What to Do in Case of Natural Disasters, Accidents and Catastrophes


Every year there are strong river floods, dam breaks, earthquakes, stormsб hurricanes, forest and peat fires around the globe.

Each natural disaster, accident and catastrophe has its own characteristics, the nature of damage, the volume and scale of destruction, the magnitude of disasters and human losses. Each leaves its mark on the environment in its own way.

Knowledge of the causes and nature of these disasters makes it possible to significantly reduce all types of losses by adopting protection measures and educating the population how to behave correctly in an emergency.

One of the main problems that comes to the fore today is the correct forecasting of the occurrence and development of natural disasters, early warning of both the authorities and the population about the approaching danger. It is very important and extremely necessary to work on all-round localization of natural disasters in order to narrow the zone of destruction, to provide timely assistance to the victims.

Where natural disasters, accidents and catastrophes are opposed by high organization, clear and thoughtful measures of federal and local authorities, departments and units of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, specialized forces and means of other ministries and departments, combined with skillful actions of the population, there is a decrease in human losses and material damage, more effectively measures are taken to eliminate their consequences.

This was clearly confirmed by a major earthquake in Chile, Indonesia, Armenia, Japan, Alaska, and Russia.

Advance information makes it possible to carry out preventive work, to alert forces and means, to explain to people the rules of conduct.

The entire population should be ready to act in extreme situations, to participate in the elimination of natural disasters, accidents and catastrophes, to be able to master the methods of providing first aid to the victims.

What are natural disasters? What are their features? What should people do in emergency situations? Everything is explained below.

Natural disasters

These are dangerous natural phenomena or processes of geophysical, geological, hydrological, atmospheric and other origin on such a scale that cause catastrophic situations characterized by a sudden disruption of the life of the population, the destruction of material values, the defeat and death of people and animals.

Earthquakes, floods, massive forest and peat fires, mudflows and landslides, storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, snow drifts, icing are the real scourge of mankind. They have claimed more than 3 million human lives in the last 20 years alone. Almost 1 billion inhabitants of our planet, according to the UN, experienced the consequences of natural disasters during this period.


These are underground shocks (tremors) and vibrations of the earth’s surface caused by natural processes occurring in the earth’s crust.

The projection of the center of the earthquake source on the earth’s surface is called the epicenter. Earthquake sources occur at various depths, mostly 20-30 km from the surface. According to their intensity (the manifestation of the forces of nature on the surface), earthquakes are divided into 12 gradations – points.

As a rule, they cover vast territories. The integrity of the soil is often violated, buildings and structures are destroyed, water pipes, sewers, communication lines, electricity and gas supply fail, there are human casualties. This is one of the worst natural disasters. According to UNESCO, earthquakes are ranked first in terms of economic damage and the number of human casualties.

When an earthquake occurs underwater, huge waves are created – tsunamis. Sometimes their height reaches 60 m (16-storey building), causing huge destruction on land.

Earthquakes occur unexpectedly, and although the duration of the main shock does not exceed a few seconds, its consequences are tragic.

It is not yet possible to accurately predict the onset of an earthquake. The forecast is justified in 80 cases and is indicative. But Siberian scientists predicted an earthquake in Japan quite accurately. They came to the conclusion that a terrible natural disaster with a force of 7 points could occur in Japan from January 10 to January 12, 1995. As it turned out, scientists were mistaken in terms of about 5 days, and in the strength of an earthquake – only 0.2 points. Their observations indicate a sharp increase in seismic activity throughout the planet, starting on January 4th.

The greatest damage is done to stone, brick, reinforced concrete and earthen buildings. That is why they are so terrible for cities and other large settlements.

On December 7, a 1988 Armenia earthquake led to an unusually large number of victims – due to the poor quality of the houses built.

What should you do in case of an earthquake?

If the first shocks caught you at home (on the ground floor), you should immediately take the children and run out into the street as soon as possible. At your disposal no more than 15 – 20 seconds. Those who ended up on the second and subsequent floors should stand in the doorways and balcony openings, opening the doors and hugging the child to themselves. Or you can hide under the table, bed, in a wardrobe, covering your face with your hands in order not to get hurt by pieces of plaster, glass, dishes, paintings, lamps. You can use the corners formed by the main walls, narrow corridors inside the building, stand near the supporting columns, because these places are the strongest. There are more chances to remain unharmed. Never jump from windows or balconies.

As soon as the shocks stop, immediately go outside, away from the building, to a free area.

Make sure that no one uses the elevator. It can stop at any moment – and people will get stuck, and this is very dangerous.

If the first shocks caught you on the street, move away from buildings, structures, fences and poles immediately – they can fall and crush you.

Remember, aftershocks may follow after the first. Be prepared for this yourself and warn those around you. This can be expected in a few hours, and sometimes days.

Do not approach establishments with flammable, explosive and highly toxic substances. Don’t stand on bridges. Do not touch the wires – they may be live.
At the moment of destruction, flying bricks, glass, cornices, decorations, lighting fixtures, signboards, road signs, and poles are also dangerous.

Earthquakes are typically accompanied by fires caused by gas leaks or shorted electrical wires.

What can be done to minimize losses?

  1. First, think over and know your rules of conduct and actions in advance. Maintain order, discipline and self-control.
  2. Secondly, do not clutter up corridors, passages, stairwells. There should be no shelves and heavy paintings in the bedroom above the beds.
  3. Thirdly, everyone is obliged to take part in rescue work immediately, but at the same time remember the precautions, because fragments may be dislodged.


This is a temporary flooding of a significant part of the land with water as a result of the actions of the forces of nature. They happen for three reasons.

First, as a result of heavy rainfall or intense snowmelt.

Secondly, because of the strong blowing winds that are observed on the sea coasts. The surging wind retains water in the mouth, as a result of which its level in the river rises.

Thirdly, underwater earthquakes. There are giant waves – tsunami. The speed of their propagation reaches 400 – 800 km / h. They hit the coast with colossal force, washing away everything in their path.

Tsunamis occur mainly around the rim of the Pacific Ocean associated with a series of volcanoes and deep-ocean trenches known as the “Ring of Fire”. 10 worst tsunamis in history occured in Indonesia, Japan,Portugal, Indonesia, and Japan.

There is the increasing threat of flooding. What should I do?

When there is a threat of flooding, preventive measures are taken to reduce damage and create conditions for effective rescue operations. First of all, it is necessary to inform the population about the emergence of a threat, strengthen monitoring of the water level, and alert forces and means. The condition of dams, bridges, locks is checked, the identified shortcomings are eliminated. Additional embankments and dams are being erected, drainage ditches are being dug, and other hydraulic structures are being prepared.

We must remember that time is short and it must be used with maximum benefit.

If the threat of flooding increases, then the work of enterprises, organizations, schools and preschool institutions in the proposed flood zone will be stopped. Children are sent home or transferred to safe places. Food, valuables, clothes, shoes are transferred to the upper floors of buildings, to attics, and as the water rises, to roofs. Cattle are driven to elevated places.

A decision may be made to evacuate from the danger zone, then children, children’s institutions and hospitals are taken out first.

The flood has become a fact. How to carry out rescue work and what precautions to take

Evacuation is one of the ways to save people’s lives. For this, all available watercraft are used: boats, barges, rafts, amphibious vehicles. During the movement, it is forbidden to change places, sit on the sides, push. After mooring, one of the adults goes ashore and holds the boat overboard until everyone is on land.

When there are no boats, you need to use what is nearby at hand – barrels, logs, wooden shields and doors, fragments of fences, car tires and other items that can keep a person on the water. Children should not be allowed to go on such a voyage alone. There must be adults nearby.

What if the water caught you in a field or in a forest? What should you do? It is urgent to go to elevated places, and in the forest – to climb strong, spreading trees.

It is better to swim up to a drowning person from the back. Approaching, take him/her by the head, shoulders, arms, collar, turn his/her face up and swim to the shore, working with his/her free hand and legs.

If you have a boat, you should approach the person in distress against the current, in windy weather – against the wind and water flow. It is best to pull a person out of the water from the stern. Having delivered him/her to the shore, immediately begin to provide first aid.

Forest fires

Up to 80% of fires occur due to the violation of fire safety measures by the population when handling fire in places of work and rest, as well as as a result of the use of faulty equipment in the forest. It happens that the forest lights up from lightning during a thunderstorm.

By the nature, the fires are divided into grassroots, underground and riding. Most often, ground fires occur – up to 90% of the total. In this case, the fire spreads only over the ground cover, covering the lower parts of trees, grass and protruding roots.

With a crown runaway fire, which starts only with a strong wind, the fire usually moves along the crowns of trees in “jumps”. The wind carries sparks, burning branches and needles, which create new hearths for several tens or even hundreds of meters. The flame moves at a speed of 15 – 20 km / h.

In the world, this disaster is most widespread in Russia, California, Brazil, Canada, and Australia

Areas where forest fires are raging are usually declared a “disaster zone”.

What to do if a forest fire starts

Flooding the edge of a fire is the simplest and at the same time quite effective way to extinguish weak and medium fires. To do this, use bunches of branches 1-2 m long or small trees, mostly hardwoods. A group of 3-5 people in 40-50 minutes can extinguish a fire edge up to 1000 m long by flooding.

In cases where the flooding of the fire does not give the desired effect, it is possible to throw the edge of the fire with loose soil. Of course, it is better when this is done with the help of technology.

In order for the fire not to spread further, earth strips and wide ditches are arranged along the path of its movement. When the fire reaches such an obstacle, it stops: it has nowhere else to spread.

It is possible that the fire is getting closer and closer to the village or other settlement located in the forest. What should you do? The main thing is to evacuate the bulk of the population, especially children, women and the elderly. The withdrawal or removal of people is carried out in a direction perpendicular to the spread of fire. You should move not only along the roads, but also along the rivers and streams, and sometimes along the water itself. It is advisable to cover your mouth and nose with a wet cotton-gauze bandage, scarf, towel. Do not forget to take documents, money and essential things with you.

Remember, fire is merciless. The main thing is to prevent a fire.

Mudflows and landslides

Mudflow is a temporary stream of water that suddenly forms in the channels of mountain rivers with a high content of stones, sand and other solid materials. The reason for its occurrence is intense and prolonged downpours, rapid melting of snow or glaciers.

Unlike ordinary streams, mudflow usually moves in separate waves, and not in a continuous stream. At the same time, a huge amount of viscous mass is carried out. The size of individual boulders and debris reaches 3-4 m in diameter. When encountering obstacles, mudflow passes through them, continuing to build up its energy.

Mudflows typically occur in Japan, Greece, Iran, Jordan, Russia, Bolivia, China, and Canada.

Having a large mass and high speed of movement (up to 15 km/h), mudflows destroy buildings, roads, hydraulic and other structures, disable communication lines, power transmission lines, and lead to the death of people and animals. All this lasts a very short time – 1-3 hours. The time from the beginning of its occurrence in the mountains to the moment it enters the plains is 20-30 minutes.

What measures are being taken to reduce losses?

They fix the surface of the earth with plantings, expand the vegetation cover on the mountain slopes, arrange anti-mudflow dams, dams and other protective structures.

For the timely adoption of measures, the organization of reliable protection of the population, a clear warning and warning system is of paramount importance. In such cases, there is very little time, and the population can learn about the impending danger in just tens of minutes, less often in 1-2 hours or more. The main thing is to immediately leave the probable flood zone to more elevated places.

A landslide is a sliding displacement of earthen masses under the action of its own weight. It occurs most often along the banks of rivers and reservoirs, on mountain slopes. The main reason for their occurrence is excessive saturation of clay rocks with underground waters.

A landslide can also be caused by an earthquake. As is often the case in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Is it possible to predict the beginning of a landslide? Yes, it is. A landslide is never sudden. First, cracks appear in the ground, breaks in roads and coastal fortifications, buildings, structures, trees, telegraph poles are displaced, underground communications are destroyed. It is very important to notice these first signs and make a correct forecast. The landslide moves with a maximum speed only in the initial period, then it gradually decreases. Most often, landslides occur in autumn and spring, when it rains the most.

And what should you do if the landslide begins? The first and most important thing is to warn the population. People need to know what is happening, how to act, what needs to be done at home. Educational institutions, as a rule, stop working. Second, people are evacuated to safe areas.

In case of destruction of buildings and structures, rescue and other urgent work is carried out.

Hurricanes, storms, tornadoes

This is extremely fast and strong air movement, which is often highly destructive and lasting. The speed of a hurricane reaches 30 m/s or more. It is one of the powerful forces of the elements and in its detrimental effect can be compared with an earthquake.

A hurricane wind destroys strong and demolishes light buildings, devastates fields, breaks wires, knocks down power and communication poles, breaks and uproots trees, sinks ships, and damages transport routes.

Storms are a type of hurricanes and tornadoes.

Hurricanes, tornadoes and storms most often occur in in the Great Plains of the central United States.

The deadliest tornado ever happened on March 18, 1925. It is called the Tri-State Tornado because it occurred in three different states: Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. The F5 tornado stretched for 219 miles across these three states and lasted for 3.5 hours and killed 695 people.

Hurricane Patricia was the strongest tropical cyclone on record worldwide in terms of wind speed.

A hurricane, a storm, a tornado are approaching. What should you do?

The hydrometeorological service typically gives a storm warning a few hours in advance. Doors, attic rooms, dormer windows should be closed. Glue glass with strips of paper or cloth. Remove things from balconies, loggias, window sills that can cause injury to people. Turn off the gas, put out the fire in the furnaces. Prepare emergency lighting – lanterns, candles. Create a supply of water and food for 2-3 days. Put medicines and dressings in a safe and visible place. Keep radios and televisions constantly on: various messages and orders can be transmitted.

Move people from light buildings to solid buildings. Beware of injury from glass and other flying objects. If you find yourself in an open area, it is best to take cover in a ditch, pit, ravine, any recess: lie down on the bottom and cling tightly to the ground.

Industrial accidents and disasters

An industrial accident is a damage to a machine, equipment, building, structure. There are accidents in utility networks, industrial enterprises. If these incidents are not so significant and did not entail serious human casualties, they are usually classified as accidents.

A catastrophe is a major accident with a large loss of life, i.e. an event with very tragic consequences.

The main criterion in the difference between accidents and catastrophes is the severity of the consequences and the presence of human casualties.

As a result of industrial accidents, explosions and fires are possible, and their consequences are destruction and damage to buildings, structures, machinery and equipment, flooding of the territory, failure of communication lines, energy and utility networks.

They are most frequent at enterprises producing, using or storing highly toxic substances. Accidents result in explosions and fires.

During explosions, the shock wave not only leads to destruction but also to human casualties. The degree and nature of the destruction depends, in addition to the power of the explosion, on the technical condition of the structures, the nature of the building and the terrain.

Businesses where hydrocarbon gases (methane, ethane, propane) are used in large quantities are most likely to experience explosions. Boilers in boiler houses, gas equipment, products and semi-finished products of chemical plants, gasoline vapors and other components, flour in mills, dust in elevators, powdered sugar in sugar factories, wood dust in woodworking enterprises explode.

Explosions are possible in residential areas when people forget to turn off the gas.

Explosions on gas pipelines occur due to poor control over their condition and non-compliance with safety requirements during their operation

Explosions of firedamp in mines lead to serious consequences, causing fires, landslides, flooding with groundwater.

Sudden collapses of buildings, bridges, and other engineering structures bring great material damage, and in some cases human casualties. The reasons are errors in research and design, poor quality of construction work. On March 23, 1993, one of the workshops of the Bratsk aluminum plant turned into ruins. Under the rubble of the building were 14 night shift workers.

Fires occur everywhere: at industrial enterprises, agricultural facilities, educational institutions, preschool institutions, residential buildings.

They arise during the transportation of fuel by all modes of transport: self-propelled-burning chemicals such as turpentine, camphor, naphthalene. In the process of burning foam rubber, poisonous smoke is released, which leads to dangerous poisoning.

In the production process, under certain conditions, wood, coal, peat, aluminum, flour, grain dust, as well as cotton, flax, and hemp dust become dangerous and ignite.

Every 2-3 minutes a fire breaks out in the globe. Every year, billions of dollars worth of valuables turn into smoke and ashes. Every hour, 1 person is killed in a fire and about 20 are burned and injured.

In the event of a catastrophe and a major accident, it is very important to promptly notify and organize the protection of workers and employees, all in the vicinity of the population that is in danger.

First of all, it is necessary to organize rescue operations, provide the injured with first aid and deliver them to medical institutions.

After reconnaissance of the affected areas of the object, localization and extinguishing of fires are organized, and measures are taken to prevent further destruction.

Separate structures that threaten to fall, collapse or, on the contrary, strengthen, carry out urgent work on public utilities. At the same time, compliance with safety requirements is of great importance. For example, it is forbidden to unnecessarily walk through the rubble, enter destroyed buildings, carry out work near structures that threaten to collapse. Do not touch bare wires and various electrical devices.

The area for rescue and restoration work must be fenced, guards and observers must be posted in a timely manner.

As a result of an accident or catastrophe, flammable and corrosive liquids can spread. This must be taken into account when organizing work.

The most characteristic types of injuries in accidents and catastrophes are wounds, bruises, bone fractures, ruptures and crushing of tissues, electric shock, burns, and poisoning.

Railway transport accidents

The main causes of accidents and disasters are malfunctions of the track, rolling stock, signaling, centralization and blocking means, dispatcher errors, inattention and negligence of drivers.

Most often, rolling stock derailment, collisions, collisions with obstacles at crossings, fires and explosions directly in the cars occur. Washout of railway tracks, landslides, floods are not excluded. When transporting dangerous goods, such as gases, flammable, explosive, caustic, poisonous and radioactive substances, explosions, fires of tanks and other wagons occur. It is quite difficult to eliminate such accidents.

Unfortunately, the number of accidents in railway transport is not decreasing in the globe. Every year up to 3 thousand people die, property is destroyed, the state suffers huge losses.

Car accidents and disasters

The causes of road traffic accidents can be very different. First of all, these are violations of traffic rules, a technical malfunction of a car, speeding, insufficient training of people driving cars, their weak reaction, and low emotional stability.

Often the cause of accidents and disasters is driving a car by persons in a state of intoxication. Serious traffic accidents result from non-compliance with the rules for the transport of dangerous goods and the failure to comply with the necessary safety requirements.

Another cause of road accidents is poor road conditions. Sometimes on the roadway you can see open hatches, unfenced and unlit areas of repair work, and the absence of danger signs. All this together leads to huge losses.

According to the World Health Organization, about 100,000 people die and over 200,000 are seriously injured in road traffic accidents in Western Europe each year. The numbers are terrifying. And the number of accidents is not reduced yet.

In a car accident, it is necessary to provide first aid to the victims in a timely manner. And this should be done during the first 20 minutes. Otherwise it will be too late.

The driver and passengers are most often injured in the head, limbs and chest from impacts with door structures, the steering column, the front wall of the body and the windshield. Additional injuries are caused by objects in the car. Pedestrians receive the most damage from bumpers, fenders, headlights, and hoods. About 60% of all injuries are the result of a secondary impact on the roadway, a curbstone.

What should you do? Every driver of a passing car, every pedestrian must immediately take all possible measures to save people, provide them with the very first medical aid, especially to stop bleeding. Employees of the traffic police, emergency medical and technical assistance are called to the scene of the incident. The crash site is protected by warning signs.

After providing first aid to them, the injured are transported to the nearest medical institutions.

The main work in case of major car accidents is carried out by special teams with truck cranes, technical assistance vehicles with metal cutting devices, rack jacks, wedges, grosses and other necessary tools.

To eliminate the consequences of accidents with vehicles carrying chemically dangerous, explosive, poisonous, radioactive substances, specialized non-military civil defense formations, fire fighting forces are involved.