Landslides occur when masses of rock, earth, or debris move down a slope. A common type of fast-moving landslides are mudslides, or debris flows, that tend to flow in channels. These can flow at avalanche speeds, meaning you cannot out-run them.They also can travel many miles from their source, growing in size as they pick up trees, boulders, cars and other materials.
Landslides can occur in any US state and can be caused as a result of other weather events like earthquakes, storms, volcanic eruptions, fire, and even human modification of land. A landslide is most deadly when it occurs quickly without any notice. Each year, landslides are responsible for 25-50 deaths and billions of dollars in damage. This is why it is important to prepare now, allowing you time to quickly react in an emergency situation. Here are some steps you can follow.
1. Gather Supplies
It is best to always have a basic emergency supply kit fully stocked year round. Stock your kit with plenty of water, non-perishable foods that don’t require a long cooking process, and utensils. Be sure to have first-aid supplies, like bandages and anti-bacterial creams, in an easy-to-find location to prevent any panic in case you find yourself needing a patch-up. Keep flashlights and batteries on hand in the event of a power outage. Store your kit in an easily accessed location to be grabbed in an emergency, and even consider keeping one in the car.
2. Sign Up for Emergency Alerts
To avoid being caught off guard, sign up for local emergency notifications that will alert you of unusual weather conditions or provide evacuation and shelter warnings. It is important to take action immediately following an evacuation notice, as every minute allows the landslide time to become faster and more dangerous.
3. Assess your Risk with Professional Help
A geotechnical professional can provide advice on preventative measures to protect your home from landslides, debris flow, and flooding. Since you cannot change the path once a debris flow has started, you may be able to protect your property from mud or floodwaters with sandbags, retaining walls, or k-rails. A professional can also provide consultation on proper land-use procedures, advising where best to build new structures and where to direct debris flows.
4. Become Familiar with your Area
The best way to be prepared for the future is to understand the past and present. Learn if landslides have ever occurred in your area and understand the path taken, damage caused, and recovery steps for the community. While debris flows can happen anywhere, a previously established path may still be prone to landslides occurring again. Follow proper land-use procedures for your area and avoid building near steep slopes, close to mountain edges, near drainage ways, or along natural erosion valleys.
5. Know the Warning Signs
Fast-moving debris flows can pose a risk to life. In wildfire burn areas, weather conditions can be very different than your community, and can be an easy origin point for a landslide. Some warning signs are rushing water, mud, and unusual sounds like cracking trees or boulders knocking together. As a landslide nears, you may hear a faint rumbling sound that gets louder. Fences, retaining walls, utility poles, boulders, and even trees may start to move.
Slow-moving landslides are less dangerous to human life but can still damage property. Some signs are changes in your landscape, like patterns of water-drainage and progressively leaning trees. You may notice doors or windows sticking for the first time, or cracks appearing in plaster, tile, brick, or foundation. Outside walls, walks, or stairs can pull away from buildings, and slow-widening cracks can develop in the street. At the base of a slope, you may notice bulging or water puddling in new locations. Underground utility lines can break and fences, utility poles, and even trees can tilt or move. Finally, you may notice the ground sloping downward and shifting under your feet.
Landslides can happen anywhere in the country, causing billions of dollars in damage to property and extreme risk to life. Prepare for a landslide occurring in your area by bringing in a professional to assess the risk posed to your property and ensure you are following all guidelines for new builds. Create your emergency supply kit and educate yourself on the warning signs of a landslide.
If utility lines are affected by a landslide causing you to lose power, you can benefit from an emergency backup battery generator. Geneverse (formerly Generark)’s HomePower ONE is compatible with a wide-range of home appliances and devices. Learn more on our blog.
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