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6 Tips for Avoiding Slips, Trips, and Falls in the Workplace


When people think about dangers in the workplace, they often underestimate the impact of slips, trips, and falls. Not only are these accidents a major cause of injuries leading to missed work, but they can also be deadly. According to OSHA, slips trips and falls are second only to motor vehicles as a cause of fatalities, resulting in 15% of all accidental deaths.

Read below for 6 tips that will help you avoid slips, trips, and falls in your workplace.

1. Wear proper footwear

Be sure to use the right shoes for your working environment. Many varieties of slip resistant shoes are available, and an easy way to make shoes less slippery is by scuffing the soles before using them. This can be done by rubbing the soles on concrete or by using a knife to score them.

2. Don’t work in the dark

Make sure adequate lighting is available when you are working. Proper lighting will help you to avoid tripping on objects and other slipping hazards.

3. Use the right tool for the job

If you need to grab something out of reach, take the time to find a proper step stool or ladder. Many chairs are not designed to withstand the weight of someone standing directly on them, and they could break. Standing on folding chairs can cause them to collapse, and swivel office chair can slide out from underneath you.

4. Clean spills before they become slipping hazards

Keep work spaces clean to avoid slipping and tripping hazards. Pick up any fallen objects from the floor, and quickly wipe up spills to avoid slips.

5. Clear paths and walkways when moving large objects

When you need to move a large object, clear a path beforehand. Shuffling around other object while carrying a load can result in a fall due to decreased mobility and visibility.

6. Be vocal, and let people know when you’re moving

People in a shared workspace can be a tripping hazard to each other, so it’s important to let others know when you’re moving behind them. When opening doors into spaces, it’s a good practice to give warning.

Be sure to keep these safety tips in mind the next time you’re moving around your work space. Most importantly, make sure everyone else in your workplace is also aware of these practices and potential hazards.

The more people that know how to avoid slips, trips, and falls in a workplace, the safer that workplace will be.

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Physical Hazards

Of all the hazards in your workplace, Physical Hazards might the least obvious. Despite their name, Physical Hazards aren’t always something that you can see or touch. In this installment of our “Workplace Hazards” series, we’ll take a look at how you can identify and prepare for Physical Hazards.


Anything in the environment that can cause a body harm can fall under the category of Physical Hazards. Environmental dangers include:

  • Radiation: including ionizing, non-ionizing (EMF’s, microwaves, radio waves, etc.)
  • High exposure to sunlight / ultraviolet rays
  • Temperature extremes – hot and cold
  • Constant loud noise

To know if something is a Physical Hazard or not, just think about if it could cause physical harm to an employee. This could include common workplace objects like flammable items, or objects that may violently react to other environmental factors.


  • What kinds of environmental exposure do my employees face?
  • Do my employees work around potentially reactive or explosive chemicals or objects?
  • What are the long-term effects of working in this environment?
  • How long are my employees being exposed to sunlight and other environmental factors?
  • Do my employees have equipment that protects their hearing if necessary?
  • What protections are in place for potential extremes in temperature?
  • Could the equipment that my employees work with pose a risk to their long-term health?



Once you’ve identified physical hazards in your workplace, it’s important to reduce the risk posed to your employees. Whenever it’s not possible to completely eliminate a Physical Hazard from the workplace, you should introduce controls to reduce the risks involved.



Engineering controls reduce risk by reducing or eliminating risk through physical means. Examples of engineering controls for Physical Hazards include:

  • Providing safety equipment to employees that reduces their exposure to the Physical Hazard
  • Reduce noises and vibrations present in the workplace
  • Place barriers between employees and Physical Hazards such as radiation or microwaves
  • Provide proper ventilation and air conditioning for employees
  • Insulate any surfaces that could be prone to extremes in temperature

Administrative controls reduce risk by changing work processes and activities to make them more safe. Some examples of administrative controls for Physical Hazards are:

  • Handling smaller quantities of dangerous and reactive chemicals
  • Spending less time in areas of exposure
  • Working away from noise when possible
  • Provide employees with rest breaks away from Physical Hazards
  • Train employees to recognize and avoid Physical Hazards


Working alone can take your employees away from help that would otherwise be available. Lone workers are also disadvantaged when it comes to recognizing and responding to the Physical Hazards in their environment. In these situations, a check-in based monitoring system like SafetyLine provides security to your employees by calling for help even when they’re not able to.

When you’re assessing the Hazards in a workplace, remember to keep in mind the Physical Hazards that you can’t see. Hazards that aren’t obvious can pose a danger to even the most experienced employee, so it’s important to plan ahead and take precautions.


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When summertime rolls around, it’s easy to forget that even the clearest weather and sunshine can create hazards when working outdoors. If you find yourself working alone outside, you’ll need to take extra precautions as any potential problems are made worse when you’re away from help. In this list we’ll be looking at some of the most common risks of working outdoors in the summer, and some of the ways that you can help protect yourself.


Risks from sun and heat include sun stroke, dehydration, and sun burns. To avoid burning, apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before exposure, and reapply throughout the day to maintain your protection. When heat poses a danger to you, make sure that you stay hydrated, and take breaks in the shade whenever possible.


During the summer, air quality can be decreased by environmental factors like allergens, dust, and debris. It’s especially important to consider air quality if you already suffer from a respiratory condition such as asthma. To avoid poor air quality in the summer, try to plan any trips outdoors for the coolest, driest times of the day, typically the morning or evening.


Just like the winter, summer has its own extreme weather conditions, including lightning strikes and tornadoes. If you’re outdoors and you hear thunder, take shelter indoors or inside a car if possible. Lightning is more likely to strike tall objects, so when a structure isn’t available it’s recommended to take shelter in low, dry areas. To avoid lightning storms, keep an eye on the clouds and always check weather forecasts before you leave.


For some people, severe allergic reactions can occur from insect bites, so having an EpiPen available when working outdoors is a good idea. To help you avoid mosquito and insect bites that can cause skin irritation and possibly disease, bring mosquito and insect repellents. Some repellents can cause their own irritations, so make sure to always follow the label directions before applying.


If you might encounter poison ivy and other irritating plants like poison oak, the best preventative measure is to learn to identify these plants and avoid them. If avoiding areas with these plants isn’t possible, closed-toe shoes, long sleeves, pants, and gloves can all protect your skin from these plant’s oils. If your clothing does come into contact with these plants, wash the clothing thoroughly to avoid second-hand reactions.

Working outdoors at any time presents new challenges and hazards, so take the time to consider the environment around you this summer. Working alone increases the danger from any environmental risk factor, so be sure that if you’re working alone this summer, you’re following good safety practices.

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What is a first-aider?

A first-aider is someone who has undertaken training appropriate to the circumstances. They must hold a valid certificate of competence in either:

  • first aid at work
  • emergency first aid at work
  • any other level of training or qualification that is appropriate to the circumstances

Employers can use the findings of their first-aid needs assessment to decide the appropriate level to which first-aiders should be trained.

  • Emergency first aid at work (EFAW) training enables a first-aider to give emergency first aid to someone who is injured or becomes ill while at work.
  • First aid at work training includes the EFAW syllabus and also equips the first-aider to apply first aid to a range of specific injuries and illness.

To help keep their basic skills up to date, it is strongly recommended that first-aiders undertake annual refresher training.

Certificates for the purposes of first aid at work last for three years. Before their certificates expire, first-aiders will need to undertake a requalification course as appropriate, to obtain another three-year certificate. Once certificates have expired the first aider is no longer considered to be competent to act as a workplace first aider.

How many first-aiders does an employer need?

In Alberta the occupational health and safety code determines how many first aiders and medical supplies are required. Consult your local OHS for information as they may be different in each.


Can legal action be taken against first-aiders in Canada?

Good Samaritan laws offer legal protection to people who give reasonable assistance to those who are, or who they believe to be, injured, ill, in peril, or otherwise incapacitated.[1] The protection is intended to reduce bystanders’ hesitation to assist, for fear of being sued or prosecuted for unintentional injury or wrongful death.

In Canada, good Samaritan acts fall under provincial jurisdiction. Each province has its own act, such as Ontario[6] and British Columbia’s[7] respective Good Samaritan Acts, Alberta’s Emergency Medical Aid Act,[8] and Nova Scotia’s Volunteer Services Act[9] Only in Quebec, a civil law jurisdiction, does a person have a general duty to respond, as detailed in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.[10][11]

An example of a typical Canadian law is provided here, from Ontario’s Good Samaritan Act, 2001, section 2:

Protection from liability

2. (1) Despite the rules of common law, a person described in subsection (2) who voluntarily and without reasonable expectation of compensation or reward provides the services described in that subsection is not liable for damages that result from the person’s negligence in acting or failing to act while providing the services, unless it is established that the damages were caused by the gross negligence of the person. 2001, c. 2, s. 2 (1).[12]

Yukon and Nunavut do not have good Samaritan laws.

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Farmwise: Your essential guide to health and safety in agriculture

This book provides guidance that is relevant to everyone working on farms: employers, employees and the self-employed. It will help you achieve good standards of health and safety, and reduce injuries and ill health by identifying causes, eliminating hazards and controlling risks.

It covers the management of health and safety – principally for those responsible for running the farming or horticultural business – as well as outlining the specific risks of working in your industry and giving you easy-to-follow, practical advice to keep you safe and healthy at work.

Download it FREE here: Farmwise: Your essential guide to health and safety in agriculture

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Overturning tractors and other self-propelled vehicles

What you should know

All vehicles can overturn.  Accidents on slopes are not confined to hilly or mountainous regions.  They happen just as easily on or near banks, ditches, drains, ramps, uneven or flat ground.  Vehicles can also overturn on artificial slopes such as ramps, or when performing tasks such as rolling silage,

When working on slopes the main risks are:

  • Loss of control
    This occurs when wheels lose traction rending the brakes and steering ineffective.  It it easier to lose control of a vehicle on a slope because of the effect of gravity and forward momentum.
  • Runaways
    Loss of control can lead to a runaway where the vehicle starts to move down the slope and the driver is unable to bring it back under control
  • Jack-knifing
    This happens when a trailer or trailed appliance pushes into the tractor and slews the tractor round.  Poor ground conditions, heavy loading and poor wheel grip increase the risk
  • Overturns
    A vehicle may overturn sideways eg when attempting to traverse across a slope diagonally, or trying to turn down a slope as a consequence of a runaway and jack knife.  Machines can also overturn forwards or backwards depending on the situation.

What you need to do

1.  Plan the job.

Before working on slopes you should assess the risks.  Factors to consider include:

  • Gradient
    Different vehicles have different capabilities.  Gradients on a slope can vary with some parts steeper than others.
  • surface
    Different surfaces can affect how well a vehicle can deal with a slope eg grass, earth, loose stones
  • Ground conditions
    A slope that is safe during dry conditions may become unsafe if wet, waterlogged, frozen or thawing.  Uneven ground with ruts, pot holes and deep tracks can affect stability
  • Weather
    Wet and windy weather may increase the risks
  • Obstacles
    Tree stumps and rocks may be struck, particularly when hidden by vegetation, and cause sideways overturns if struck on the uphill side
  • Task
    The proposed task will also affect the risk.  When using rear mounted spreaders the load will decrease during spreading and this will reduce rear wheel grip. Tractors with trailed rollers, four-wheel trailers etc will have extra thrust imposed with no additional weight – they may slide away out of control.

2.  Select a suitable vehicle fitted with a roll over protective structure (ROPS)

A roll bar or safety cab is designed to provide protection for the operator if the vehicle overturns.  Where roll over protection is fitted, you should also have a lap belt or seat restraint fitted if a machine will be used in situations where there is a risk of overturning.

  • check that the roll bar or safety cab is in good condition and correctly fitted. Corrosion and incorrect mounting bolts can cause them  to fail in an overturn;
  • never remove windows or doors from a safety cab;
  • fit a lap belt where one has not  been installed as original equipment;

To reduce the risk of an overturn:

  • make sure that tractors and machines are properly equipped and maintained, especially brakes, steering and tyres. Consider wide wheel settings for work on slopes;
  • select a machine suitable for the job.  Tractors with four wheel drive are likely to be safer to use on slopes compared to those with two wheel drive.

You may only use a tractor or self-propelled machine without ROPS in low-risk situations such as buildings and orchards or where specific exemptions exist.

3.  Work safely

Always use safe systems of work when working on slopes.  For example:

  • you should turn uphill when working across a slope, and descend straight down the gentlest gradient;
  • you cannot always safely descend a slope that you safely drove up;
  • select an appropriate gear and speed
  • take into account working with trailers, attachments and loads will change the centre of gravity

To reduce the risk of injury from an overturn:

  • stay in the cab and do not try to jump clear, as most deaths and serious injuries involve those who are crushed when they jump or are thrown out of a cab during overturning;
  • don’t carry loose items such as draw bar pins or tools inside the cab as they become projectiles and  may cause extra injury in an overturn.
  • wear the lap belt or seat restraint

Anyone who is required to drive on slopes should receive adequate training so they are aware of the hazards, understand the factors influencing the risks and are able to perform safe driving techniques.




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All-terrain vehicles (ATVs), Quad bikes and side-by-side utility vehicles

ATVs such as quad bikes and side-by-side utility vehicles are designed to cope with a wide variety of off-road conditions, but if used carelessly can very rapidly become unstable.

Quad bike ATVs

Many quad bike fatalities in the UK have been caused by head injuries. Helmets would have prevented most, if not all, of these deaths. You should always wear a suitable helmet when riding a quad bike.

The long seat on a quad bike allows operators to shift their body weight backwards and forwards for different slope conditions, a technique known as ‘active’ riding. It is not for carrying passengers.

To help reduce the risks:

  • carry out safety checks and maintenance in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations, eg regularly check tyre pressures, brakes and throttle;
  • secure loads on racks and make sure they are not over loaded and evenly balanced;
  • always read and follow the owner’s manual;
  • stick to planned routes, where possible, and walk new routes if necessary to check for hidden obstructions, hollows or other hazards;
  • take extra care with trailed or mounted equipment and understand how they affect stability;
  • make sure all riders receive adequate training.

Never carry a child as a passenger; it is illegal and will reduce your ability to control the ATV. Children under 13 years old are prohibited from using an ATV at work. Over-13s should only ride ATVs – of an appropriate size and power – after formal training on a low-power ATV.

Side-by-side utility ATVs

These vehicles have conventional sit-in seats with a steering wheel and pedals.  They may have a second row of seats and usually have a rear cargo deck or bed allowing goods to be carried.  Although the driver does not need to use active riding techniques to ensure stability the correct distribution of weight is still important.

To help reduce the risks follow the general guidance for quad bikes stated above but also:

  • Always select a machine fitted with a Roll Over Protective Structure (ROPS).
  • In addition to ROPS, the driver and passengers should wear lap belts/seat restraints to prevent them being thrown out in the event of an accident or overturn.
  • The legal requirements for training are the same as for Quad bikes.


Sit-astride ATVsSis-by-side ATVs




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Worried about your hearing?


The information on this page is mainly aimed at workers.

  • Noise is part of everyday life, but loud noise can permanently damage your hearing.
  • Young or old, once you lose your hearing you can never get it back.
  • New regulations have been introduced to better protect workers from noise at work from April 2006.

Am I at risk?

You are at risk if you can answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions about the noise where you work:

  • Is the noise intrusive – like a busy street, a vacuum cleaner or a crowded restaurant – for most of the working day?
  • Do you have to raise your voice to have a normal conversation when about 2 m apart for at least part of the day?
  • Do you use noisy powered tools or machinery for over half an hour a day?
  • Do you work in a noisy industry, eg construction, demolition or road repair; woodworking; plastics processing; engineering; textile manufacture; general fabrication; forging, pressing or stamping; paper or board making; canning or bottling; foundries?
  • Are there noises because of impacts (eg hammering, drop forging, pneumatic impact tools etc), explosive sources such as cartridge-operated tools or detonators, or guns?
  • Do you have muffled hearing at the end of the day, even if it is better by the next morning?

Symptoms and early signs of hearing loss

  • Conversation becomes difficult or impossible
  • Your family complains about the television being too loud
  • You have trouble using the telephone
  • You find it difficult to catch sounds like ‘t’, ‘d’ and ‘s’, so you confuse similar words
  • Permanent tinnitus (ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming in the ears) can also be caused

Generally hearing loss is gradual. By the time you notice it, it is probably too late. We want to prevent hearing loss before it happens. You can also suffer instant damage from very loud or explosive noises.

People’s own stories

Dye house

A dyer who worked in a dyehouse for 15 years had a hearing check and was found to have 50% hearing loss at the age of 37. He now has problems using the phone, and needs an amplifier. Traffic is hard to hear unless he is right next to it, so crossing a road becomes stressful. When driving he often stays in 3rd gear too long as he can’t hear the engine revving. Hearing loss could have been prevented with hearing protection.


A woman working in the textiles industry, only realised something needed to be done about her hearing loss when at the age of 40 she could not hear the phone ringing any more. Such hearing loss could have been prevented in the short-term with hearing protection. In the longer term, other ways of reducing exposure included quieter machines, maintenance, and changing job patterns.


A trombone player suffered dulling of his hearing after 20 years of playing. These problems may have been avoided if the orchestras he played in had tried different layouts or used risers that allowed him to play over the heads of those in front – rather than use them as human sound absorbers! He could also have tried to get used to wearing flat response earplugs so that he could still hear all frequencies.


A 24-year-old DJ found that, after working in a club where the sound system was particularly loud, he went home with a ringing sensation and it took several days for his ears to recover. The ringing in one ear has never completely stopped and he has become sensitive to loud music. He is now careful to wear suitable earplugs when DJ-ing.

Want to help?

Discover what it sounds like to have noise-induced hearing loss

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health link to external website Play around with the Noise Meter and hear the different sounds and sound intensities of everyday objects

Tasks and industries

Jobs and industries most likely to involve noise include:

  • Construction
  • Demolition or road repair
  • Woodworking
  • Plastics processing
  • Engineering
  • Textile manufacture
  • General fabrication
  • Forging, pressing or stamping
  • Paper or board making
  • Canning or bottling
  • Foundries


Tools and equipment that can cause hearing loss include:

  • Hammering
  • Drop forging
  • Pneumatic impact tools etc
  • Drills
  • Chainsaws
  • Explosive sources such as cartridge-operated tools or detonators, or guns

Many of these hand-held tools also transmit vibration into your hands and arms.

How do I protect myself?

Co-operate. Help your employer to do what is needed to protect your hearing. Make sure you use properly any noise control devices (eg noise enclosures), and follow any working methods that are put in place. Also attend hearing checks. This means you need to take some responsibility for your hearing.

Wear any hearing protection you are given. Wear it properly (you should be trained how to do this), and make sure you wear it all the time when you are doing noisy work, and when you are in hearing protection areas. Taking it off even for a short while means that your hearing could still be damaged. Remember that there is no cure for deafness.

Look after your hearing protection. Your employer should tell you how to look after it and where you can get it from. Make sure you understand what you need to do.

Report any problems with your hearing protection or noise control devices straight away. Let your employer or safety representative know. If you have any ear trouble, let your employer know.

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Human factors: Behavioural safety approaches – an introduction (also known as behaviour modification)

Why is it commonly used?

  • Significant number of accidents reportedly caused by inappropriate behaviour
  • Good vehicle for management and workforce participation
  • Can improve the visibility of managers
  • Behaviours and actions influence culture through attitudes and perceptions
  • Behaviours determine the performance of systems

Key features

  • Define ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ behaviour
  • All involve observation of behaviour in the workplace
    • By managers and/or peers
    • With/without targets
  • Provide feedback
    • Reinforce safe behaviour
    • ‘re-educate’ unsafe behaviour
  • Feedback ranges from on-the-spot specific feedback and discussion, to impersonalised general data


  • Discussing safety in the workplace
  • Learning to communicate constructively
  • Management visibility
  • Employee engagement in safety
  • Managers/supervisors (when involved)
  • Learn to observe
  • Learn to act promptly on unsafe acts
  • Can learn about safety leadership
  • Learn to think about aspects of human factors
  • Can provide some leading indicators for safety
  • Can actually change behaviour (“cognitive dissonance”)
  • Will identify dangerous situations


  • Rule violation vs good rules?
  • BIG, disciplined effort required
    • Very often fails through lack of real commitment or discipline
    • Some changes will be expensive
  • Not ‘owned’ by everyone
  • ‘Off the peg’ or consultant-led programmes can fail because of poor fit with local style/culture (UK/US)
  • Trust levels amongst management and employees must match.
  • Lack of friendly communication/Directive style of management

More pitfalls

  • May not be compatible with other messages
  • Focus on easy, intuitive issues
  • Tend to ignore low probability, high consequence risks. ‘Boots not leaks’ – can draw attention away from process safety
  • Can shift onus away from management onto individual
  • Don’t address significant impacts of management behaviour
  • ‘Big brother’ /blame culture /Oh no, not another programme. . .
  • High short-term expectations
  • Failed programme = worse situation than start

Inspection & assessment issues

  • What is the evidence that behaviour change will improve safety? (as opposed to better procedures or easier to use equipment for example).
  • How is the programme linked to the Safety Management System (SMS)?
  • How do they address tough issues? (i.e. costly remedial work, time pressure)
  • Do they understand the programme and its strengths and weakness (i.e. competence)?
  • Are programme goals linked to other goals, i.e. team working?
  • What happens when an observation card is completed? (workforce experience vs. management view)
  • Are they knowledgeable, intelligent customers?

Advice for companies considering behavioural approaches:  Some Do’s and Don’ts


  • Be sure that it is really what you need right now
  • Find out (from employees) whether signals they get from management about safety are the first issue to address
  • Network with others – not only those suggested by the consultants
  • Learn what you can from alternative techniques available
  • Make sure the system is your own, in style, language, presentation etc.
  • Pilot, and only roll-out when confident of success
  • Use it as a dialogue – and that means LISTEN to your employees!
  • Spend considerable effort to get good, strong facilitators who understand safety
  • Make sure that participants focus on root causes of behaviours


  • Underestimate the effort and planning required
  • Be over-optimistic
  • Get carried away and lose focus on other aspects of safety
  • Believe that the ‘Heinrich triangle’ works for occupational ill-health, minor personal injuries and major accidents
  • Bother at all unless:
    • You’re confident that you already have a strong SMS and a safe workplace
    • Senior management can be made to think it was their idea all along

Increasing the effectiveness /chance of success

  • Ownership – developed in-house is best
  • Good fit with organisations needs, culture and SMS
  • Commitment (involvement is better) from management
  • Good communication and understanding of programme
  • Approach seen as ‘fair and just’ – trust
  • Managers act as role models


  • There are many advantages to doing Behavioural Safety
  • But these programmes (and cultural change) take time, resources and a concerted effort – senior management commitment
  • A useful addition to the toolkit for occupational safety, but limited benefits for the control of major hazards
  • Bias towards measurable success; can pull focus away from basics of SMS and process safety
  • Must address engineering and systems as well
  • Include workforce and management behaviours
  • Effectiveness of program largely depends on existing culture.

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Human factors: Design

Why is design important?

The design of control rooms, plant and equipment can have a large impact on human performance. Designing tasks, equipment and work stations to suit the user can reduce human error, accidents and ill-health. Failure to observe ergonomic principles can have serious consequences for individuals and for the whole organisation. Effective use of ergonomics will make work safer, healthier and more productive.

The earlier that consideration is given to human factors and ergonomics in the design process, the better the results are likely to be. However, it’s important to use human factors and ergonomics expertise appropriately by involving people with knowledge of the working processes involved and the end user. For that reason, user involvement is key to designing operable and maintainable plant and systems.

Poor design contributes to work-related ill-health and has been found to be a root cause of accidents including major accidents e.g. Texas City, Herald of Free Enterprise and Ladbroke Grove.

The application of human factors to the design and development of systems and services is often called Human Factors Engineering or Human Factors Integration. Note that this approach has been developed in relation to large projects e.g. for defence, rail and similar applications, and that a wider view of human factors may need to be taken for more conventional design.

Key principles in design

  • Equipment should be designed in accordance with key ergonomics standards including EN614 Parts 1 and 2.
  • Control rooms should be designed in accordance with key ergonomics standards including EN11064, EEMUA 191 and EEMUA 201.
  • Users should be involved in the design process. This should include different types of users including operatives, maintenance and systems support personnel.
  • Consideration should be given to operator characteristics including body size, strength and mental capability.
  • Plant and processes should be designed for operability and maintainability and other elements of the life cycle should not be neglected e.g. decommissioning.
  • Consideration should be given to all foreseeable operating conditions including upsets and emergencies.
  • Consideration should be given to the interface between the end user and the system.

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Human factors: Workload

Why is workload important?

Humans have limited capability for processing information (such as from displays, alarms, documentation and communications), holding items in memory, making decisions and performing tasks. Excess workload can result in human performance issues such as slower task performance and errors such as slips, lapses or mistakes. It should also be noted that underload can also lead to human performance issues such as boredom, loss of situation awareness and reduced alertness. Workload issues may be more relevant in times of downsizing or temporarily during peaks (such as incidents or turnarounds).

Workload is related to competence (e.g. some tasks can require less processing in experienced personnel), working hours/patterns (e.g. underload in nightshift control room operators), organisational change (where tasks or roles are changed) and staffing levels. Workload may be higher in some industries/roles where there is an inadequate supply of skilled staff. A high (or perceived high) workload not only adversely affects safety, but also negatively affects job satisfaction and, as a result, contributes to high turnover and staff shortages.

An assessment of workload may be required if you wish to determine whether you have sufficient staff; if capacity exists for additional tasks, or whether personnel can cope with emergencies, incidents or process upsets.

Workload should be assessed if new tasks, equipment, or systems are introduced; or where changes are made to roles and responsibilities.

Key principles in workload

  • Performance can be affected by workload being too high – or too low.
  • Workload can ‘drift’ over time as new activities are added gradually.
  • Ensure that workload has been assessed for emergency situations as well as for normal operating (“steady state”) conditions.
  • Consider the whole team, and whether tasks can be redistributed between team members or shifts.
  • Assess the balance of workload across a shift – can the timing of activities be redistributed to spread workload (e.g. issuing Permits to Work at several periods rather than just at the start of the shift)?
  • Workload should be reconsidered during unusual activities, such as ‘campaign maintenance’, or start-up activities on process plants.
  • Experienced operators may be able to utilise strategies for handling high task demands; whereas inexperienced staff may be less able to cope (think about when you were learning to drive).
  • Perform a task analysis to understand exactly what staff are required to do, when, and what information they need to perform these tasks. Involve the workforce in these analyses.
  • Task analysis should consider both physical and mental workload.
  • Ensure that workload assessment considers visual inputs (e.g. scanning display screens, looking out of windscreens, CCTV), auditory inputs (telephones, radios, alarms), cognitive activities (analysis of inputs, decision making) and psychomotor skills (physical actions, such as controlling a process using a mouse, keyboard, or buttons and levers).
  • Consider not just the number of personnel, but how they are being utilised.
  • Set clear roles and responsibilities, ensuing that staff are clear on their priorities. This will help to ensure that even when workload is high, staff are able to focus on key activities.
  • Some tasks may be re-allocated from humans to machines/computers, or vice-versa; considering human performance, safety, maintainability, personnel requirements etc.

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Human factors: Supervision

Why is supervision important?

Supervision is an important Performance Influencing Factor PDF that is believed to have contributed to a number of major accidents (Texas City, 2005; Texaco Milford Haven, 1994; Hickson and Welch, 1992).  Problems can emerge because of poorly defined responsibilities, heavy workloads, inadequate resources, or as a result of removing supervisory roles altogether.

Many supervisors are given a vital role during emergency response, yet are often poorly trained in these key responsibilities.  Supervisors may also have an important part to play in managing contractors and/or issuing permits-to-work (the public enquiry into the Piper Alpha explosion in 1998 concluded that the operating company failed to ensure that a key supervisor was sufficiently competent in the operation of the PTW system).

Other key supervisory functions include planning and allocating work, making decisions, monitoring performance and compliance, providing leadership and building teamwork, and ensuring workforce involvement.

Crucially, supervisors can have a significant, positive impact on a range of local performance influencing factors (compliance with procedures, training and competence, safety-critical communication, staffing levels and workload, shift work and fatigue, organisational culture etc.)

The traditional ‘supervisor’ represents a crucial, final link between planning a job and its execution.  However, it is worth remembering that supervisory functions may be shared between a number of front-line ‘shift managers’, or between individual employees in a self-managed team (SMT).  While the switch to SMTs is often associated with significant commercial benefits and improvements to job satisfaction, it is also argued that the effectiveness of supervision – especially in the context of safety – is reduced.  However, this need not be the case: health and safety performance can be assured provided the team has the necessary focus, competence and resources to deliver a set of clearly-defined supervisory functions. Research also suggests that the introduction of SMTs can foster active employee involvement.

Whatever the management structure, supervision remains a critical organisational factor and its importance should be duly and proportionately reflected within an organisation’s safety management system.

Key principles in supervision

  • Assess your current supervisory arrangements to ensure that all key supervisory functions are clearly defined and appropriately allocated (and re-assess them prior to any organisational change).  A useful free checklist and assessment tool are provided in RR292 (see below).
  • Select the right people for the job and provide additional training where appropriate.  Ensure relevant individuals have:
    • the necessary skills and aptitude for supervisory activities (planning, communication, delegation etc);
    • a thorough understanding of local hazards and control measures;
    • the experience and credibility to gain respect from others.
  • Provide adequate supervision for contractors and other third parties on site, and make these arrangements clear to everyone.
  • Support supervisors / self-managed teams in their roles and responsibilities e.g. give them achievable targets; support them in conflict resolution etc.
  • Ensure relevant individuals have the time and the opportunity to interact with others to fulfil all of their supervisory responsibilities (the requirement to provide adequate resources is a key senior management function).
  • Measure, audit and review all aspects of supervisory performance.

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Human factors: Contractors

Contractorisation is the process of downsizing, restructuring or other initiatives to enable contractors to be used to replace or supplement company staff in performing activities. It is often known as outsourcing. Contractors are organisations or individuals who provide a service, but are not directly employed by the client company. These services may be provided onsite (e.g. specialist maintenance activities, asbestos removal) or elsewhere (e.g. provision of design or safety analyses). However, any company using the services of a contractor must retain an understanding and knowledge of the product or service being supplied – and be mindful of responsibility for managing safe operations.

Key principles in contractorisation

  • Selection (including resources, equipment, knowledge and experience);
  • Coordination between clients, contractors and sub-contractors (i.e. who does what, when and how);
  • Induction to site rules, procedures, hazards and emergency arrangements;
  • Supervision (by whom – including on-the-job and checks of completed work);
  • Competence of contractors (e.g. consider the role of the client and the contractor’s management);
  • Assessment of new hazards introduced by the activities of contractors – which could be direct (e.g. in the case of asbestos removal) or indirect (e.g. caused by undetected, latent faults left behind when a contractor completes work);
  • Review of the contractor selection and management system.

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Human factors: Organisational change

Why is organisational change an issue?
Many organisations face continuous pressure to change in order to meet their business objectives in a competitive market place.  Industry is undergoing increasing change and there has been, and continues to be, pressure for organisational change and staff reductions.

Organisational changes such as reducing staffing levels, using contractors or outsourcing, combining departments, or changes to roles & responsibilities are usually not analysed and controlled as thoroughly as plant or process changes. Such changes can, if inadequately conceived or implemented, have a detrimental effect on safety.  Even subtle changes to organisations can have significant impacts on the management of hazards.

Rapid or continuous change can also have a detrimental effect on health and poorly managed organisational change can increase the workforce’s experience of stress.

Key principles of managing organisational change

  1. The key issue is that the direct and indirect effects of a proposed change on the control of hazards should be identified and assessed.
  2. Due to the greater potential consequences of an accident, major accident hazard sites should aim for higher reliability in their planning and decision making.
  3. Avoid too many simultaneous changes which may result in inadequate attention to some or all.  Phase changes whenever possible.
  4. Organisational change should be planned in a thorough, systematic, and realistic way; similar to the processes for managing plant change.
  5. Two aspects of the change need risk assessment: risks and opportunities resulting from the change (where you want to get to) and risks arising from the process of change (how you get there).
  6. Consult with staff (including contractors) before, during and after the change – don’t miss serious issues hidden among all the natural concerns.
  7. Ensure that all key tasks and responsibilities are identified and successfully transferred to the new organisation.
  8. Provide training and experienced support/supervision for staff with new or changed roles.
  9. Consider reviews of plans and assessments by independent internal or external experts – be prepared to challenge.
  10. Remember that change can happen even to apparently static organisations e.g. the effects of an ageing workforce.

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Safety critical communications

Why are good communications important?

Spoken and written communication can be critical in maintaining safety. This can include general communications in the form of safety information, communications between team members or between different teams during operations or maintenance work, and emergency communications.
All personnel including employees, contractors and visitors, should have access to key information to help them negotiate the hazards in the work place safely.  This may include key findings from risk assessments, induction to site, evacuation drills, emergency instructions, safety warnings and so on.

Communications are very important in a wide range of safety critical tasks and activities such as lifting operations, emergency response, entry to confined spaces, as well as coordination of activities between different parties and organisations.

This Key Topic contains links to two related issues:

  • A key area of communications, particularly on major hazard sites, is shift communication including Shift handover.
  • A Permit-to-Work, or PTW, is effectively a means of communication between site management, plant supervisors and operators, and those who carry out the work.

The individual topic pages include an outline of why each of these two areas is important, along with a list of key principles to consider and further guidance material.

Key principles in safety critical communications:

  • Identify who needs to communicate, and what their communication needs are.  This could be identified during risk assessment.
  • Companies should consider the medium (e.g. face-to-face, procedure, radio) and method (e.g. written, verbal)
  • Consider timings of key communications e.g. draw attention to hazards before people are required to carry out tasks.
  • Language should be appropriate to the workforce (consider literacy, first language) and use appropriate terminology.
  • Highlight safety critical steps in procedures and draw attention to them in training.
  • If it is really important to get a message across, consider using two or more methods/media of communication e.g. written back up to a verbal communication.
  • Remember that putting signs up is not a substitute for communicating, though it may be part of it.

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Human factors: Fatigue & Shiftwork

Why is fatigue important?

More than 3.5 million people are employed as shift workers in the UK. They work in a wide variety of industries including the emergency services, healthcare, the utilities, transport, manufacturing (including oil, gas & chemical industries), entertainment and retail. Poorly designed shift-working arrangements and long working hours that do not balance the demands of work with time for rest and recovery can result in fatigue, accidents, injuries and ill health.

Fatigue refers to the issues that arise from excessive working time or poorly designed shift patterns. It is generally considered to be a decline in mental and/or physical performance that results from prolonged exertion, sleep loss and/or disruption of the internal clock. It is also related to workload, in that workers are more easily fatigued if their work is machine-paced, complex or monotonous.

Fatigue results in slower reactions, reduced ability to process information, memory lapses, absent-mindedness, decreased awareness, lack of attention, underestimation of risk, reduced coordination etc. Fatigue can lead to errors and accidents, ill-health and injury, and reduced productivity. It is often a root cause of major accidents e.g. Herald of Free Enterprise, Chernobyl, Texas City, Clapham Junction, Challenger and Exxon Valdez.

Fatigue has also been implicated in 20% of accidents on major roads and is said to cost the UK £115 – £240 million per year in terms of work accidents alone.

Key principles in fatigue

  1. Fatigue needs to be managed, like any other hazard.
  2. It is important not to underestimate the risks of fatigue. For example, the incidence of accidents and injuries has been found to be higher on night shifts, after a succession of shifts, when shifts are long and when there are inadequate breaks.
  3. The legal duty is on employers to manage risks from fatigue, irrespective of any individual’s willingness to work extra hours or preference for certain shift patterns for social reasons. Compliance with the Working Time Regulations alone is insufficient to manage the risks of fatigue.
  4. Changes to working hours need to be risk assessed. The key considerations should be the principles contained in HSE’s guidance. Risk assessment may include the use of tools such as HSE’s ‘fatigue risk index’.
  5. Employees should be consulted on working hours and shift patterns. However, note that employees may prefer certain shift patterns that are unhealthy and likely to cause fatigue.
  6. Develop a policy that specifically addresses and sets limits on working hours, overtime and shift-swapping, and which guards against fatigue.
  7. Implement the policy and make arrangements to monitor and enforce it. This may include developing a robust system of recording working hours, overtime, shift-swapping and on-call working.
  8. Problems with overtime and shift-swapping may indicate inadequate resource allocation and staffing levels.
  9. There are many different shift work-schedules and each schedule has different features. This sheer diversity of work and workplaces means that there is no single optimal shift system that suits everyone. However, a planned and systematic approach to assessing and managing the risks of shift work can improve the health and safety of workers.
  10. There are a number of key risk factors in shift schedule design, which must be considered when assessing and managing the risks of shift work. These are the workload, the work activity, shift timing and duration, direction of rotation and the number and length of breaks during and between shifts. Other features of the workplace environment such as the physical environment, management issues and employee welfare can also contribute to the risks associated with shift work.
  11. Sleep disturbances can lead to a ‘sleep debt’ and fatigue. Night workers are particularly at risk of fatigue because their day sleep is often lighter, shorter and more easily disturbed because of daytime noise and a natural reluctance to sleep during daylight.

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Human factors: Managing human failures

Everyone can make errors no matter how well trained and motivated they are. However in the workplace, the consequences of such human failure can be severe. Analysis of accidents and incidents shows that human failure contributes to almost all accidents and exposures to substances hazardous to health. Many major accidents e.g. Texas City, Piper Alpha, Chernobyl, were initiated by human failure. In order to avoid accidents and ill-health, companies need to manage human failure as robustly as the technical and engineering measures they use for that purpose.

The challenge is to develop error tolerant systems and to prevent errors from initiating; to manage human error proactively it should be addressed as part of the risk assessment process, where:

  • Significant potential human errors PDF are identified,
  • Those factors that make errors more or less likely are identified (such as poor design, distraction, time pressure, workload, competence, morale, noise levels and communication systems) – Performance Influencing Factors (PIFs) PDF
  • Control measures are devised and implemented, preferably by redesign of the task or equipment

This Key Topic is also very relevant when trying to learn lessons following an incident or near miss. This also involves identifying the human errors that led to the accident and those factors that made such errors more likely – PIFs PDF .

Types of human failure:

It is important to be aware that human failure is not random; understanding why errors occur and the different factors which make them worse will help you develop more effective controls. There are two main types of human failure: errors and violations.

A human error is an action or decision which was not intended. A violation is a deliberate deviation from a rule or procedure. HSG 48provides a fuller description of types of error, but the following may be a helpful introduction.

Some errors are slips or lapses, often “actions that were not as planned” or unintended actions. They occur during a familiar task and include slips (e.g. pressing the wrong button or reading the wrong gauge) and lapses (e.g. forgetting to carry out a step in a procedure). These types of error occur commonly in highly trained procedures where the person carrying them out does not need to concentrate on what they are doing. These cannot be eliminated by training, but improved design can reduce their likelihood and provide a more error tolerant system.

Other errors are Mistakes or errors of judgement or decision-making where the “intended actions are wrong” i.e. where we do the wrong thing believing it to be right. These tend to occur in situations where the person does not know the correct way of carrying out a task either because it is new and unexpected, or because they have not be properly trained (or both). Often in such circumstances, people fall back on remembered rules from similar situations which may not be correct. Training based on good procedures is the key to avoiding mistakes.

Violations (non-compliances, circumventions, shortcuts and work-arounds) differ from the above in that they are intentional but usually well-meaning failures where the person deliberately does not carry out the procedure correctly. They are rarely malicious (sabotage) and usually result from an intention to get the job done as efficiently as possible. They often occur where the equipment or task has been poorly designed and/or maintained. Mistakes resulting from poor training (i.e. people have not been properly trained in the safe working procedure) are often mistaken for violations. Understanding that violations are occurring and the reason for them is necessary if effective means for avoiding them are to be introduced. Peer pressure, unworkable rules and incomplete understanding can give rise to violations. HSG48 provides further information.

There are several ways to manage violations, including designing violations out, taking steps to increase their detection, ensuring that rules and procedures are relevant/practical and explaining the rationale behind certain rules. Involving the workforce in drawing up rules increases their acceptance. Getting to the root cause of any violation is the key to understanding and hence preventing the violation.

This aide-memoire on Human Failure Types PDF explains in more detail, along with examples and typical control measures.

Understanding these different types of human failure can help identify control measures but you need to be careful you do not oversimplify the situation. In some cases it can be difficult to place an error in a single category – it may result from a slip or a mistake, for example. There may be a combination of underlying causes requiring a combination of preventative measures. It may also be useful to think about whether the failure is an error of omission (forgetting or missing out a key step) or an error of commission (e.g. doing something out of sequence or using the wrong control), and taking action to prevent that type of error.

The likelihood of these human failures is determined by the condition of a finite number of ‘performance influencing factors PDF’ , such as design of interfaces, distraction, time pressure, workload, competence, morale, noise levels and communication systems.

Key Principles in Managing Human Failure:

  • Human failure is normal and predictable. It can be identified and managed.
  • Industry should tackle error reduction in a structured and proactive way, with as much rigour as the technical aspects of safety. Managing human failure should be integral to the safety management system.
  • A poorly designed activity might be prone to a combination of errors and more than one solution may be necessary.
  • Involve workers in design of tasks and procedures.
  • Risk assessment should identify where human failure can occur in safety critical tasks, the performance influencing factors which might make it more likely, and the control measures necessary to prevent it.
  • Incident Investigations should seek to identify why individuals have failed rather than stopping at ‘operator error’.

Common Pitfalls in Managing Human Failure:

There is more to managing human failure in complex systems than simply considering the actions of individual operators. However, there is obvious merit in managing the performance of the personnel who play an important role in preventing and controlling risks, as long as the context in which this behaviour occurs is also considered.

When assessing the role of people in carrying out a task, be careful that you do not:

  • Treat operators as if they are superhuman, able to intervene heroically in emergencies.
  • Assume that an operator will always be present, detect a problem and immediately take appropriate action.
  • Assume that people will always follow procedures.
  • Rely on operators being well-trained, when it is not clear how the training provided relates to accident prevention or control.
  • Rely on training to effectively tackle slips/lapses.
  • State that operators are highly motivated and thus not prone to unintentional failures or deliberate violations.
  • Ignore the human component completely and failing to discuss human performance at all in risk assessments.
  • Inappropriately apply techniques, such as detailing every task on site and therefore losing sight of targeting resources where they will be most effective.
  • In quantitative risk assessment, provide precise probabilities of human failure (usually indicating very low chance of failure) without documenting assumptions/data sources.

Companies should consider whether any of the above apply to how their organisation manages human factors.

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Human factors: Procedures

Why is good procedure design important?

Procedures, including method statements, work instructions, permits to work etc, are agreed safe ways of doing things. They usually consist of instructions and related information needed to help carry out tasks safely. Procedures may include step-by-step instructions, checklists, decision aids, diagrams, flow-charts and other types of job aids.

Problems with procedures are linked to numerous incidents and frequently cited as one of the causes of major accidents. The inadequate management of procedures have not only contributed to disasters such as Bhopal, Piper Alpha and Clapham Junction, but also to fatalities, personal injuries and ill health.  The main causes are too much reliance placed on procedures to control risk, a failure to follow safe working procedures or the use of inadequate procedures.

Operating procedures may not be the best way of controlling hazards, at least not as the sole defence against human error.

Key principles in procedure design

  • Risk assessment should clearly establish if procedures are an appropriate control measure. The results of the risk assessment should inform development of the procedure.
  • Consider the links between procedures and competency – they are two sides of the same coin and should support each other e.g. on-the-job competency would include training on key procedures. Procedures do not replace competency.
  • Have a system for managing procedures – outlining e.g. how to decide which tasks need procedures, how these are developed, complied with and reviewed/updated. Use task analysis methods to inform the content of procedures e.g. walking and talking through the task with users.
  • Use a format, style and level of detail appropriate to the user, task and consequences of failure.  Fit for purpose – one size does not fit all.  Support compliance with procedures through user involvement and by designing the task, job, environment, equipment, etc.

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Human factors: Training & Competence

Why is competence important?

This can be defined as the ability to undertake responsibilities and perform activities to a recognised standard on a regular basis.  It is a combination of skills, experience and knowledge.  The inadequate management of competence has not only contributed to disasters such as Esso Longford and BP Texas City, but also to fatalities, personal injuries and ill health.

Key principles in competence

  1. Competence assurance should be linked to key responsibilities, activities and tasks identified in risk assessments.
  2. Competency assurance systems should aim to establish and maintain competency for all those involved in safety-related work, including managers.  This is particularly important in the management and prevention of major accidents.
  3. Training is an important component of establishing competency but is not sufficient on its own. For example, consolidation of knowledge and skills through practice is a key part of developing competency.
  4. Competence assurance systems should take account of foreseeable work and operating conditions – including infrequent and complex activities, emergency situations and upsets, maintenance etc.
  5. Training and competence assessment methods should be appropriate to the hazard profile of the tasks being undertaken. For example, competency assurance systems for safety critical tasks should be more robust.
  6. ‘On-the-job’ training should be structured and linked to risk assessments and associated control measures including procedures. In safety critical environments, on-the-job training should be supported by other forms of training where appropriate e.g. classroom training, simulation.
  7. Training should be validated (‘Did it deliver what it was supposed to?’), and evaluated (‘Is this the right kind of training for our needs?’) and recorded.
  8. There should be refresher training for infrequent, complex or safety critical tasks and this may include appropriate reassessment.
  9. Vocational qualifications should include site-specific aspects and link appropriately to the hazards and risks in your workplace.
  10. Aim to achieve a suitable balance between competence and supervision.
  11. Careful consideration should be given to the potential consequences of outsourcing of safety-related work. Companies must take steps to ensure that contractors are competent to carry out health and safety-related work. Companies should seek to retain intelligent customer capability to ensure that they can appropriately manage and oversee the work.

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Introduction to human factors

Reducing error and influencing behaviour (HSG48) is the key document in understanding HSE’s approach to human factors. It gives a simple introduction to generic industry guidance on human factors, which it defines as:

  • “Human factors refer to environmental, organisational and job factors, and human and individual characteristics, which influence behaviour at work in a way which can affect health and safety”

This definition includes three interrelated aspects that must be considered: the job, the individual and the organisation:

  • The job: including areas such as the nature of the task, workload, the working environment, the design of displays and controls, and the role of procedures. Tasks should be designed in accordance with ergonomic principles to take account of both human limitations and strengths. This includes matching the job to the physical and the mental strengths and limitations of people. Mental aspects would include perceptual, attentional and decision making requirements.
  • The individual: including his/her competence, skills, personality, attitude, and risk perception. Individual characteristics influence behaviour in complex ways. Some characteristics such as personality are fixed; others such as skills and attitudes may be changed or enhanced.
  • The organisation: including work patterns, the culture of the workplace, resources, communications, leadership and so on. Such factors are often overlooked during the design of jobs but have a significant influence on individual and group behaviour.

In other words, human factors is concerned with what people are being asked to do (the task and its characteristics), who is doing it (the individual and their competence) and where they are working (the organisation and its attributes), all of which are influenced by the wider societal concern, both local and national.

Human factors interventions will not be effective if they consider these aspects in isolation. The scope of what we mean by human factors includes organisational systems and is considerably broader than traditional views of human factors/ergonomics. Human factors can, and should, be included within a good safety management system and so can be examined in a similar way to any other risk control system.

Human Factors: The Business Benefits

If you think safety’s expensive, try having an accident … Managing human failures is essential to prevent major accidents, occupational accidents and ill health, all of which can cost businesses money, reputation and potentially their continued existence.

Successful businesses achieve high productivity and quality while ensuring health and safety. Good technology combined with the best work systems can help to achieve these goals. The best work systems are based on having a skilled workforce, with well-designed jobs that are appropriate to individuals’ abilities.

The influence of biological, psychological and organisational factors on an individual at work can affect their health and safety, but it also affects their efficiency and productivity. For example, if:

  • Someone needs to exert a large proportion of their strength to complete a task they are more likely to suffer injury and carry out the task inefficiently – possibly causing damage to the product and tools; or
  • The mental demands of a task are too high, perhaps involving diagnosing faults under significant time pressures then there can be both a health issue for the employee but also a quality, and possibly safety issue for the production line, process and plant; or
  • Individuals have very limited scope for determining how to do their job then they may lack motivation and job satisfaction and be less effective at work.

Individuals have a wide range of abilities and limitations. A Human Factors (or Ergonomics) approach focuses on how to make the best use of these capabilities: by designing jobs and equipment which are fit for people. This not only improves their health and safety but often ensures a better managed, more effective organisation.

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Human factors: Shift handover

Effective communication is important in all organisations when a task and its associated responsibilities are handed over to another person or work team.  This can occur at shift changeover, between shift and day workers, or between different functions of an organisation within a shift e.g. operations and maintenance.

Why is handover important?

The goal of handover is the accurate reliable communication of task-relevant information across shift changes or between teams thereby ensuring continuity of safe and effective working.  Effective handover consists of three elements:

  • A period of preparation by out-going personnel;
  • Handover where out-going and in-coming personnel communicate to exchange task-relevant information; and
  • Cross-checking of information by in-coming personnel as they assume responsibility for the task.

Many accidents have occurred because of failure of communication at shift handover, the majority of these involved planned maintenance work. In the 1983 Sellafield Beach Incident, highly radioactive waste liquor was accidentally discharged to sea, due to a failure of communication between shifts. The Cullen Report concluded that one of the many factors that contributed to the Piper Alpha disaster was failure of information transmission at shift handover.

Key principles in handover

To ensure safe handover, organisations should:

  1. Identify higher risk handovers;
  2. develop staff’s communication skills;
  3. emphasise the importance of shift handover;
  4. provide procedures for shift handover;
  5. plan for maintenance work to be completed within one shift if possible.

Shift handover should be:

  1. conducted face-to-face;
  2. two-way, with both participants taking joint responsibility;
  3. done using both verbal and written communication;
  4. based on an analysis of the information needs of incoming staff;
  5. given as much time and resource as necessary.

Improvements should also be made by:

  1. designing support equipment, such as logs and computer displays, with consideration of the operators needs;
  2. involving the end-users when implementing any changes to existing communication methods at shift handover.




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Overturning tractors and other self-propelled vehicles

What you should know

All vehicles can overturn.  Accidents on slopes are not confined to hilly or mountainous regions.  They happen just as easily on or near banks, ditches, drains, ramps, uneven or flat ground.  Vehicles can also overturn on artificial slopes such as ramps, or when performing tasks such as rolling silage,

When working on slopes the main risks are:

  • Loss of control
    This occurs when wheels lose traction rending the brakes and steering ineffective.  It it easier to lose control of a vehicle on a slope because of the effect of gravity and forward momentum.
  • Runaways
    Loss of control can lead to a runaway where the vehicle starts to move down the slope and the driver is unable to bring it back under control
  • Jack-knifing
    This happens when a trailer or trailed appliance pushes into the tractor and slews the tractor round.  Poor ground conditions, heavy loading and poor wheel grip increase the risk
  • Overturns
    A vehicle may overturn sideways eg when attempting to traverse across a slope diagonally, or trying to turn down a slope as a consequence of a runaway and jack knife.  Machines can also overturn forwards or backwards depending on the situation.

What you need to do

1.  Plan the job.

Before working on slopes you should assess the risks.  Factors to consider include:

  • Gradient
    Different vehicles have different capabilities.  Gradients on a slope can vary with some parts steeper than others.
  • surface
    Different surfaces can affect how well a vehicle can deal with a slope eg grass, earth, loose stones
  • Ground conditions
    A slope that is safe during dry conditions may become unsafe if wet, waterlogged, frozen or thawing.  Uneven ground with ruts, pot holes and deep tracks can affect stability
  • Weather
    Wet and windy weather may increase the risks
  • Obstacles
    Tree stumps and rocks may be struck, particularly when hidden by vegetation, and cause sideways overturns if struck on the uphill side
  • Task
    The proposed task will also affect the risk.  When using rear mounted spreaders the load will decrease during spreading and this will reduce rear wheel grip. Tractors with trailed rollers, four-wheel trailers etc will have extra thrust imposed with no additional weight – they may slide away out of control.

2.  Select a suitable vehicle fitted with a roll over protective structure (ROPS)

A roll bar or safety cab is designed to provide protection for the operator if the vehicle overturns.  Where roll over protection is fitted, you should also have a lap belt or seat restraint fitted if a machine will be used in situations where there is a risk of overturning.

  • check that the roll bar or safety cab is in good condition and correctly fitted. Corrosion and incorrect mounting bolts can cause them  to fail in an overturn;
  • never remove windows or doors from a safety cab;
  • fit a lap belt where one has not  been installed as original equipment;

To reduce the risk of an overturn:

  • make sure that tractors and machines are properly equipped and maintained, especially brakes, steering and tyres. Consider wide wheel settings for work on slopes;
  • select a machine suitable for the job.  Tractors with four wheel drive are likely to be safer to use on slopes compared to those with two wheel drive.

You may only use a tractor or self-propelled machine without ROPS in low-risk situations such as buildings and orchards or where specific exemptions exist.

3.  Work safely

Always use safe systems of work when working on slopes.  For example:

  • you should turn uphill when working across a slope, and descend straight down the gentlest gradient;
  • you cannot always safely descend a slope that you safely drove up;
  • select an appropriate gear and speed
  • take into account working with trailers, attachments and loads will change the centre of gravity

To reduce the risk of injury from an overturn:

  • stay in the cab and do not try to jump clear, as most deaths and serious injuries involve those who are crushed when they jump or are thrown out of a cab during overturning;
  • don’t carry loose items such as draw bar pins or tools inside the cab as they become projectiles and  may cause extra injury in an overturn.
  • wear the lap belt or seat restraint

Anyone who is required to drive on slopes should receive adequate training so they are aware of the hazards, understand the factors influencing the risks and are able to perform safe driving techniques.


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No more ‘cheat sheets’: Electronic logs for truckers mandatory by 2020

Truckers are known for their colourful slang, and it’s no different for the paper logbooks they often use to keep track of their time on the road.

“A lot of them call it the ‘cheat sheet,'” says Ron Arsenault, a truck driver for SLH Transport who’s based in Moncton.

That’s about to change.

The federal government has announced it will require all commercial truck and bus drivers in Canada to install electronic logging devices in their vehicles by the year 2020.

paper trucking log

Each day, truckers fill out log sheets like this that mark how long they’ve spent driving and resting. (Blair Sanderson/CBC)

Under Canadian regulations, truckers are allowed to be behind the wheel for no more 13 hours per day to limit driver fatigue.

But Arseault says drivers, especially for smaller companies, are often under pressure to meet deadlines and will fudge the logbooks. “There’s been a lot of stuff like that.”

‘No way to cheat’

He believes automated electronic logs will make the roads safer.

“It will because there’s no way to cheat on it, everything is basically written in stone, your driving time, your on-duty time, your off-duty time, it’s right there on the computer.”

Electronic logging 2

The electronic devices will allow the drivers to know how much time they legally have at the wheel before taking a break. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Electronic logging devices, or ELDs, are already mandatory for Canadian drivers crossing the border to the United States because that country has required the use of the technology since December 2017.

The Canadian government decided to follow suit, giving truckers and commercial bus drivers until 2020 to have the technology in place.

Many truckers are eager to make the switch.

Trucker Mark Duncan

Driver Mark Duncan says electronic logs will remove the quandary some drivers face over whether to make deadlines or follow the rules around driving times. (Blair Sanderson/CBC)

Mark Duncan, who runs a regular route between Toronto and the Maritimes, says drivers won’t be able to break the rules, meaning they can’t be pressured by their employer.

“It’s going to be good for the drivers. We’re going to have lots of rest now.”

Sleep apnea a concern

But while the move to electronic logging devices hits the fast lane, another measure that would reduce driver fatigue has stalled, says Marco Beghetto, a spokesperson for the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

He says his organization was anticipating mandatory sleep apnea testing, which was a proposal that was moving forward in the United States under the Obama administration, but scrapped by President Donald Trump.

Trump Truck — Washington — March 23, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump cited overregulation as the reason why he scrapped a proposal to test truck driver for sleep apnea. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

“We were ready to react if Transport Canada would begin working on a similar rule,” says Beghetto.

But because Canadian regulators tend to follow the Americans, “right now, that’s sort of on the back burner,” he says.

‘Certainly a risk factor’

Lack of progress in that area is disappointing, says Dr. Glen Sullivan of the Atlantic Sleep Centre at the Saint John Regional Hospital.

Sleep apnea drastically reduces sleep quality which leads to fatigue and is likely more prevalent among long-haul truckers because of their diet and relatively sedentary lifestyle, he says.

“It is certainly a risk factor,” says Sullivan.

“In the same way, you wouldn’t want someone driving drunk, you wouldn’t want someone with a high chance of a sleep disorder [driving].”

Some Canadian trucking companies are moving ahead anyway and offering sleep apnea testing for their drivers. In some cases, they are even paying for machines that help treat the condition.

But for now, those measures are voluntary with no regulations in sight anywhere down the road.

Duncan says he’s aware of the sleep apnea problem. “It’s in the magazines, the trucking magazines.”

But right now, the focus in the industry is the 2020 deadline for the installation of electronic logging devices, he says.


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Extension Ladder Safety

4 to 1 Ratio

4 to 1 ratio

  • Place an extension ladder at a 75-1/2° angle.
    The set-back (“S”) needs to be 1 ft. for each 4 ft. of length (“L”) to the upper support point.

Safety Do’s

extension 2

  • Climb facing the ladder. Center your body between the rails. Maintain a firm grip
  • Always move one step at a time, firmly setting one foot before moving the other

extension 3

  • Haul materials up on a line rather than carry them up an extension ladder
  • Use extra caution when carrying anything on a ladder

Safety Dont’s

Safety tips's 1

  • DON’T place the base of an extension ladder too close to the building as it may tip over backward
  • DON’T place the base of an extension ladder too far away from the building, as it may slip out at the bottom.
    Set the ladder at a 75-1/2º angle

Safety tips's 2

  • DON’T over-reach, lean to one side, or try to move a ladder while on it. You could lose your balance or tip the ladder.
    Climb down and then re position the ladder closer to your work!
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How to Choose an Extension Ladder Formula

What Height?

Height of Top
Support Point
Buy This Size*
9′ max.16′
9′ to 13′20′
13′ to 17′24′
17′ to 21′28′
21′ to 25′32′
25′ to 28′36′
28′ to 31′40′
*Reflects section overlap, ladder angle.

What Load Capacity?

your weight


material weight


Load Capacity
See Load Capacity Chart

Typically Add
75 lbs. For Heavy-Duty Projects
50 lbs. For Light-Duty Projects

200 lbs.CSA Grade 3 Household
225 lbs.CSA Grade 2 Tradesman and Farm
250 lbs.CSA Grade 1 Construction and Industrial
300 lbs.CSA Grade 1A (ANSI Type1A)
Construction and Industrial Heavy Duty
375 lbs.CSA Grade 1AA (ANSI Type1AA)
Construction and Industrial Extra Heavy-Duty
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Lack of fall protection results in $140K fine Manitoba company operating in Saskatchewan fined

A Brandon, Man. company pleaded guilty to one occupational health and safety violation and was fined $140,000 in Carlyle Provincial Court in Saskatchewan on Jan. 24.

Brad Hammond Construction pleaded guilty to contravening clause 116(2)(a) of the regulations by failing to ensure that workers use a fall protection system at a work area where a worker may fall 3 metres or more, resulting in a serious injury to a worker.

The company was fined $100,000 plus a $40,000 surcharge.  One other charge was stayed in court.

On July 25, 2016, Saskatchewan’s Occupational Health and Safety was notified of an incident that occurred on July 18, 2016.  A worker was paralyzed after falling off a roof at a work site near Arcola, Sask.

Source: Government of Saskatchewan

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Tuition for 1 Semester ( 8 Week Program) at NAIT, SAIT or RDC For Trades Apprenticeship Application up to $1400 Will Be Paid After The Sale of 25 CSA S.W.A.T Boots (PLEASE SHARE)

Inuksuk Safety would like to thank all the tradesmen that have purchased S.W.A.T CSA Work Boots by giving the tuition for one person attending NAIT, SAIT or RDC for Trades after the Sale of every 25 pairs of CSA Work boots. Applications for the tuition can be made at this PAGE. Name of those who receive the tuition will appear at the bottom of the page.


    Select options

    Select options
  • Original S.W.A.T MENS CLASSIC 9” SZ SAFETY 400 CSA

    Select options
  • Original S.W.A.T WOMENS CLASSIC 9” SZ SAFETY 400

    Select options

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Worker dies at Cenovus site in Alberta

Cenovus Energy reported a workplace death at its Christina Lake oilsands site in northeastern Alberta on Wednesday.

According to the Calgary-based company, an employee of a company Cenovus contracts was killed on site, about 350 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, in an incident at about 10:20 p.m. Tuesday night involving a hauling truck and a drilling rig.

In a tweet sent out on Wednesday morning, the company said it is “deeply saddened to report a worker fatality has occurred at our Christina Lake oil sands site in Alberta,” and extends its “deepest sympathies to the worker’s family, friends and co-workers.”

The worker’s name has not yet been released.

Cenovus reports it has, “notified the appropriate authorities and is conducting a full investigation into the cause of the incident.”

The Christina Lake site opened in 2000. Bitumen there is deeply buried and pumped to the surface via steam-assisted gravity drainage.

The site has been undergoing expansion since 2017, as the company adds 50,000 barrels per day to its operations.


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Safety Notice – Stop Use MSA Gravity® Welder Harness January 29, 2018

Dear MSA Fall Protection Customer,

This Safety Notice is issued to inform you that MSA received a field report from an end user
regarding select MSA Gravity Welder Harnesses and that, as a result of MSA’s findings related to
this report, you must take the actions outlined in this Safety Notice.
Upon investigation of the field report, MSA determined that the leg strap and chest strap used in
select MSA Gravity Welder Harnesses are incompatible. Although the harness can be donned, in
the event of a fall, the shoulder straps may extend and affect the protection offered by the harness.

MSA is advising all MSA Gravity Welder Harness customers to immediately stop
use of affected MSA Gravity Welder Harnesses produced from July 2015 through
and including January 2018. The harnesses are to be removed from service,
marked “UNUSABLE” and destroyed.

Identifying and Addressing Affected MSA Gravity Welder Harnesses
Affected MSA Gravity Welder Harnesses are those marked with one of the following part numbers
and a manufacturing date from July 2015 through and including January 2018.
 10151154
 10158954
 10158956
 10158957
To confirm whether or not your harness is affected, check the label on the harness for part number
and manufacture date that meet the criteria above. See Figure 1 for the location of the part number
and manufacture date on an MSA Gravity Welder Harness label.
If the part number has been made illegible through use, refer to Figure 2 to determine whether or
not your harness is affected.
If the part number matches the list above, but the manufacturing date has been made illegible
through use, consider your harness to be affected.
If your harness is affected, remove it from service, mark it “UNUSABLE” and destroy it.

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Driving with Diabetes: Safety Precautions

People with diabetes are free to drive unless diabetes complications impair their ability to drive safely.

Complications that negatively affect drivers with diabetes include symptoms of low or high blood sugar, vision problems, and nerve damage in the hands, legs, or feet.

Risk Factors

More restrictions are typically given to drivers who manage diabetes with insulin even though in some studies insulin use is not correlated with a higher driving risk.

Other research shows that the one factor most often linked to driving collisions is a recent history of severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) related to any type of diabetes.

Diabetes Driving Precautions

In light of what is known about the risks of driving with diabetes, these eight precautions from the American Diabetes Association are offered to help those with any diabetes type navigate the roads safely.

  1. Before getting behind the wheel, check your blood glucose level. Do not drive if your blood sugar is too low since your ability to focus and make good decisions will be impaired.
  2. Check your blood sugar level at regular intervals on long drives. Your health care team can help you determine how often you need to monitor.
  3. Have your glucose meter and a store of snacks with you when driving; snacks should include a quick-acting sugar source.
  4. Pull over at any sign of hypoglycemia and check your blood sugar level. Signs include blurry vision, rapid heart rate, sudden nervousness, shakiness, as well as fatigue, headache, confusion, dizziness, hunger, pale skin, sweating, or chills.
  5. If your blood glucose is low, consume a fast-acting sugar snack such as hard candy, regular soda, juice, or glucose tablets. After waiting 15 minutes, check your blood sugar and treat again if necessary. When your blood sugar reaches the target range, eat a more substantial snack containing protein. Continue driving only after the target range is reached.
  6. Should you experience hypoglycemia unawareness, stop driving and get in touch with your health care team. Hypoglycemia unawareness is experiencing low blood sugar without warning. It is unsafe to drive until awareness is regained. Glycemic awareness training with your diabetes care team may help.
  7. Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, is less of a driving risk but extreme hyperglycemia can cause safety problems. If you experience hyperglycemia often, talk to your doctor to determine the point when high sugar levels might begin to impair your driving safety.
  8. Have yearly eye exams to detect any diabetes associated vision problems that may compromise safe driving.
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Severe Weather

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

Know your Risk

Understand the type of hazardous weather that affects you and your family where you live:

  • Tornadoes
  • Floods
  • Thunderstorms & Lightning
  • Tsunamis

Take Action

Develop an emergency plan based on your local weather hazards and practice your plan.

  • Make a family emergency plan
  • Be informed about emergency alerts
  • Learn more about Prepareathon

Tips and Resources for Online Sharing

  • Share your weather preparedness plan with friends and family
  • Share severe weather preparedness tips on social media using the hashtag: #SevereWeatherPrep
  • Severe Weather Preparedness Social Media Toolkit
  • Flood Safety Social Media Toolkit


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Power Outages

This page provides basic safety tips and how to what to do before, during and after a power outage.

Before a Power Outage

  • Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
  • Make sure you have alternative charging methods for your phone or any device that requires power. For more information visit: Get Tech Ready
  • Charge cell phones and any battery powered devices.
  • Know where the manual release lever of your electric garage door opener is located and how to operate it.
  • Purchase ice or freeze water-filled plastic containers to help keep food cold during a temporary power outage.
  • Keep your car’s gas tank full-gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps. If you use your car to re-charge devices, do NOT keep the car running in a garage, partially enclosed space, or close to a home, this can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by visiting your state’s or local website so you can locate the closest cooling and warming shelters.
  • If you rely on anything that is battery-operated or power dependent like a medical device determine a back-up plan. For more planning information tips visit: Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs

During a Power Outage: Safety Tips

  • Only use flashlights for emergency lighting, candles can cause fires.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Most food requiring refrigeration can be kept safely in a closed refrigerator for several hours. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours. For more information about food safety visit our food page.
  • Take steps to remain cool if it is hot outside. In intense heat when the power may be off for a long time, consider going to a movie theater, shopping mall or “cooling shelter” that may be open in your community. If you remain at home, move to the lowest level of your home, since cool air falls. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty.
  • Put on layers of warm clothing if it is cold outside. Never burn charcoal for heating or cooking indoors. Never use your oven as a source of heat. If the power may be out for a prolonged period, plan to go to another location (the home of a relative or friend, or a public facility) that has heat to keep warm.
  • Turn off or disconnect appliances and other equipment in case of a momentary power “surge” that can damage computers and other devices. Consider adding surge protectors.
  • If you are considering purchasing a generator for your home, consult an electrician or engineer before purchasing and installing.
  • Only use generators away from your home and NEVER run a generator inside a home or garage, or connect it to your home’s electrical system.

After a Power Outage

  • Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. When in doubt, throw it out!
  • If food in the freezer is colder than 40° F and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it.
  • Contact your doctor if you’re concerned about medications having spoiled.
  • Restock your emergency kit with fresh batteries, canned foods and other supplies
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This page will help you gather the information and resources you may need in case of a pandemic such as the flu.

Before a Pandemic

  • Store a two week supply of water and food.
  • Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.
  • Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
  • Get copies and maintain electronic versions of health records from doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and other sources and store them, for personal reference. Get help accessing electronic help records.
  • Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home.

During a Pandemic

Limit the Spread of Germs and Prevent Infection

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
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Chemical Emergencies

Chemical agents are poisonous vapors, aerosols, liquids and solids that have toxic effects on people, animals or plants. While potentially lethal, chemical agents are difficult to deliver in lethal concentrations because they dissipate rapidly outdoors and are difficult to produce.

Before a Chemical Emergency

A chemical attack could come without warning. Signs of a chemical release include people having difficulty breathing, eye irritation, loss of coordination, nausea, or burning in the nose, throat and lungs. The presence of many dead insects or birds may indicate a chemical agent release.

What you should do to prepare for a chemical threat:

  • Build an Emergency Supply Kit and include:
    • Duct tape
    • Scissors
    • Plastic to cover doors, windows and vents
  • Make a Family Emergency Plan

During a Chemical Emergency

What you should do in a chemical attack:

  • Quickly try to define the impacted area or where the chemical is coming from, if possible.
  • Take immediate action to get away.
  • If the chemical is inside a building where you are, get out of the building without passing through the contaminated area, if possible.
  • If you can’t get out of the building or find clean air without passing through the affected area, move as far away as possible and shelter-in-place.

If you are instructed to remain in your home or office building, you should:

  • Close doors and windows and turn off all ventilation, including furnaces, air conditioners, vents, and fans.
  • Seek shelter in an internal room with your disaster supplies kit.
  • Seal the room with duct tape and plastic sheeting.
  • Listen to the radio or television for instructions from authorities.

If you are caught in or near a contaminated area outdoors:

  • Quickly decide what is the fastest way to find clean air:
    • Move away immediately, in a direction upwind of the source.
    • Find the closest building to shelter-in-place.

After a Chemical Emergency

Do not leave the safety of a shelter to go outdoors to help others until authorities announce it is safe to do so.

A person affected by a chemical agent requires immediate medical attention from a professional. If medical help is not immediately available, decontaminate yourself and assist in decontaminating others.

Decontamination guidelines are as follows:

  • Use extreme caution when helping others who have been exposed to chemical agents.
  • Remove all clothing and other items in contact with the body.
    • Cut off clothing normally removed over the head to avoid contact with the eyes, nose and mouth.
    • Put contaminated clothing and items into a plastic bag and seal it.
    • Remove eyeglasses or contact lenses. Put glasses in a pan of household bleach to decontaminate them and then rinse and dry.
  • Wash hands with soap and water.
  • Flush eyes with water.
  • Gently wash face and hair with soap and water before thoroughly rinsing with water.
  • Proceed to a medical facility for screening and professional treatment.
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This page explains what actions to take when you receive a hurricane watch or warning alert from the National Weather Service for your local area. It also provides tips on what to do before, during, and after a hurricane.

Hurricane Basics


Hurricanes are massive storm systems that form over the water and move toward land. Threats from hurricanes include high winds, heavy rainfall, storm surge, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, and tornadoes. These large storms are called typhoons in the North Pacific Ocean and cyclones in other parts of the world.


Each year, many parts of the United States experience heavy rains, strong winds, floods, and coastal storm surges from tropical storms and hurricanes. Affected areas include all Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas and areas over 100 miles inland, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, parts of the Southwest, the Pacific Coast, and the U.S. territories in the Pacific. A significant per cent of fatalities occur outside of landfall counties with causes due to inland flooding.


The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with the peak occurring between mid-August and late October. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30.

Basic Preparedness Tips

  • Know where to go. If you are ordered to evacuate, know the local hurricane evacuation route(s) to take and have a plan for where you can stay. Contact your local emergency management agency for more information.
  • Put together a go-bag: disaster supply kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, medications, and copies of your critical information if you need to evacuate
  • If you are not in an area that is advised to evacuate and you decide to stay in your home, plan for adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and you are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads.
  • Make a family emergency communication plan.
  • Many communities have text or email alerting systems for emergency notifications. To find out what alerts are available in your area, search the Internet with your town, city, or county name and the word “alerts.”

Preparing Your Home

  • Hurricane winds can cause trees and branches to fall, so before hurricane season trim or remove damaged trees and limbs to keep you and your property safe.
  • Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property.
  • Reduce property damage by retrofitting to secure and reinforce the roof, windows and doors, including the garage doors.
  • Purchase a portable generator or install a generator for use during power outages. Remember to keep generators and other alternate power/heat sources outside, at least 20 feet away from windows and doors and protected from moisture; and NEVER try to power the house wiring by plugging a generator into a wall outlet.
  • Consider building a FEMA safe room or ICC 500 storm shelter designed for protection from high-winds and in locations above flooding levels.

Hurricane Watch

Hurricane watch = conditions possible within the next 48 hrs.

Steps to take:

  • Review your evacuation route(s) & listen to local officials.
  • Review the items in your disaster supply kit; and add items to meet the household needs for children, parents, individuals with disabilities or other access and functional needs or pets.

Hurricane Warning

Hurricane warning = conditions are expected within 36 hrs.

Steps to take:

  • Follow evacuation orders from local officials, if given.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
  • Follow the hurricane timeline preparedness checklist, depending on when the storm is anticipated to hit and the impact that is projected for your location.

What to do when a hurricane is 6 hours from arriving

  • If you’re not in an area that is recommended for evacuation, plan to stay at home or where you are and let friends and family know where you are.
  • Close storm shutters, and stay away from windows. Flying glass from broken windows could injure you.
  • Turn your refrigerator or freezer to the coldest setting and open only when necessary. If you lose power, food will last longer. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator to be able to check the food temperature when the power is restored.
  • Turn on your TV/radio, or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.

What to do when a hurricane is 6-18 hours from arriving

  • Turn on your TV/radio, or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Charge your cell phone now so you will have a full battery in case you lose power.

What to do when a hurricane is 18-36 hours from arriving

  • Bookmark your city or county website for quick access to storm updates and emergency instructions.
  • Bring loose, lightweight objects inside that could become projectiles in high winds (e.g., patio furniture, garbage cans); anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (e.g., propane tanks); and trim or remove trees close enough to fall on the building.
  • Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” exterior grade or marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install.

What to do when a hurricane is 36 hours from arriving

  • Turn on your TV or radio in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit. Include food and water sufficient for at least three days, medications, a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
  • Plan how to communicate with family members if you lose power. For example, you can call, text, email or use social media. Remember that during disasters, sending text messages is usually reliable and faster than making phone calls because phone lines are often overloaded.
  • Review your evacuation plan with your family. You may have to leave quickly so plan ahead.
  • Keep your car in good working condition, and keep the gas tank full; stock your vehicle with emergency supplies and a change of clothes.

After a Hurricane

  • Listen to local officials for updates and instructions.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
  • Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Watch out for debris and downed power lines.
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of fast-moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • Avoid flood water as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines and may hide dangerous debris or places where the ground is washed away.
  • Photograph the damage to your property in order to assist in filing an insurance claim.
  • Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm.

When there is no hurricane: Make a hurricane plan

  • Know your hurricane risk. Talk to your local emergency management agency.
  • Make an emergency plan.
    • Sign up for alerts and warnings
    • Make a Family Communication plan
    • Plan shelter options
    • Know your evacuation route
  • Build or restock your basic disaster supplies kit, including food and water, a flashlight, batteries, chargers, cash, and first aid supplies.
  • Consider buying flood insurance.
  • Familiarize yourself with local emergency plans. Know where to go and how to get there should you need to get to higher ground or to evacuate.
  • Stay tuned to local wireless emergency alerts, TV, or radio for weather updates, emergency instructions, or evacuation orders.
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Explosive devices can be highly portable, using vehicles and humans as a means of transport. They are easily detonated from remote locations or by suicide bombers. There are steps you can take to prepare for the unexpected.

Before an Explosion

The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property in the event of an explosion.

  • Build an Emergency Supply Kit
  • Make a Family Emergency Plan
  • Learn what to do in case of bomb threats or receiving suspicious packages and letters
  • Ensure your employers have up-to-date information about any medical needs you may have and how to contact designated beneficiaries or emergency contacts.

Bomb Threats

If you receive a telephoned bomb threat:

  • Get as much information from the caller as possible. Try to ask the following questions:
    • When is the bomb going to explode?
    • Where is it right now?
    • What does it look like?
    • What kind of bomb is it?
    • What will cause it to explode?
    • Did you place the bomb?
  • Keep the caller on the line and record everything that is said.
  • Notify the police and building management immediately.

Suspicious Packages and Letters

Some typical characteristics postal inspectors have detected over the years, which should trigger suspicion, include parcels that:

  • Are unexpected or from someone unfamiliar to you.
  • Have no return address, one that doesn’t match the postmark, or can’t be verified as legitimate.
  • Are marked with restrictive endorsements such as “Personal,” “Confidential,” or “Do not X-ray.”
  • Have inappropriate or unusual labeling such as threatening language
  • Have protruding wires or aluminum foil, strange odors or stains.
  • Have excessive postage or packaging material, such as masking tape and string.
  • Are of unusual weight given their size or are lopsided or oddly shaped.
  • Are not addressed to a specific person.

Take these additional steps against possible biological and chemical agents:

  • Never sniff or smell suspicious mail.
  • Place suspicious envelopes or packages in a plastic bag or some other type of container to prevent leakage of contents.
  • Leave the room and close the door or section off the area to prevent others from entering.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face.
  • If you are at work, report the incident to your building security official or an available supervisor, who should notify police and other authorities without delay.
  • List all people who were in the room or area when this suspicious letter or package was recognized. Give a copy of this list to both the local public health authorities and law enforcement officials for follow-up investigations and advice.
  • If you are at home, report the incident to local police.

During an Explosion

  • Get under a sturdy table or desk if things are falling around you. When they stop falling, leave quickly, watching for obviously weakened floors and stairways.
  • Do not use elevators.
  • Stay low if there is smoke. Do not stop to retrieve personal possessions or make phone calls.
  • Check for fire and other hazards.
  • Once you are out, do not stand in front of windows, glass doors or other potentially hazardous areas.
  • If you are trapped in debris, use a flashlight, whistle or tap on pipes to signal your location to rescuers.
  • Shout only as a last resort to avoid inhaling dangerous dust.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with anything you have on hand.

After an Explosion

  • There may be significant numbers of casualties or damage to buildings and infrastructure.
  • Heavy law enforcement involvement at local, state and federal levels.
  • Health and mental health resources in the affected communities can be strained to their limits, maybe even overwhelmed.
  • Extensive media coverage, strong public fear and international implications and consequences.
  • Workplaces and schools may be closed, and there may be restrictions on domestic and international travel.
  • You and your family or household may have to evacuate an area, avoiding roads blocked for your safety.
  • Clean-up may take many months.
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Cybersecurity involves preventing, detecting, and responding to cyber incidents that can have wide ranging effects on the individual, organizations, the community and at the national level.

Before a Cyber Incident

You can increase your chances of avoiding cyber risks by setting up the proper controls. The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family, and your property before a cyber incident occurs.

  • Only connect to the Internet over secure, password- protected networks.
  • Do not click on links or pop-ups, open attachments, or respond to emails from strangers.
  • Always enter a URL by hand instead of following links if you are unsure of the sender.
  • Do not respond to online requests for Personally Identifiable Information (PII); most organizations – banks, universities, companies, etc. – do not ask for your personal information over the Internet.
  • Limit who you are sharing information with by reviewing the privacy settings on your social media accounts.
  • Trust your gut; if you think an offer is too good to be true, then it probably is.
  • Password protect all devices that connect to the Internet and user accounts.
  • Do not use the same password twice; choose a password that means something to you and you only; change your passwords on a regular basis.
  • If you see something suspicious, report it to the proper authorities.
  • Familiarize yourself with the types of threats and protective measures you can take by:
    • Sign up for the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team mailing list.
    • Sign up for the Department of Homeland Security’s Stop.Think.Connect. Campaign and receive a monthly newsletter with cybersecurity current events and tips.

During a Cyber Incident

Immediate Actions

At Work

  • If you have access to an IT department, contact them immediately. The sooner they can investigate and clean your computer, the less damage to your computer and other computers on the network.
  • If you believe you might have revealed sensitive information about your organization, report it to the appropriate people within the organization, including network administrators. They can be alert for any suspicious or unusual activity.

Immediate Actions if your Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is compromised:

PII is information that can be used to uniquely identify, contact, or locate a single person. PII includes but is not limited to:

  • Full Name
  • Social security number
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Driver’s License Number
  • Vehicle registration plate number
  • Credit card numbers
  • Physical appearance
  • Gender or race

If you believe your PII is compromised:

  • Immediately change all passwords; financial passwords first. If you used the same password for multiple resources, make sure to change it for each account, and do not use that password in the future.
  • Contact companies, including banks, where you have accounts as well as credit reporting companies.
  • Close any accounts that may have been compromised. Watch for any unexplainable or unauthorized charges to your accounts.

After a Cyber Incident

  • File a report with the local police so there is an official record of the incident.
  • Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Contact additional agencies depending on what information was stolen. Examples include contacting the Social Security Administration if you social security number was compromised, or the Department of Motor Vehicles if your driver’s license or car registration has been stolen.
  • Report online crime or fraud to your local United States Secret Service (USSS) Electronic Crimes Task Force or the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
  • For further information on preventing and identifying threats, visit US-CERT’s Alerts and Tips page.


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Emergency Alerts

Public safety officials use timely and reliable systems to alert you and your family in the event of natural or man-made disasters. This page describes different warning alerts you can receive and the types of devices that receive the alerts.

Wireless Emergency Alerts

During an emergency, alert and warning officials need to provide the public with life-saving information quickly. Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs), made available through the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) infrastructure, are just one of the ways public safety officials can quickly and effectively alert and warn the public about serious emergencies.

What you need to know about WEAs:

  • WEAs can be sent by state and local public safety officials, the National Weather Service, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the President of the United States
  • WEAs can be issued for three alert categories – imminent threat, AMBER, and presidential
  • WEAs look like text messages, but are designed to get your attention and alert you with a unique sound and vibration, both repeated twice
  • WEAs are no more than 90 characters, and will include the type and time of the alert, any action you should take, as well as the agency issuing the alert
  • WEAs are not affected by network congestion and will not disrupt texts, calls, or data sessions that are in progress
  • Mobile users are not charged for receiving WEAs and there is no need to subscribe
  • To ensure your device is WEA-capable, check with your service provider

Visit the FEMA Media Library and download these tools:

Emergency Alert System

  • The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), is a modernization and integration of the nation’s existing and future alert and warning systems, technologies, and infrastructure.
  • The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national public warning system that requires broadcasters, satellite digital audio service and direct broadcast satellite providers, cable television systems, and wireless cable systems to provide the President with a communications capability to address the American people within 10 minutes during a national emergency.
  • EAS may also be used by state and local authorities, in cooperation with the broadcast community, to deliver important emergency information, such as weather information, imminent threats, AMBER alerts, and local incident information targeted to specific areas.
  • The President has sole responsibility for determining when the national-level EAS will be activated. FEMA is responsible for national-level EAS tests and exercises.
  • EAS is also used when all other means of alerting the public are unavailable, providing an added layer of resiliency to the suite of available emergency communication tools.

Emergency Alert System fact sheet

NOAA Weather Radio

NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information from the nearest National Weather Service office.

  • NWR broadcasts official warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • It also broadcasts alerts of non-weather emergencies such as national security, natural, environmental, and public safety through the Emergency Alert System.
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Nearly every part of our country experiences periods of reduced rainfall. If we plan for drought, then we can enjoy the benefits of normal or rainy years and not get caught unprepared in dry years.

Before a Drought

Strategies for drought preparedness focus mainly on water conservation. Make these practices a part of your daily life and help preserve this essential resource.

Indoor Water Conservation Tips Prior to a Drought


  • Never pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it. For example, use it to water your indoor plants or garden.
  • Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. One drop per second wastes 2,700 gallons of water per year.
  • Check all plumbing for leaks and have any leaks repaired by a plumber.
  • Retrofit all household faucets by installing aerators with flow restrictors.
  • Install an instant hot water heater on your sink.
  • Insulate your water pipes to reduce heat loss and prevent them from breaking.
  • Install a water-softening system only when the minerals in the water would damage your pipes. Turn the softener off while on vacation.
  • Choose appliances that are more energy and water efficient.


  • Consider purchasing a low-volume toilet that uses less than half the water of older models. Note: In many areas, low-volume units are required by law.
  • Install a toilet displacement device to cut down on the amount of water needed to flush. Place a one-gallon plastic jug of water into the tank to displace toilet flow (do not use a brick, it may dissolve and loose pieces may cause damage to the internal parts). Be sure installation does not interfere with the operating parts.
  • Replace your showerhead with an ultra-low-flow version.


  • Start a compost pile as an alternate method of disposing of food waste or simply dispose of food in the garbage. (Kitchen sink disposals require a lot of water to operate properly).

Outdoor Water Conservation Tips Prior to a Drought


  • Check your well pump periodically. If the automatic pump turns on and off while water is not being used, you have a leak.
  • Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs, and trees. Once established, plants adapted to your local climate do not need water as frequently and usually will survive a dry period without watering. Small plants require less water to become established. Group plants together based on similar water needs.
  • Install irrigation devices that are the most water efficient for each use, such as micro and drip irrigation, and soaker hoses.
  • Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil. Mulch also helps control weeds that compete with landscape plants for water.
  • Avoid purchasing recreational water toys that require a constant stream of water.
  • Avoid installing ornamental water features (such as fountains) unless they use re-circulated water.
  • Consider rainwater harvesting where practical.
  • Contact your local water provider for information and assistance.


  • Position sprinklers so water lands on the lawn and shrubs and not on paved areas.
  • Repair sprinklers that spray a fine mist. Most misting issues result from a pressure problem, properly regulating pressure in an irrigation system will prevent misting.
  • Check sprinkler systems and timing devices regularly to be sure they operate properly.
  • Raise the lawn mower blade to at least three inches or to its highest level. A higher cut encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system, and holds soil moisture.
  • Plant drought-resistant lawn seed. Reduce or eliminate lawn areas that are not used frequently.
  • Avoid over-fertilizing your lawn. Applying fertilizer increases the need for water. Apply fertilizers that contain slow-release, water-insoluble forms of nitrogen.
  • Choose a water-efficient irrigation system such as drip irrigation for your trees, shrubs, and flowers.
  • Turn irrigation down in fall and off in winter. Water manually in winter only if needed.
  • Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants to reduce evaporation and keep the soil cool. Organic mulch also improves the soil and prevents weeds.
  • Invest in a weather-based irrigation controller—or a smart controller. These devices will automatically adjust the watering time and frequency based on soil moisture, rain, wind, and evaporation and transpiration rates. Check with your local water agency to see if there is a rebate available for the purchase of a smart controller.


  • Install a new water-saving pool filter. A single back flushing with a traditional filter uses 180 to 250 gallons of water.
  • Cover pools and spas to reduce evaporation of water.

During a Drought

Always observe state and local restrictions on water use during a drought. If restricted, for example, do not water your lawn, wash your car, or other non-essential uses, to help ensure there is enough water for essential uses. Contact your local government for current information and suggestions.

Indoor Water Conservation Tips While in a Drought


  • Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects, and other similar waste in the trash rather than the toilet.
  • Avoid taking baths—take short showers—turn on water only to get wet and lather and then again to rinse off.
  • Avoid letting the water run while brushing your teeth, washing your face or shaving.
  • Place a bucket in the shower to catch excess water for watering plants.


  • Operate automatic dishwashers only when they are fully loaded. Use the “light wash” feature, if available, to use less water.
  • Hand wash dishes by filling two containers—one with soapy water and the other with rinse water containing a small amount of chlorine bleach.
  • Clean vegetables in a pan filled with water rather than running water from the tap.
  • Store drinking water in the refrigerator. Do not let the tap run while you are waiting for water to cool.
  • Avoid wasting water waiting for it to get hot. Capture it for other uses such as plant watering or heat it on the stove or in a microwave.
  • Avoid rinsing dishes before placing them in the dishwasher; just remove large particles of food. (Most dishwashers can clean soiled dishes very well, so dishes do not have to be rinsed before washing)
  • Avoid using running water to thaw meat or other frozen foods. Defrost food overnight in the refrigerator or use the defrost setting on your microwave oven.


  • Operate automatic clothes washers only when they are fully loaded or set the water level for the size of your load.

Outdoor Water Conservation Tips While in a Drought


  • Use a commercial car wash that recycles water.
  • If you wash your own car, use a shut-off nozzle that can be adjusted down to a fine spray on your hose.


  • Avoid over watering your lawn and water only when needed:
  • A heavy rain eliminates the need for watering for up to two weeks. Most of the year, lawns only need one inch of water per week.
  • Check the soil moisture levels with a soil probe, spade or large screwdriver. You don’t need to water if the soil is still moist. If your grass springs back when you step on it, it doesn’t need water yet.
  • If your lawn does require watering, do so early in the morning or later in the evening, when temperatures are cooler.
  • Check your sprinkler system frequently and adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk, or street.
  • Water in several short sessions rather than one long one, in order for your lawn to better absorb moisture and avoid runoff.
  • Use a broom or blower instead of a hose to clean leaves and other debris from your driveway or sidewalk.
  • Avoid leaving sprinklers or hoses unattended. A garden hose can pour out 600 gallons or more in only a few hours.
  • In extreme drought, allow lawns to die in favor of preserving trees and large shrubs.
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This page explains what actions to take when you receive a tsunami (pronounced soo-ná-mee) alert from the National Weather Service for your local area. It also provides tips on what to do before, during, and after a tsunami. Tsunamis can strike any U.S. Coast, but risk is greatest for states and territories with Pacific and Caribbean coastlines.

Tsunamis, also known as seismic sea waves (mistakenly called “tidal waves”), are a series of enormous waves created by an underwater disturbance such as an earthquake, landslide, volcanic eruption, or meteorite.  Earthquake-induced movement of the ocean floor most often generates tsunamis. If a major earthquake or landslide occurs close to shore, the first wave in a series could reach the beach in a few minutes, even before a warning is issued. Areas are at greater risk if they are less than 25 feet above sea level and within a mile of the shoreline. Drowning is the most common cause of death associated with a tsunami. Tsunami waves and the receding water are very destructive to structures in the run-up zone. Other hazards include flooding, contamination of drinking water, and fires from gas lines or ruptured tanks.

Before a Tsunami

The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property from the effects of a tsunami:

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
    • Talk to everyone in your household about what to do if a tsunami occurs. Create and practice an evacuation plan for your family. Familiarity may save your life. Be able to follow your escape route at night and during inclement weather. Practicing your plan makes the appropriate response more of a reaction, requiring less thinking during an actual emergency.
    • If the school evacuation plan requires you to pick your children up from school or from another location. Be aware telephone lines during a tsunami alert may be overloaded and routes to and from schools may be jammed.
    • Knowing your community’s warning systems and disaster plans, including evacuation routes.
  • If you are a tourist, familiarize yourself with local tsunami evacuation protocols. If you are concerned that you will not be able to reach a safe place in time, ask your local emergency management office about vertical evacuation. Some strong (e.g., reinforced concrete) and tall buildings may be able to provide protection if no other options are available.
  • If an earthquake occurs and you are in a coastal area, turn on your radio to learn if there is a tsunami warning.

Tsunami Warning

  • A tsunami warning is issued when a tsunami with the potential to generate widespread inundation is imminent or expected. Warnings alert the public that dangerous coastal flooding accompanied by powerful cur­rents is possible and may continue for several hours after initial arrival. Warnings alert emergency management officials to take action for the entire tsunami hazard zone. Appropriate actions to be taken by local officials may include the evacuation of low-lying coastal areas, and the repositioning of ships to deep waters when there is time to safely do so. Warnings may be updated, adjusted geographically, downgraded, or canceled. To provide the earliest possible alert, initial warnings are normally based only on seismic information.

Tsunami Advisory

  • A tsunami advisory is issued when a tsunami with the potential to generate strong currents or waves dangerous to those in or very near the water is imminent or expected. The threat may continue for sev­eral hours after initial arrival, but significant inundation is not expected for areas under an advisory. Appropriate actions to be taken by local officials may include closing beaches, evacuating harbors and marinas, and the repositioning of ships to deep waters when there is time to safely do so. Advisories are normally updated to continue the advisory, expand/contract affected areas, upgrade to a warning, or cancel the advisory.

Tsunami Watch

  • A tsunami watch is issued to alert emergency management officials and the public of an event which may later impact the watch area. The watch area may be upgraded to a warning or advisory – or canceled – based on updated information and analysis. Therefore, emergency management officials and the public should prepare to take action. Watches are normally issued based on seismic information without confirmation that a destructive tsunami is underway.

Tsunami Information Statement

  • A tsunami information statement is issued to inform emergency manage­ment officials and the public that an earthquake has occurred, or that a tsunami warning, advisory or watch has been issued for another section of the ocean. In most cases, information statements are issued to indicate there is no threat of a destructive tsunami and to prevent unnecessary evacuations as the earthquake may have been felt in coastal areas. An information statement may, in appropriate situations, caution about the possibility of destructive local tsunamis. Information statements may be re-issued with additional information, though normally these messages are not updated. However, a watch, advisory or warning may be issued for the area, if necessary, after analysis and/or updated information becomes available.

During a Tsunami

  • Follow the evacuation order issued by authorities and evacuate immediately. Take your animals with you.
  • Move to high ground or inland and away from water immediately.
  • Stay away from the beach. Never go down to the beach to watch a tsunami come in. If you can see the wave you are too close to escape it. CAUTION – If there is noticeable recession in water away from the shoreline this is nature’s tsunami warning and it should be heeded. You should move away immediately.
  • Save yourself – not your possessions.
  • Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance – infants, elderly people, and individuals with access or functional needs.

After a Tsunami

  • Return home only after local officials tell you it is safe. A tsunami is a series of waves that may continue for hours. Do not assume that after one wave the danger is over. The next wave may be larger than the first one.
  • Go to a designated public shelter if you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  • Avoid disaster areas. Your presence might interfere with emergency response operations and put you at further risk from the residual effects of floods.
  • Stay away from debris in the water; it may pose a safety hazard to people or pets.
  • Check yourself for injuries and get first aid as needed before helping injured or trapped persons.
  • If someone needs to be rescued, call professionals with the right equipment to help. Many people have been killed or injured trying to rescue others.
  • Help people who require special assistance—infants, elderly people, those without transportation, people with access and functional needs and large families who may need additional help in an emergency situation.
  • Continue using a NOAA Weather Radio or tuning to a Coast Guard station or a local radio or television station for the latest updates.
  • Stay out of any building that has water around it. Tsunami water can cause floors to crack or walls to collapse.
  • Use caution when re-entering buildings or homes. Tsunami-driven floodwater may have damaged buildings where you least expect it. Carefully watch every step you take.
  • To avoid injury, wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up.
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Space Weather

The term “space weather” refers to the variable conditions on the sun and in space that can influence the performance of technology we use on Earth.

Extreme space weather could potentially cause damage to critical infrastructure – especially the electric grid – highlighting the importance of being prepared.

Learn About Space Weather

In order to protect people and systems that might be at risk from space weather effects, we need to understand the causes of space weather.

The sun is the main source of space weather. Sudden bursts of plasma and magnetic field structures from the sun’s atmosphere called coronal mass ejections (CME) together with sudden bursts of radiation, or solar flares, all cause space weather effects here on Earth.

Space weather can produce electromagnetic fields that induce extreme currents in wires, disrupting power lines, and even causing wide-spread blackouts. Severe space weather also produces solar energetic particles, which can damage satellites used for commercial communications, global positioning, intelligence gathering, and weather forecasting.

The strongest geomagnetic storm on record is the Carrington Event of August-September 1859, named after the British astronomer Richard Carrington. During this event currents electrified telegraph lines, shocking technicians and setting their telegraph papers on fire; and Northern Lights (electrically charged particles from the sun that enter Earth’s atmosphere) were visible as far south as Cuba and Hawaii.

Another significant space weather event took place on March 13,1989; a powerful geomagnetic storm set off a major power blackout in Canada that left six million people without electricity for nine hours. According to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the flare disrupted electric power transmission from the Hydro Québec generating station and even melted some power transformers in New Jersey.

Predicting Space Weather

Space weather prediction services in the United States are provided primarily by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) and the U.S. Air Force’s (USAF) Weather Agency (AFWA), which work closely together to address the needs of their civilian and military user communities. The SWPC draws on a variety of data sources, both space and ground-based, to provide forecasts, watches, warnings, alerts, and summaries as well as operational space weather products to civilian and commercial users.

Before Space Weather Occurs

Space weather can have an impact on our advanced technologies which has a direct impact on our daily lives. The main area of concern will most likely be our nation’s electric power grid. Northern territories are more vulnerable to these effects than areas farther south.  Generally, power outages due to space weather are very rare events, but evidence suggests that significant effects could occur.  These power outages may have cascading effects, causing:

  • Loss of water and wastewater distribution systems
  • Loss of perishable foods and medications
  • Loss of heating/air conditioning and electrical lighting systems
  • Loss of computer systems, telephone systems, and communications systems (including disruptions in airline flights, satellite networks and GPS services)
  • Loss of public transportation systems
  • Loss of fuel distribution systems and fuel pipelines
  • Loss of all electrical systems that do not have back-up power

To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan. Other steps you can take include:

  • Fill plastic containers with water and place them in the refrigerator and freezer if there’s room. Leave about an inch of space inside each one, because water expands as it freezes. This chilled or frozen water will help keep food cold during a temporary power outage.
  • Be aware that most medication that requires refrigeration can be kept in a closed refrigerator for several hours without a problem. If unsure, check with your physician or pharmacist.
  • Keep your car tank at least half full because gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps.
  • Know where the manual release lever of your electric garage door opener is located and how to operate it. Garage doors can be heavy, so know that you may need help to lift it.
  • Keep a key to your house with you if you regularly use the garage as the primary means of entering your home, in case the garage door will not open.
  • Keep extra batteries for your phone in a safe place or purchase a solar-powered or hand crank charger. These chargers are good emergency tools to keep your laptop and other small electronics working in the event of a power outage. If you own a car, purchase a car phone charger because you can charge your phone if you lose power at your home.
  • If you have a traditional landline (non-broadband or VOIP) phone, keep at least one non-cordless receiver in your home because it will work even if you lose power.
  • Prepare a family contact sheet. This should include at least one out-of-town contact that may be better able to reach family members in an emergency.
  • Make back-up copies of important digital data and information, automatically if possible, or at least weekly.

Space Weather Scales

The NOAA Space Weather Scales report three categories of solar effects. These scales communicate current and future space weather conditions, and their possible effects on people and systems. Similar to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, the NOAA space weather scales correlate space weather events with their likely effects on technological systems. As shown in the table below, the scales describe the environmental disturbances for three event types: Geomagnetic Storms (G-scale), Solar Radiation Storms (S-scale), and Radio Blackouts (R-scale). The scales have numbered levels, analogous to hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes that convey severity.

Description of Space Weather Scale

Geomagnetic Storms: disturbances in the geomagnetic field caused by gusts in the solar wind that blows by Earth.

Minor  —  ExtremeG1

Solar Radiation Storms: elevated levels of radiation that occur when the numbers of energetic particles increase.

Minor  —  ExtremeS1

Radio Blackouts: disturbances of the ionosphere caused by X-ray emissions from the Sun.

Minor  —  ExtremeR1


Description of Space Weather ScaleMinor  —  Extreme
Geomagnetic Storms: disturbances in the geomagnetic field caused by gusts in the solar wind that blows by Earth.G1G2G3G4G5
Solar Radiation Storms: elevated levels of radiation that occur when the numbers of energetic particles increase.S1S2S3S4S5
Radio Blackouts: disturbances of the ionosphere caused by X-ray emissions from the Sun.R1R2R3R4R5


NOTE: The vast majority of “5” level events will not cause catastrophic damages to the electric grid.  On average, the Earth is impacted by such storms about four times during every 11-year solar cycle, so many large storms have impacted the planet since the Carrington Storm with much less signification impact.

For more information visit NOAA Space Weather Scales.

Know the Terms

Watches are used for making long-lead predictions of geomagnetic activity.

Warnings are used to raise the public’s level of alertness based on an expectation that a space weather event is imminent.

Alerts indicate that the observed conditions, highlighted by the warnings, have crossed a preset threshold or that a space weather event has already started.

During Space Weather Occurrence

  • Follow energy conservation measures to keep the use of electricity as low as possible, which can help power companies avoid imposing rolling blackouts during periods when the power grid is compromised.
  • Follow the Emergency Alert System (EAS) instructions carefully.
  • Disconnect electrical appliances if instructed to do so by local officials.
  • Do not use the telephone unless absolutely necessary, during emergency situations keeping lines open for emergency personnel can improve response.

After Space Weather Occurrence

Throw out unsafe food:

  • Throw away any food that has been exposed to a temperature of 40° F (4° C) or higher for 2 hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color, or texture. When in doubt, throw it out!
  • Never taste food or rely on appearance or odor to determine its safety. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been at room temperature too long, bacteria causing food-borne illnesses can start growing quickly. Some types of bacteria produce toxins that cannot be destroyed by cooking.
  • If food in the freezer is colder than 40° F and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it.
  • If you are not sure food is cold enough, take its temperature with a food thermometer.
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This page explains what actions to take when you receive a flood watch or warning alert from the National Weather Service for your local area and what to do before, during, and after a flood.

Know your Risk


Flooding is a temporary overflowing of water onto land that is normally dry. Flooding may happen with only a few inches of water, or it may cover a house to the rooftop. There are many possible causes of floods including heavy rain or snowmelt, coastal storms and storm surge, waterway overflow from being blocked with debris or ice, or overflow of levees, dams, or waste water systems, Flooding can occur slowly over many days or happen very quickly with little or no warning, called flash floods.


Flooding can happen in any U.S. state or territory. It is particularly important to be prepared for flooding if you live in a low-lying area near a body of water, such as near a river, stream, or culvert; along a coast; or downstream from a dam or levee.


Flooding can occur during every season, but some areas of the country are at greater risk at certain times of the year. Coastal areas are at greater risk for flooding during hurricane season (i.e., June to November), while the Midwest is more at risk in the spring and during heavy summer rains. Ice jams occur in the spring in the Northeast and Northwest. Even the deserts of the Southwest are at risk during the late summer monsoon season.

Basic Safety Tips

  • Turn Around, Don’t Drown! ®
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters.
  • Do not drive over bridges that are over fast-moving floodwaters. Floodwaters can scour foundation material from around the footings and make the bridge unstable.
  • Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • If there is a chance of flash flooding, move immediately to higher ground.
  • If floodwaters rise around your car but the water is not moving, abandon the car and move to higher ground. Do not leave the car and enter moving water.
  • Avoid camping or parking along streams, rivers, and creeks during heavy rainfall. These areas can flood quickly and with little warning.

Flood watch

Flood Watch = “Be Aware.” Conditions are right for flooding to occur in your area.

Steps to Take

  • Turn on your TV/radio. You will receive the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Know where to go. You may need to reach higher ground quickly and on foot.
  • Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit. Include a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.

    Prepare Your Home

  • Bring in outdoor furniture and move important indoor items to the highest possible floor. This will help protect them from flood damage.
  • Disconnect electrical appliances and do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water. You could be electrocuted.
  • If instructed, turn off your gas and electricity at the main switch or valve. This helps prevent fires and explosions.

Flood warning

Flood Warning = “Take Action!”  Flooding is either happening or will happen shortly.

Steps to Take

  • Move immediately to higher ground or stay on high ground.
  • Evacuate if directed.
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.

After a flood

  • Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded and watch out for debris. Floodwaters often erode roads and walkways.
  • Do not attempt to drive through areas that are still flooded.
  • Avoid standing water as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • Photograph damage to your property for insurance purposes.

When it is not flooding: Make a flood plan

  • Know your flood risk.
  • Familiarize yourself with local emergency plans. Know where to go and how to get there should you need to get to higher ground, the highest level of a building, or to evacuate.
  • Make a flood emergency plan for the relevant type/s of local flood risk with plans such as evacuation, shelter, locations for high ground.
  • Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit, including a minimum of 3 days of food and water, flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
  • Consider buying flood insurance.
  • Stay tuned to your phone alerts, TV, or radio for weather updates, emergency instructions, or evacuation orders.
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Extreme Heat

This page explains what actions you can take when the weather is extremely hot and how to understand heat alerts from the National Weather Service that you could receive in your local area. Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.

Before Extreme Heat

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Know those in your neighborhood who are older, young, sick or overweight. They are more likely to become victims of excessive heat and may need help.
  • Be aware that people living in urban areas may be at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave than are people living in rural areas.
  • Get trained in first aid to learn how to treat heat-related emergencies.
  • Check to see if your home’s cooling system is working properly.
  • Make sure your home is well insulated and that you have weather stripping around your doors and window sills to keep the cool air inside.
  • Install window air conditioners snugly; insulate if necessary.
  • Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation.
  • Install temporary window reflectors (for use between windows and drapes), such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside, and weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in.
  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings, or louvers. (Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat that enters a home by up to 80 percent.)
  • Keep storm windows up all year.
  • Learn about the types of medical conditions that can result from heat waves, and the proper first aid measures that should be taken.

Heat Related Illnesses

  • Heat Cramps – Muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. Although heat cramps are the least severe, they are often the first signal that the body is having trouble with the heat.
    • If these symptoms are observed:
  • Get the person to a cooler location and remove excess clothing.
  • Give cool sports drinks. Do not give liquids with caffeine or alcohol. Discontinue liquids if victim is nauseated.
  • Seek medical attention if: the cramps do not subside in an hour, the victim has heart problems, or is on a low-sodium diet
  • Heat exhaustion Typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Symptoms include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headaches, nausea, fainting. If not treated, the victim’s condition will worsen.
    • If these symptoms are observed:
      • Move victim to air-conditioned place and lie down. Loosen or remove clothing.
      • Cool the victim by placing them in a cool shower or bath, or by applying cool, wet cloths.
      • Give sips of water or cool sports drinks containing salt and sugar. Do not give liquids with caffeine or alcohol. Discontinue liquids if victim is nauseated.
      • Seek immediate medical attention if there is no improvement, the victim is unable to take fluids, vomiting occurs, or any symptoms are severe.
    • Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition. The victim’s temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly. Symptoms include extremely high body temperature above 103°F, hot dry red skin, rapid strong pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, unconsciousness.
    • If these symptoms ae observed:
      • Call 911 or emergency medical services, or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.
      • Until the emergency medical personnel arrive on scene or during transport to the hospital, move the person to a cooler location, cool by removing clothing, bath, sponging, applying a cold we sheet.
      • Do not give the victim fluids to drink.

During Extreme Heat

  • Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and replace salts and minerals in your body. Anyone on a fluid-restricted diet or who has a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake. People with epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease should also consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
  • Limit intake of alcoholic beverages.
  • Closely monitor a local radio station, TV station or NOAA Weather Radio for the latest information.
  • Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Protect face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Spend time in air-conditioned places. If you cannot afford an air conditioner, spend some time each day in an air-conditioned environment such as public libraries, shopping malls or other indoor public spaces.
  • Stay on the lowest floor, out of the sunshine if air conditioning is not available.
  • Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone.
  • Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
  • Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, and take frequent breaks.
  • Eat well-balanced, light, and regular meals. Hot, heavy meals add heat to your body. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
  • Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone.

Heat Watches and Warnings

Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify an extreme heat hazard:

  • Heat Wave – Prolonged period of excessive heat, often combined with excessive humidity.
  • Heat Index – A number in degrees Fahrenheit (F) that tells how hot it feels when relative humidity is added to the air temperature. Exposure to full sunshine can increase the heat index by 15 degrees.
  • Excessive Heat Watch – Conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event to meet or exceed local Excessive Heat Warning criteria in the next 24 to 72 hours.
  • Excessive Heat Warning – Heat Index values are forecast to meet or exceed locally defined warning criteria for at least 2 days (daytime highs=105-110° Fahrenheit).
  • Heat Advisory – Heat Index values are forecast to meet locally defined advisory criteria for 1 to 2 days (daytime highs=100-105° Fahrenheit).

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Hazardous Materials Incidents

Hazardous materials come in the form of explosives, flammable and combustible substances, poisons and radioactive materials. Hazards can occur during production, storage, transportation, use or disposal. You and your community are at risk if a chemical is used unsafely or released in harmful amounts into the environment where you live, work or play.

Before a Hazardous Materials Incident

Many communities have Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) whose responsibilities include collecting information about hazardous materials in the community and planning made available to the public upon request. Contact your local emergency management office for more information on LEPCs.

The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property from the effects of a hazardous materials incident:

  • Build an Emergency Supply Kit with the addition of plastic sheeting and duct tape
  • Make a Family Emergency Plan
  • Know how to operate your home’s ventilation system
  • Identify an above-ground shelter room with as few openings as possible.
  • Read more about Sheltering in Place

During a Hazardous Materials Incident

Listen to local radio or television stations for detailed information and follow instructions carefully. Remember that some toxic chemicals are odorless.

If you are:


Asked to evacuate
  • Do so immediately.
  • Stay tuned to a radio or television for information on evacuation routes, temporary shelters, and procedures.
  • If you have time, minimize contamination in the house by closing all windows, shutting all vents, and turning off attic fans.
  • Take pre-assembled disaster supplies.
  • Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance–infants, elderly people and people with access and functional needs.
Caught Outside
  • Stay upstream, uphill, and upwind. In general, try to go at least one-half mile (usually 8-10 city blocks) from the danger area.
  • Do not walk into or touch any spilled liquids, airborne mists, or condensed solid chemical deposits. Try not to inhale gases, fumes and smoke. If possible, cover mouth with a cloth or mask while leaving the area.
  • Stay away from accident victims until the hazardous material has been identified.
In a motor vehicle
  • Stop and seek shelter in a permanent building.
  • If you must remain in your car, keep car windows and vents closed and shut off the air conditioner and heater.
Requested to stay indoors
  • Bring pets inside.
  • Close and lock all exterior doors and windows. Close vents, fireplace dampers, and as many interior doors as possible.
  • Turn off air conditioners and ventilation systems, or set ventilation systems to 100 percent recirculation so that no outside air is drawn into the building.
  • If gas or vapors could have entered the building, take shallow breaths through a cloth or a towel.
  • Avoid eating or drinking any food or water that may be contaminated.
  • Go into your pre-selected shelter room.
  • Seal gaps under and around the following areas with wet towels, plastic sheeting, duct tape, wax paper or aluminum foil:
    • Doorways and windows
    • Air conditioning units
    • Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans
    • Stove and dryer vents with duct tape and plastic sheeting


After a Hazardous Materials Incident

The following are guidelines for the period following a hazardous materials incident:

  • Listen to local radio or television stations for the latest emergency information.
  • Go to a designated public shelter if you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  • Act quickly if you have come in to contact with or have been exposed to hazardous chemicals.
  • Follow decontamination instructions from local authorities.
  • Seek medical treatment for unusual symptoms as soon as possible.
  • Place exposed clothing and shoes in tightly sealed containers.
  • Advise everyone who comes in to contact with you that you may have been exposed to a toxic substance.
  • Return home only when authorities say it is safe. Open windows and vents and turn on fans to provide ventilation.
  • Find out from local authorities how to clean up your land and property.
  • Report any lingering vapors or other hazards to your local emergency services office.
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Radiological Dispersion Device

An RDD combines a conventional explosive device — such as a bomb — with radioactive material. It is designed to scatter dangerous and sub-lethal amounts of radioactive material over a general area.

Such RDDs appeal to terrorists because they require limited technical knowledge to build and deploy compared to a nuclear device. The size of the affected area and the level of destruction caused by an RDD would depend on the sophistication and size of the conventional bomb and other factors. The area affected could be placed off-limits to the public for several months during cleanup efforts.

Before an Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD) Event

There is no way of knowing how much warning time there will be before an attack by terrorists using a Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD), so being prepared in advance and knowing what to do and when is important. To prepare for an RDD event, you should do the following:

  • Build an Emergency Supply Kit with the addition of duct tape and scissors.
  • Make a Family Emergency Plan.
  • Find out from officials if any public buildings in your community have been designated as fallout shelters. If none have been designated, make your own list of potential shelters near your home, workplace, and school, such as basements, subways, tunnels, or the windowless center area of middle floors in high-rise buildings.
  • If you live in an apartment building or high-rise, talk to the manager about the safest place in the building for sheltering and about providing for building occupants until it is safe to go out.

Taking shelter during an RDD event is absolutely necessary. There are two kinds of shelters – blast and fallout. The following describes the two kinds of shelters:

  • Blast shelters are specifically constructed to offer some protection against blast pressure, initial radiation, heat, and fire. But even a blast shelter cannot withstand a direct hit from a nuclear explosion.
  • Fallout shelters do not need to be specially constructed for protecting against fallout. They can be any protected space, provided that the walls and roof are thick and dense enough to absorb the radiation given off by fallout particles.

During an Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD) Event

While the explosive blast will be immediately obvious, the presence of radiation will not be known until trained personnel with specialized equipment are on the scene.

If the explosion or radiological release occurs inside, get out immediately and seek safe shelter. Otherwise, if you are:


  • Seek shelter indoors immediately in the nearest undamaged building.
  • If appropriate shelter is not available, cover your nose and mouth and move as rapidly as is safe upwind, away from the location of the explosive blast. Then, seek appropriate shelter as soon as possible.
  • Listen for official instructions and follow directions.


  • If you have time, turn off ventilation and heating systems, close windows, vents, fireplace dampers, exhaust fans, and clothes dryer vents.
  • Retrieve your disaster supplies kit and a battery-powered radio and take them to your shelter room.
  • Seek shelter immediately, preferably underground or in an interior room of a building, placing as much distance and dense shielding as possible between you and the outdoors where the radioactive material may be.
  • Seal windows and external doors that do not fit snugly with duct tape to reduce infiltration of radioactive particles. Plastic sheeting will not provide shielding from radioactivity nor from blast effects of a nearby explosion.
  • Listen for official instructions and follow directions.

After an Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD) Event

After finding safe shelter, those who may have been exposed to radioactive material should decontaminate themselves. To do this, remove and bag your clothing (and isolate the bag away from you and others), and shower thoroughly with soap and water. Seek medical attention after officials indicate it is safe to leave shelter.

Contamination from an RDD event could affect a wide area, depending on the amount of conventional explosives used, the quantity and type of radioactive material released, and meteorological conditions.

Follow these additional guidelines after an RDD event:

  • Continue listening to your radio or watch the television for instructions from local officials, whether you have evacuated or sheltered-in-place.
  • Do not return to or visit an RDD incident location for any reason.
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Snowstorms & Extreme Cold

This page explains what actions to take when you receive a winter weather storm alert from the National Weather Service for your local area and what to do before, during, and after a snowstorm or extreme cold.

Know your risk


A winter storm occurs when there is significant precipitation and the temperature is low enough that precipitation forms as sleet or snow, or when rain turns to ice. A winter storm can range from freezing rain and ice, to moderate snowfall over a few hours, to a blizzard that lasts for several days. Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures.

Winter storms can cause power outages that last for days. They can make roads and walkways extremely dangerous or impassable and close or limit critical community services such as public transportation, child care, health programs and schools. Injuries and deaths may occur from exposure, dangerous road conditions, and carbon monoxide poisoning and other conditions.


Winter storms and colder than normal temperatures can happen in every region of the country.


Winter storms can occur from early autumn to late spring depending on the region.

Before Snowstorms and Extreme Cold

  • Make a Family Communications Plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
  • Make an emergency kit for at least three days of self-sufficiency.
  • Keep space heater safety in mind: Use electric space heaters with automatic shut-off switches and non-glowing elements. Remember to keep all heat sources at least three feet away from furniture and drapes.
  • Prepare your home:
    • Make sure your home is well insulated and that you have weather stripping around your doors and window sills to keep the warm air inside.
    • Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector.
    • Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
    • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
    • Insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to keep cold air out.
  • Hire a contractor to check the structural ability of the roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow – or water, if drains on flat roofs do not work.
    • If you have a wood burning fireplace, consider storing wood to keep you warm if winter weather knocks out your heat. Also, make sure you have your chimney cleaned and inspected every year.
    • Have at least one of the following heat sources in case the power goes out:
      • Extra blankets, sleeping bags and warm winter coats
      • Fireplace or wood-burning stove with plenty of dry firewood, or a gas log fireplace
  • Prepare your vehicle:
    • Fully winterize your vehicle: Have a mechanic check antifreeze, brakes, heater and defroster, tires, and windshield wipers to ensure they are in good shape. Keep your gas tank at least half full.
    • Keep an extra emergency kit specifically created for your car. In addition to the basic essentials, consider adding a portable cell phone charger, ice scraper, extra blanket, sand for traction and jumper cables.
    • Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency for a complete list of recommended products.
    • Sand to improve traction.
  • Make sure you have a cell phone with an emergency charging option (car, solar, hand crank, etc.) in case of a power failure.
  • People who depend on electricity to operate medical equipment should have alternate arrangements in place in case power is out for an extended period of time.
  • Plan to check on elderly/disabled relatives and neighbors.
  • Plan to bring pets inside.
  • Know where the manual release lever of your electric garage door opener is located and how to operate it in case you lose power.
  • Fill a gallon container with water and place them in the freezer to help keep food cold.
  • A NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts alerts and warnings directly from the NWS for all hazards. You may also sign up in advance to receive notifications from your local emergency services.

During Snowstorms and Extreme Cold

  • Stay indoors during the storm.
  • Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive: travel in the day; don’t travel alone; keep others informed of your schedule and your route; stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy, walkways.
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack—a major cause of death in the winter. Use caution, take breaks, push the snow instead of lifting it when possible, and lift lighter loads.
  • Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
  • If you must go outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  • Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
  • Wear a hat and cover your mouth with a scarf to reduce heat loss.

Cold Related Illness

  • Frostbite is a serious condition that’s caused by exposure to extremely cold temperatures.
    • a white or grayish-yellow skin area
    • skin that feels unusually firm or waxy
    • numbness
    • If you detect symptoms of frostbite, seek medical care.
  • Hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature, is a dangerous condition that can occur when a person is exposed to extremely cold temperatures.  Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposures to very cold temperatures. When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it’s produced. Lengthy exposures will eventually use up your body’s stored energy, which leads to lower body temperature.
    • Warnings signs of hypothermia:
    • Adults: shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech drowsiness
    • Infants:  bright red, cold skin, very low energyIf you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95° F, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately.

Carbon Monoxide

Caution: Each year, an average of 430 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, and there are more than 20,000 visits to the emergency room with more than 4,000 hospitalizations. Carbon monoxide-related deaths are highest during colder months. These deaths are likely due to increased use of gas-powered furnaces and alternative heating, cooking, and power sources used inappropriately indoors during power outages.

  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal¬ burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. Keep these devices at least 20 feet from doors, windows, and vents.
  • The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.
  • If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door.
  • Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.

Stay or Go


  • If stuck on the road to avoid exposure and/or when rescue is likely
  • If a safe location is neither nearby or visible
  • If you do not have appropriate clothing to go outside
  • If you do not have the ability to call for help


  • If the distance to call for help is accessible.
  • If you have visibility and outside conditions are safe.
  • If you have appropriate clothing.
  • Once the storm has passed, if you are not already home, follow instructions from your local transportation department and emergency management agency to determine if it is safe to drive and, if so, which route will be safest for you to get home. Drive with extra caution.

After Snowstorms and Extreme Cold

  • If your home loses power or heat for more than a few hours or if you do not have adequate supplies to stay warm in your home overnight, you may want to go to a designated public shelter if you can get there safely. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (e.g., SHELTER20472)
  • Bring any personal items that you would need to spend the night (such as toiletries, medicines). Take precautions when traveling to the shelter. Dress warmly in layers, wear boots, mittens, and a hat.
  • Continue to protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers. Stay indoors, if possible.

Winter Weather Watches and Warnings

  • Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify an extreme winter weather alerts:
  • Freezing Rain – Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.
  • Sleet – Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
  • Wind Chill– Windchill is the temperature it “feels like” when you are outside. The NWS provides a Windchill Chart to show the difference between air temperature and the perceived temperature and the amount of time until frostbite occurs. For more information, visit:
  • Winter Weather Advisory – Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. When caution is used, these situations should not be life threatening. The NWS issues a winter weather advisory when conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences that may be hazardous. If caution is used, these situations should not be life-threatening.
  • Winter Storm Watch – A winter storm is possible in your area. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for more information. The NWS issues a winter storm watch when severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, may affect your area but the location and timing are still uncertain. A winter storm watch is issued 12 to 36 hours in advance of a potential severe storm. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, local radio, TV, or other news sources for more information. Monitor alerts, check your emergency supplies, and gather any items you may need if you lose power.
  • Winter Storm Warning – A winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area.
  • Blizzard Warning – Sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour or greater and considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile) are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer.
  • Frost/Freeze Warning – Below freezing temperatures are expected.
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Thunderstorms & Lightning

All thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm produces lightning. While lightning fatalities have decreased over the past 30 years, lightning continues to be one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States. On average in the U.S., lightning kills 51 people and injures hundreds more. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms.

Other associated dangers of thunderstorms include tornadoes, strong winds, hail and flash flooding. Flash flooding is responsible for more fatalities – more than 140 annually – than any other thunderstorm-associated hazard. Dry thunderstorms that do not produce rain that reaches the ground are most prevalent in the western United States. Falling raindrops evaporate, but lightning can still reach the ground and can start wildfires.

Before Thunderstorm and Lightning

To prepare for a thunderstorm, you should do the following:

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
  • Postpone outdoor activities.
  • Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
  • Get inside a home, building, or hard top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
  • Remember, rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal.
  • Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades or curtains.
  • Unplug any electronic equipment well before the storm arrives.

Lightning Risk Reduction When Outdoors

If you are in a forest then, seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees.

In an open area, go to a low place such as a ravine or valley. Be alert for flash floods.

On open water, get to land and find shelter immediately.

Facts about Thunderstorms

  • They may occur singly, in clusters or in lines.
  • Some of the most severe occur when a single thunderstorm affects one location for an extended time.
  • Thunderstorms typically produce heavy rain for a brief period, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Warm, humid conditions are highly favorable for thunderstorm development.
  • About 10 percent of thunderstorms are classified as severe – one that produces hail at least an inch or larger in diameter, has winds of 58 miles per hour or higher or produces a tornado.

Facts about Lightning

  • Lightning’s unpredictability increases the risk to individuals and property.
  • Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.
  • “Heat lightning” is actually lightning from a thunderstorm too far away from thunder to be heard. However, the storm may be moving in your direction.
  • Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening.
  • Your chances of being struck by lightning are estimated to be 1 in 600,000 but could be reduced even further by following safety precautions.
  • Lightning strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immediately.

Know the Terms

Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a thunderstorm hazard:

Severe Thunderstorm Watch – Tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning – Issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.

During Thunderstorms and Lightning

If thunderstorm and lightning are occurring in your area, you should:

  • Use your battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio for updates from local officials.
  • Avoid contact with corded phones and devices including those plugged into electric for recharging.  Cordless and wireless phones not connected to wall outlets are OK to use.
  • Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
  • Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, do not take a shower, do not wash dishes, and do not do laundry. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.
  • Avoid natural lightning rods such as a tall, isolated tree in an open area.
  • Avoid hilltops, open fields, the beach or a boat on the water.
  • Take shelter in a sturdy building. Avoid isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.
  • Avoid contact with anything metal—tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs, and bicycles.
  • If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.

After a Thunderstorm or Lightning Strike

If lightning strikes you or someone you know, call 9-1-1 for medical assistance as soon as possible. The following are things you should check when you attempt to give aid to a victim of lightning:

  • Breathing – if breathing has stopped, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
  • Heartbeat – if the heart has stopped, administer CPR.
  • Pulse – if the victim has a pulse and is breathing, look for other possible injuries. Check for burns where the lightning entered and left the body. Also be alert for nervous system damage, broken bones and loss of hearing and eyesight.

After the storm passes remember to:

  • Never drive through a flooded roadway. Turn around, don’t drown!
  • Stay away from storm-damaged areas to keep from putting yourself at risk from the effects of severe thunderstorms.
  • Continue to listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or to local radio and television stations for updated information or instructions, as access to roads or some parts of the community may be blocked.
  • Help people who may require special assistance, such as infants, children and the elderly or those with access or functional needs.
  • Stay away from downed power lines and report them immediately.
  • Watch your animals closely. Keep them under your direct control.
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This page explains what actions to take when you receive a tornado watch or warning alert from the National Weather Service for your local area and what to do before, during, and after a tornado.

Know your risk


A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground and is often—although not always—visible as a funnel cloud. Lightening and hail are common in thunderstorms that produce tornadoes. Tornadoes cause extensive damage to structures and disrupt transportation, power, water, gas, communications, and other services in its direct path and in neighboring areas. Related thunderstorms can cause heavy rains, flash flooding, and hail


About 1,200 tornadoes hit the United States every year and every state is at risk. Most tornadoes in the United States occur east of the Rocky Mountains with concentrations in the central and southern plains, the Gulf Coast and Florida.


Tornadoes can strike in any season, but occur most often in the spring and summer months. They can occur at all hours of the day and night, but are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Before a Tornado

  • Identify safe rooms built to FEMA criteria or ICC500 storm shelters or other potential protective locations in sturdy buildings near your home, work, and other locations you frequent so you have a plan for where you will go quickly for safety when there is a Warning or an approaching tornado.
  • For schools, malls, and other buildings with long-span roofs or open space plans, or many occupants, ask the building manager to identify the best available refuge.
  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
  • Look for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
    • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

Tornado Facts

The extent of destruction caused by tornadoes depends on the tornado’s intensity, size, path, time of day, and amount of time it is on the ground. Wind from tornadoes can reach more than 300 miles per hour, and damage paths can be more than 1 mile wide and 50 miles long. Wind from tornadoes can destroy buildings and trees, transform debris into deadly projectiles, and roll vehicles.

  • They may strike quickly, with little or no warning.
  • They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel.
  • The average tornado moves Southwest to Northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction.
  • Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land.
  • Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water.

Know the Terms

Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a tornado hazard:

  • Tornado Watch – Tornadoes are possible. When there is a Watch, move to be near enough to a shelter or sturdy building to be able to get there quickly in a few minutes if there is a Warning or if you see signs of a tornado approaching. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.
  • Tornado Warning – A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

During a Tornado

If you are under a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately!  Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris, so remember to protect your head.

If you are in school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building pre-identified best available refuge then:

  • Go to a pre-designated area such as a safe room built to FEMA criteria, or a small interior windowless room on the lowest level, below ground in a basement, or storm cellar, is best. (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and cover your head and neck with your arms and cover your body as best you can e.g., with a heavy coat or blankets, pillows. .
  • In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • Do not open windows.
  • A sturdy structure (e.g. residence, small building) , school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building)


A manufactured home or office then:             

  • Get out immediately and go to a pre-identified location such as the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, do not offer protection from tornadoes.


The outside with no shelter then:

  • If you are not in a sturdy building, there is no single research-based recommendation for what last-resort action to take because many factors can affect your decision. Possible actions include:
  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
  • Take cover in a stationary vehicle. Put the seat belt on and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
  • In all situations:
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for protection in a sturdy building. .
  • Outdoor areas are not protected from flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.


After a Tornado

  • If you are trapped, do not move about or kick up dust. Tap on a pipe or wall or use a whistle, if you have one, so that rescuers can locate you.
  • Listen to local officials for updates and instructions.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
  • Watch out for debris and downed power lines.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings and homes until local authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Use extreme caution during post-disaster clean-up of buildings and around debris. Do not attempt to remove heavy debris by yourself. Wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, work gloves, and sturdy, thick-soled shoes during clean-up.
  • Photograph the damage to your property in order to assist in filing an insurance claim.
  • Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm.
  • If your home is without power, use flashlights or battery-powered lanterns rather than candles to prevent accidental fires.

Build a Safe Room

Extreme windstorms in many parts of the country pose a serious threat to buildings and their occupants. Your residence may be built “to code” but that does not mean it can withstand winds from extreme events such as tornadoes and major hurricanes. The purpose of a safe room built to FEMA criteria or a storm shelter built to ICC 500 standards is to provide a space where you and your family can seek refuge that provides a high level of protection. You can build a safe room in one of several places in your home.

  • Your basement
  • Atop a concrete slab-on-grade foundation or garage floor.
  • An interior room on the first floor.

Safe rooms built below ground level provide the greatest protection, but a safe room built in a first-floor interior room also can provide the necessary protection. Below-ground safe rooms must be designed to avoid accumulating water during the heavy rains that often accompany severe windstorms.

To protect its occupants, a safe room must be built to withstand high winds and flying debris, even if the rest of the residence is severely damaged or destroyed. Consider the following when building a safe room:

  • The safe room must be adequately anchored to resist overturning and uplift.
  • The walls, ceiling and door of the shelter must withstand wind pressure and resist penetration by windborne objects and falling debris.
  • The connections between all parts of the safe room must be strong enough to resist the wind.
  • Sections of either interior or exterior residence walls that are used as walls of the safe room must be separated from the structure of the residence so that damage to the residence will not cause damage to the safe room.

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