that forms over tropical or subtropical waters. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. The storm progresses from a tropical depression (winds less than 39 miles per hour) then on to a tropical storm (winds higher than 39) before becoming a hurricane after reaching 74 miles per hour. The dangers of a hurricane, in both property damage and danger to life, are many: storm surges, tornadoes, dangerous waves and heavy winds. As in any other storm, be sure to prepare ahead of time so you know if it’s necessary to prepare your home or even evacuate. This means having a disaster preparedness kit, and keeping your gas tank full in case you need to leave.

  • Find a shelter: Identify a place in your house that can be used as a shelter, if necessary. Choose a place with no exterior doors or windows, preferably in the middle of the house or other structure. You should also look into nearby public shelters. The important thing is to stay away from all doors and windows during the storm.
  • Don’t underestimate the storm: During the eye of the storm the winds and heavy rains will recede. It’s important not to go out before receiving official word that it’s safe.
  • Flooding and quick-moving waters still pose a danger after the hurricane is over. Don’t attempt to drive or walk through the water.
  • If your home is threatened by flooding, turn off electricity to the main breaker.

Earthquakes are a sudden shaking of the ground caused by the moving of the earth. Believe it or not, all 50 states are at risk of earthquakes, although the risk is much higher in certain areas that are along identified seismic zones. If you live along those zones, there are some things you can do to prepare in advance, such as securing items that could fall, like bookshelves, TVs and other furniture. It’s also a good idea to prepare a family emergency plan in case of an earthquake.

  • If you’re inside: Drop down to the ground and cover your head to protect yourself from falling debris. Crawl away from any windows and anything that could possibly fall onto you, and if possible, crawl underneath a sturdy desk or table for cover. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not safest to go underneath a doorway for safety.
  • If you’re outside: Move away from buildings and streetlights, drop to the ground and cover your head and neck until the shaking stops.
  • If you’re in a vehicle: Don’t try to keep driving during an earthquake; it’s impossible to control the vehicle. Stop as safely and quickly as possible, and avoid stopping near utility poles, buildings or trees.
  • Watch out for aftershocks: Be prepared to assume a safety position in the event of aftershocks, which are smaller tremors after an earthquake.

Tornadoes are violent rotating columns of air that are often seen as visible funnels that go from a thunderstorm to the ground. Although the telltale funnel is what many people think of when imagining a tornado, it’s important to understand it’s not always seen as a funnel. Hail and lightning often accompany storms that produce tornadoes. Those, along with the floods that can accompany thunderstorms mean that such a storm could pose multiple dangers. Because tornadoes are a risk in every state, it’s important to know the warning signs. Signs include: dark, greenish sky, large hail, dark, low-lying clouds, and a large roar, similar to that of a freight train. Some cities and counties may also have warning sirens, which signal a tornado warning and that people should take shelter immediately. Here’s what to do when a tornado is coming:

  • Know the difference between a warning and a watch: A tornado watch means that conditions exist that may produce a tornado. In the event of a watch, you should move close to shelter. A tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted and you should take shelter immediately.
  • If you’re indoors: Take shelter in a predetermined area or safe room. If there isn’t one, get to the basement or lowest possible floor. If possible, get under a sturdy table and cover your arms and neck with your hands and your body with pillows and heavy blankets. If you are in a mobile home or manufactured home, immediately seek shelter in a sturdy building.
  • If you’re caught outdoors, try to get to a sturdy building. If that’s not possible, take shelter in a stationary vehicle and put on your seatbelt, covering yourself with your arms and any cushioning you may have. Never get under an overpass or bridge, and never try to outrun a tornado. Because of the flying debris, outdoor areas are the most dangerous place you can be during a tornado. Try to find an indoor area.