Charles County is not immune from severe weather, natural and/or man made disaster/emergency events. Such events include, but are not limited to, hurricanes, severe storms, power outages, fires, tornadoes, earthquakes, flooding, snowstorms, and public health outbreaks. We know that being prepared for emergencies can help save lives, reduce the impact and help us deal with the stress. Start preparing yourselves and your family for emergencies.
A flash flood is a rapid rise of water along a stream or low-lying area. Flash floods and floods are the #1 cause of deaths associated with thunderstorms.
Terms to know
FLASH FLOOD WARNING: A Flash Flooding Warning is issued when a flash flood is imminent or occurring. A flash flood is a sudden violent flood that can take from minutes to hours to develop.
FLOOD WARNING: A Flood Warning is issued when the hazardous weather event is imminent or already happening.
FLOOD WATCH: A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for a specific hazards to occur.
BEFORE the flood:
- A watch is issued when flooding is possible. When a flood watch is issued, you should be award of potential flood hazardous.
- Review your emergency plan. If you don't have one, this is the time to make one.
- Know your flood risk and the elevation above which flooding occurs. Know your evacuation routes.
- Determine if the roads your normally travel to reach your home or job have the possibility of flooding. If so, look for alternative routes to travel.
- Fill up your vehicle.
DURING the flood:
- DON'T drive through a flooded road. The depth of the water is not always obvious. The road bed may be washed out.
- Never try to walk, swim, drive, or play in flood waters. You may not be able to see how fast the flood water is moving or see holes or submerged debris.
- DON'T drive around a barricade. Barricades are there for your protection.
- Children should NEVER play around high water, or storm drains.
AFTER the flood:
- If fresh or canned food has come in contact with flood waters, throw it out.
- Take steps to reduce your risk of future floods.
- Watch out for debris. Floodwaters often erode roads and walkways.
- Avoid standing water as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
A typical thunderstorm lasts an average of 30 minutes. Despite their size, ALL thunderstorms are dangerous. Thunderstorms can feature damaging winds, lightning, hail flooding and an occasional tornado.
- Review your emergency plan. If you don't have one, this is the time to make one.
- Remove dead or rotting trees and branches.
- Think about postponing outdoor activities.
- Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
- Unplug any electronic equipment well before the storm arrives or plugging them into a surge protector.
- Listen to radio, TV or NOAA weather radio for updates.
- Avoid contact with corded phones and devices including those plugged in. Cordless and wireless phones not connected to wall outlets are OK to use.
- Get inside a hard building or hard top vehicle.
- Stay indoors and away from windows.
- Never drive through a flooded roadway. TURN AROUND DON'T DROWN!
- Stay away from downed power lines and report then immediately.
- Stay away from storm-damaged areas.
Lightning is one of the most underrated severe weather hazards, yet ranks as one of the top weather killers in the United States. If thunder is heard, then the storm is close enough for a lightning strike.
What you might not know about lightning:
- All thunderstorms produce lightning and are dangerous. In the United States, in an average year, lightning kills about the same number of people as tornadoes and more people than hurricanes.
- Lightning often strikes outside the area of heavy rain and may strike as far as 10 miles from any rainfall. Many lightning deaths occur ahead of storms or after storms have passed.
- If you hear thunder, you are in danger. Don't be fooled by blue skies. If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to pose an immediate threat.
- There is NO safe place OUTDOORS. Almost all fatalities related to lightning have occurred during outdoor activities such as swimming, camping, fishing, golfing, sporting events, etc.
Avoid the lightning threat:
- Have a lightning safety plan. Know where you'll go for safety and how much time it will take to get there. Make sure your plan allows enough time to reach safety.
- Postpone outdoor activities. Before going outdoors, check the forecast for thunderstorms. Consider postponing activities to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.
- Monitor the weather. Look for signs of a developing thunderstorm such as darkening skies, flashes of lightning, or increasing wind.
- Go to a safe place. If you hear thunder, even a distant rumble, immediately move to a safe place. When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors! Fully enclosed buildings provide the best protection. Sheds, picnic shelters, tents or covered porches do not protect you from lightning. If a sturdy building is not nearby, get into a hard-topped metal vehicle and close all the windows. Stay inside until 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder.
- Keep away from electrical equipment, wiring, and water pipes. Do NOT take a bath, shower, or use other plumbing during a thunderstorm.
Hail is precipitation that is formed when updrafts in thunderstorms carry raindrops upward into extremely cold areas of the atmosphere. Hail can be as small as the size of a pea or as large as a softball. Hail is larger than sleet, and forms only in thunderstorms.
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from a cumuliform cloud, such as a thunderstorm, to the ground. Tornadoes may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms within the funnel. The average tornado moves from southwest to northeast, but tornadoes can move in any direction and can suddenly change their direction of motion.
Terms to Know
Tornado Watch Weather conditions favor thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes.
Tornado Warning - A tornado is occurring or will shortly. SEEK SHELTER NOW!
Tornado Safety Rules
The safest place to be is an underground shelter, basement, or safe rooms.
- At home with basement. Go to the basement. Avoid windows. Know where heavy objects rest on the floor above such as refrigerators, pianos, etc. and avoid hanging out in those areas. They may fall through the floor.
- At home with no basement, a dorm, or an apartment. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down and cover your head with your hands.
- In an office building, hospital, or nursing home. Go to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building on the lowest floor possible. Stay off the elevators.
- In a mobile home. GET OUT! Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes. Go the nearest sturdy building immediately.
- At school. Follow the drill! Go the interior hall or windowless room. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.
- Outdoors. If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face down on low ground. Cover your head with your hands. Get as far away from trees and cars since they can blow on you. Sheds and storage facilities are safe.
- In a shopping mall or large store. Don't Panic. Move quickly to an interior bathroom, storage room, or other small enclosed area away from windows.
- In a church or theater. Don't Panic. Move quickly to an interior bathroom or hallway away from windows.
- In a vehicle. Vehicles are extremely risky in a tornado.
- Immediately seek shelter in a sturdy building if you have the time.
- If you are caught with extreme winds or flying debris, park the car. Keep your seatbelt on, put your head down below the windows, and cover your head with hands, blanket, coat, or cushion.
- If you can safety get out of your vehicle, lay in a low lying area that's lower than the level of the roadway, such as a ditch or ravine. Cover your head with your hands.
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.
Terms to know
HURRICANE OR TROPICAL STORM WATCH: Hurricane conditions are possible within the specified coastal area. The watch is issued 48 hours in advance of anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.
HURRICANE OR TROPICAL STORM WARNING: Hurricane conditions are expected in the specified area. The warning is issued 36 hours in advance of anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.
STORM SURGE: An abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tides. Storm surge is produced by water being pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds moving cyclonically around the storm.
BEFORE the Hurricane:
- Determine safe evacuation routes inland.
- Review and practice emergency plans.
- Check emergency equipment, such as flashlights, generators, and battery-powered NOAA weather radio and cell phone.
- Look at the expiration dates on the food and water stored in your emergency kit. If you don't have an emergency kit, this is the time to create one.
- Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downsprouts.
- Trim trees and shrubbery.
- Decide to where to move your boat in an emergency.
- Bring in all yard items such as furniture, toys, bird baths, bird feeders, and grills.
- Do NOT drain your pool. Super chlorinate the water and turn off all electricity to the pool for the duration of the storm.
- Fuel and service your vehicles and generators.
- Get cash out.
- Fill bathtub and large containers/pots with water in case tap water is unavailable. Use water in bathtubs for cleaning and flushing only. DO NOT drink it.
DURING the Storm:
- Listen to radio, TV or NOAA weather radio for current emergency information.
- Make sure your emergency supplies are out and ready.
- Stay indoors unless you are told to evacuate.
AFTER the Storm:
- Keep listening to radio, TV or NOAA weather radio.
- Watch for closed roads. If your come upon a barricade or flooded road, TURN AROUND DON"T DROWN!
- If you were told to evacuate, wait until an area is declared safe before entering.
- DO NOT touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water.
Types of damage
4 to 5 ft
6 to 8 ft
9 to 12 ft
13 – 18 ft
LOOK BEFORE YOU LOCK! Please Keep Children Safe. . .
Nearly 40 children die every year when they are left in vehicles. All these deaths can be prevented.
Terms to Know
Excessive Heat Warning - Issued within 12 hours of the onset of extremely dangerous heat conditions. The heat index temperature is expected to be 105 F or higher for at least 2 days and night time air temperature will not drop below 75 F.
Excessive Heat Watch - Issued when conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event in the next 24 to 72 hours.
Heat Advisory - Issued within 12 hours of the onset of extremely dangerous heat conditions. The heat index temperature is expected to be 100 F or higher for at least 2 days and night time temperature will not drop below 75 F.
- Drink plenty of water. Avoid caffeine or sugary drinks.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing. Avoid dark colors since they absorb the sun's rays.
- Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Take frequent breaks,
- Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
- Postpone outdoor games and activities.
- Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun.
To report a power outage, call 1-877-747-6326 (SMECO).
PREPARING for an Outage:
- Place the generator outside, not in the house, crawl space, basement, or attached garage. Make sure your generator is connected safety; an improperly connected generator can cause serious injury or death. When your power comes back on, turn off and disconnect your generator immediately.
- Keep flashlights and extra batteries where they can be found easily. Lanterns and candles are NOT recommended because they can cause fires.
- If someone in your household depends on electricity to operate life support systems, make plans for alternate source of power or alternate lodging.
- Stock emergency food ideally nonperishable foods. DO NOT stock your refrigerator or freezer with foods since they may perish during an outage.
- If your water is supplied by a well, store extra water in clean jugs, bathtubs, or laundry tubs.
- Cordless phones DO NOT work without electricity.
- Keep a battery-powered radio with fresh batteries and stay turned to local news bulletins and weather reports.
- Fill up your car's gas tank.
- Maintain a supply of cash. Credit cards and ATM machines may not work if the power is out.
DURING an Outage:
- Turn off all major appliances in your home, especially the heat pump. This will prevent damage to the appliances once the power is restored. Try not to turn everything back on at once.
- Make sure the oven and stove is off to prevent fires if the power comes back on while you're away.
- Leave the freezer and refrigerator closed so food will stay cold longer.
- NEVER touched downed power lines or attempt to remove trees from power lines. Report downed power lines to SMECO immediately at 1-888-440-3311.
Winter weather create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion. Winter storms and blizzards can bring extreme cold, freezing rain, snow, ice, and high winds.
Terms to Know
Winter Storm Warning: Snow, sleet, or ice expected. Take Action! Confidence is high that a winter storm will produce heavy snow, sleet, or freezing rain and cause significant impacts.
Winter Storm Watch: Snow, sleet, or ice possible. Be Prepared. Confidence is medium that a winter storm could produce heavy snow, sleet, or freezing rain and cause significant impacts.
Winter Weather Advisory: Wintery weather expected. Exercise Caution. Light amounts of wintery precipitation or patchy blowing snow will cause slick conditions and could affect travel.
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: The temperature it "feels like" when you're outside. A measure of how cold people feel due to the combined effect of wind and cold temperature.
Blizzard Warning: Sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour or greater and considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow are expected to prevail for a period of 3 hours or more.
BEFORE snowstorms or extreme cold
- Add rock salt, sand, snow shovels, sufficient heating fuel, and adequate clothing and blankets to your emergency kit at home.
- Update your vehicle emergency kits for winter months.
- Review generator safety. You should NEVER run a generator in an enclosed space.
- Winterize your vehicle.
- Have your chimney cleaned and inspected.
DURING snowstorms or extreme cold
- Stay indoors during the storm.
- Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow.
- Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent loss of body heat.
- Dress warmly with layers.
- Maintain ventilation when using kerosene heaters to avoid build-up of toxic fumes. Refuel kerosene heaters outside and keep them at least three feet from flammable objects.
AFTER snowstorms or extreme cold
- Black ice is patchy ice on roadways that cannot easily be seen. Even if roadways have been cleared of snow following a storm, any water left on the roadways may freeze resulting in a clear sheet of ice.
- Potholes are a common road hazard and can be difficult to see.
- Brush all the snow or ice off the car so it doesn't fall on your windshield or fly onto other vehicles.
- Leave extra time for blocked, closed or icy roads.
Earthquakes are sudden rolling or shaking events caused by movement under the earth's surface. Earthquakes happen along cracks in the earth's surface called fault lines. Earthquakes cannot be predicted.
What to do during an Earthquake:
If you are inside a building:
- DO NOT run outside. DO NOT get in a doorway, as this does not provide protection from falling or flying objects, and you may not be able to remain standing.
- Drop down onto your hands and knees so the earthquake doesn't knock you down. Drop to the ground.
- Cover your head and neck with your arms to protect yourself from falling objects.
- If you are in danger from falling objects and you can move safely, crawl for additional coverage under a sturdy desk or table.
- Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors, and walls, and anything that could fall, such as light fixtures or furniture.
- Hold on to any sturdy covering as you can move with it until the shaking stops.
If getting safety to the floor to take cover won't be possible:
- Identify an inside corner of the room away from windows and objects that could fall on you. People who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices should lock their wheels and remain seated until the shaking stops. Protect your head and neck with your arms, a pillow, a book, or whatever is available.
If you are in bed when you feel the shaking:
- Stay there and cover your head and neck with a pillow. At night, hazards and debris are difficult to see and avoid; attempts to move in the dark could result in other injuries.
If you are outside when you feel the shaking:
- Move away from buildings, streetlight, and utility wires. Once in the open, "Drop, Cover, and Hold On." This might not be possible in a city so you may need to duck inside a building to avoid falling debris.
If you are in a moving vehicle when you feel the shaking:
- Stop as quickly and safely as possible and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that the earthquakes may have damaged.
Did you know that if a fire starts in your home, you may have as little as two minutes to escape?
Tips for fire safety:
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms, and outside sleeping areas.
- Test smoke alarms every month and change the batteries every six months. Newer smoke alarms may have a 10-year lithium battery that doesn't need to be replaced every six months.
- Make sure you have a fire extinguisher.
- Create and practice a fire escape plan. Find two ways to get out of each room in the event the primary way is blocked by fire or smoke.
In case of a fire:
- Crawl low under any smoke to exit.
- Shout "FIRE" as you're exiting to signal to others.
- If closed doors or handles are warm or smoke blocks your way out, use a second way out. Never open doors that are warm to the touch.
- If you can't get out, close the door and cover vents and cracks around the doors with cloths or tape.
- GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL 9-1-1!!!!!
- Let 9-1-1 know if there are people still inside.
- If you have any pets inside the home, tell firefighters as soon as they get there.
If your clothes catch on fire:
- STOP what you're doing.
- DROP to the ground and cover your face.
- ROLL over and over or back and forth until the flames go out.
- Once the flames are out, cool the burned skin with water for three to five minutes.