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April 28, 2015

Are you one in a million? The USGS is part of the millions participating on April 30 for America’s PrepareAthon! You should join too.

Image: Road Damage from 2008 Great Sichuan Earthquake in China
Damage following the 2008 Great Sichuan Earthquake in China. Photo Credit: Lynn Highland, USGS

Are you one in a million? The USGS is part of the millions participating on April 30 for America’s PrepareAthon! You should join too.

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.

America’s PrepareAthon! is a campaign encouraging people across the nation to practice preparedness actions before a disaster or emergency strikes. This is an opportunity for individuals, organizations and communities to prepare for specific hazards through drills, group discussions and exercises.

A Campaign Based on Coordination and Community

This campaign is coordinated in collaboration with federal, state, local, tribal and territorial governments, the private sector and non-governmental organizations. America’s PrepareAthon! is part of President Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is facilitating the effort, leveraging the resources of the Ready Campaign and many years of experience by members of the National Preparedness Community. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is one of the supporters and contributors to the campaign.

10 Ways to Participate

America’s PrepareAthon! is promoting 10 ways to participate in preparedness. Pick one or more of the following actions and simply sign up online to register your involvement. More than five million participants are already registered.

1.      Sign up for local alerts and warnings, download apps, and/or check access for wireless emergency alerts

2.      Develop and test emergency communications plans

3.      Assemble or update emergency supplies

4.      Learn about local hazards and conduct a drill to practice emergency response actions

5.      Participate in a preparedness discussion, training, or class

6.      Collect and safeguard critical documents

7.      Document property and obtain appropriate insurance for relevant hazards

8.      Make property improvements to reduce potential injury and property damage (mitigation)

9.      Hold a tabletop exercise for your organization

10.  Plan with neighbors to help each other and share resources

Need for Preparedness

A FEMA survey found that nearly 60 percent of respondents have not practiced what to do in a disaster by participating in disaster preparedness exercises or drills at work, school or home in the past year. Despite an increase in weather-related disasters, only 39 percent of respondents have developed and discussed an emergency plan with their household.

Image: Students Conduct Earthquake Preparedness Drill
Students participate in the Great Southeast ShakeOut earthquake drill in Virginia. They are conducting the "drop, cover and hold on" safety procedure. Photo Credit: Jessica Robertson, USGS

April 30: National PrepareAthon! Day

Twice a year there are national days of action to highlight progress in creating a more resilient nation. In 2015, the first will take place on April 30, and a second day of action will be held on September 30.

 To begin preparing for each hazard, one should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials. A complete list of actions and detailed information can be found online.

Focus on Six Hazards

Every year, America’s PrepareAthon! mixes things up and highlights different hazards. On April 30, the campaign’s focus will revolve around preparing for earthquakes, floods, wildfires, hurricanes, winter storms and tornadoes. The below summary discusses each hazard and relevant USGS science.

USGS science is essential to understanding a range of hazards—including many other events not in this specific campaign—and serves as a basis upon which decisions and preparedness actions are developed.


Earthquake hazards  are a national problem. The USGS has created and provides information tools to support earthquake loss reduction, including hazard assessments, scenarios, comprehensive real-time earthquake monitoring and public preparedness handbooks. The USGS and its partners are helping to provide critical seconds of notification by developing a prototype Earthquake Early Warning System in the United States. You can sign up to receive earthquake notices through the USGS Earthquake Notification System as well as USGS social media channels. When you feel an earthquake, you can report your experience on the USGS “Did You Feel It?” website.

Image: Fourmile Canyon Creek
USGS scientist surveying water levels at Fourmile Canyon Creek near Sunshine, CO, following the 2013 Boulder floods. Photographer: Todd Koenig


Floods are one of the most common hazards in the United States. Some floods develop slowly, while others, such as flash floods, can happen in just a few minutes. The USGS conducts real-time monitoring of the nation’s rivers and streams, providing officials with critical information for flood warnings and drought mitigation. Visit the USGS flood website and browse an abundance of resources, including details on past floods and current situations as well as informational products.

If you want to know whether river levels in your area are higher or lower than normal, visit USGS WaterWatch. You can also use USGS WaterAlert to receive texts or emails when water levels at a specific streamgage exceed certain thresholds. Or you can request data on-demand through USGS WaterNow. Also, the USGS and National Weather Service work together to make flood inundation maps.



Wildfires are most commonly ignited by humans or lightning. In extremely hot, dry and windy conditions, they can spread quickly. The USGS provides tools and information before, during and after fire disasters to identify wildfire risks and reduce subsequent hazards, while providing real-time geospatial support for firefighters during the events. For example, the USGS provides fire managers with up-to-the minute maps and satellite imagery about current wildfire extent and behavior throughout the nation. There are secondary effects of wildfires, including erosion, landslides, invasive species and changes in water quality. As fires are contained, USGS scientists help to assess their aftermath to guide the re-building of more resilient communities and restoration of ecosystems.


hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone or severe tropical storm that forms in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The USGS studies coastal vulnerability and change from hurricanes and extreme storms, helping inform flood forecasts and evacuation warnings. Before, during and after major hurricanes or tropical storms affecting the United States, the USGS assesses the likelihood of beach erosion, overwash or inundation. Scientists also measure storm surge and monitor water levels of inland rivers and streams.

Winter Storms and Tornadoes

Winter storms can cause power outages that last for days or weeks; making it hard to keep warm and making travel very dangerous. USGS science to monitor hurricane storm surge as well as water levels of inland rivers and streams can be of assistance for winter storm research and response.

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in seconds. Every state is at some risk from this hazard.

Get Ready to ShakeOut on October 15

It’s not too early to sign up for the next Great ShakeOut earthquake drill on October 15, 2015. Join millions of people and practice “drop, cover, and hold on,” which is the recommended safety action to take during an earthquake. Guidance for this and other preparedness activities for families, businesses and organizations are on the web at

Join the National Preparedness Community

Take action, spread the word and encourage others to discuss, practice and train for hazards. Can’t make these official dates? Resources and tools provided through America’s PrepareAthon! are always available online, so plan a drill or browse materials at any time throughout the year.

Be Smart. Take Part. Prepare.