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April 18, 2016

Are you and your family ready for the next disaster or emergency? Get tips by joining America’s PrepareAthon!

Disasters and emergencies can happen at any time, often without warning. When people prepare and practice for an emergency in advance of the event, it makes a real difference in their ability to take immediate and informed action. This, in turn, enables them to recover more quickly.

Get prepared and join millions of people participating in America’s PrepareAthon! This is a campaign encouraging people across the nation to practice preparedness actions before a disaster or emergency strikes. Activities include drills, group discussions, exercises and more.

America's PrepareAthon! poster for wildfire preparedness.

April 30: National PrepareAthon! Day

The next National PrepareAthon! Day is April 30 and will involve individuals, families, workplaces, schools and organizations coming together to practice simple actions to stay safe before, during and after emergencies.

Examples of easy steps you can take include:

  • Signing up for local alerts and warnings from school, work or the local government.
  • Knowing how to get in touch with family if everyone is in different locations.
  • Identifying and practicing meeting in a safe and familiar place for protection or to reunite.
  • Creating or updating a wallet card with emergency numbers and making sure everyone in the family has their own card.
  • Building an emergency supply kit for each member of the family.
  • Knowing the community’s plans for evacuation.
  • Planning with neighbors to help each other and share resources.

Visit the America’s PrepareAthon! website at for more information.

Coordination and Community

America’s PrepareAthon! is part of President Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness and is coordinated with federal, state, local, tribal and territorial governments, the private sector and non-governmental organizations. The USGS is one of many supporting and contributing agencies.

USGS science is essential to understanding a wide range of hazards and provides a basis on which preparedness actions are developed. USGS expertise ranges from volcanoes to earthquakes, landslides, wildlife health and many others beyond this specific campaign.

Five Science Tools to Check Out

Throughout April and May, the campaign will highlight steps individuals and communities can take to prepare for wildfires, hurricanes, floods, extreme heat and tornadoes. Below are five key USGS resources that can help you understand and prepare for these hazards:

  1. Within minutes of wildfires, download real-time maps and satellite imagery.
  2. iCoast – Did the Coast Change? You can help scientists compare aerial photographs before and after hurricanes and storms to identify how vulnerable coastal communities are to future events.
  3. See how high or low river levels in your area are through USGS WaterWatch. Receive texts or emails when water levels exceed certain thresholds through USGS WaterAlert. Or you can request data on-demand through USGS WaterNow.
  4. Gather info on current flooding and past incidents at the USGS Flood website.
  5. During times of extreme heat, drinking plenty of water is essential. If you are curious, browse through statistics on water use in the United States.

Safety Tips

A few key tips are provided below to prepare for the main hazards focused on in the upcoming National PrepareAthon Day! A complete list of preparedness guidelines for these and other hazards—such as earthquakes and winter storms—are provided on the campaign’s website.


  • Regularly clean roofs, gutters and chimneys, and maintain an area around your home (up to 200 feet) that is free from combustible debris such as leaves, brush or firewood.
  • Sign up to receive text or e-mail alerts about emergencies like wildfire from your local Office of Emergency Management.
  • Connect garden hoses long enough to reach any area of the home and maintain sources of water near your home.
Image: Coastline Breach
A breach in the coastline of Rodanthe, North Carolina, caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011. Photo Credit: Karen Morgan, USGS


  • Store supplies for a minimum of three days to a week to be used if not advised to evacuate.
  • Hurricanes not only result in high winds, but floods, too. If you see a flooded path or roadway, quickly turn around.
  • To protect property from high winds, secure and reinforce the roof, windows and doors, including the garage doors. Consider installing hurricane shutters.


  • Stay away from electrical utility equipment if it is wet to prevent being electrocuted.
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters.
  • Use a water sealer in areas that have basements; install sewer backflow valves; elevate and anchor utilities; put sandbags around your property and move furniture to the second floor.

Extreme Heat

  • Weather-strip doors and sills, and close drapes or shades.
  • Install window air conditioners snugly and check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation.
  • Know the symptoms of heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke, and call 911 if they occur. Symptoms include high body temperature, hot dry skin, rapid pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion or unconsciousness.


  • Build a safe room or a wind shelter.
  • If those aren’t available, go to a small interior room on the lowest level of a sturdy building with as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
  • If you are in the car when a Tornado Watch is announced, go to the nearest sturdy building. Do not attempt to outrun a tornado in a vehicle.



USGS Science

Lean more and check out USGS science to support preparedness for the hazards in America’s PrepareAthon!

Before, during and after wildfire disasters, the USGS provides tools to identify wildfire risks and reduce subsequent hazards, such as landslides. As fires are contained, USGS scientists help to assess their aftermath to guide the re-building of more resilient communities and restoration of ecosystems.

USGS real-time monitoring of the nation’s rivers and streams provides officials with critical information for flood warnings, forecasts and evacuation warnings. The USGS works closely with the National Weather Service, particularly to make flood inundation maps.

For major storms or hurricanes, the USGS issues forecasts about the likelihood of erosion, inundation and overwash. The USGS also measures storm surge and monitors water levels of inland rivers and streams.

Register Your Preparedness Actions Today!

Create an account and register your preparedness activities on the America’s PrepareAthon! website. You can participate by pledging to enhance your preparedness by reviewing your emergency plans, safeguarding critical documents, obtaining proper insurance, assembling emergency supplies or updating safety measures on your property. You can also participate in local drills or organize your own exercises with your co-workers, family or neighbors. There are many local alerts and warnings you can register for as well.

Image: El Niño Hits San Diego
Closed roads were a common scene in California during the El Niño-related storms in January 2016. This shows a section of Fashion Valley Road in San Diego that was closed from flooding of the San Diego River. Photo Credit: Dianna Crilley, USGS

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