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Landslides and Mudslides

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

Landslides Severe WeatherSevere Weather: Landslides & Mudslides

Part 3 in a 3-Part Series

Weather-related disasters lead to devastating loss of life and cost billions of dollars each year. The first post in our three-part series about severe weather disasters focused on extreme heat. The second entry discussed floods. This last post will tackle landslides and mudslides, since they so often accompany other severe-weather events.  (more…)

How to Prepare for and Recover from a Mudslide

Monday, March 24th, 2014

House buried under lavaWeeks of heavy rain in the Pacific Northwest have wreaked havoc on roads and structures. Particularly troubling are the massive mudslides which hit Washington State, leaving (as of the date of this writing) 176 missing and at least 14 dead and destroying 30 homes. According to the New York Daily News, “The rescue mission was halted as darkness set in on Sunday because conditions were deemed too dangerous.”

As search and rescue efforts continue, we would like to resume our severe weather series by focusing this week’s blog post on one of the associated risks of severe weather such as rain and snow—mudslides.

Facts about Mudslides

  • Occur when masses of rock, earth, or debris move down a slope.
  • Can accompany heavy rains or follow droughts, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or fast snowmelts.
  • May result from rapidly accumulating water which saturates rock, earth and debris.
  • Usually start at the top of steep slopes.
  • Slopes which are particularly vulnerable include any area where wildfires or human modification of the land have destroyed vegetation, during and after heavy rains.
  • In the U.S., landslides and debris flows result in 25 to 50 deaths each year.
  • Associated hazards include broken electrical, water, gas, and sewage lines that can result in injury or illness; and disrupted roadways and railways that can endanger motorists and disrupt transport and access to health care.
  • The consistency of debris flow can range from thin or thick mud to rocky mud that can forcefully carry large items.
  • When flows reach flat ground, the debris typically spreads over a broad area, and can accumulate in thick deposits that can wreak havoc in developed areas.
  • Every year, landslides in the U.S. cause roughly $3.5 billion in damage.
  • Mudslides can travel several miles from their source, growing in size as they pick up trees, boulders, cars and other materials.

Mudslide-Prone Areas

  • Steep slopes and areas at the bottom of slopes or canyons;
  • Spots where landslides have occurred before.
  • Slopes that have been altered for construction of buildings and roads;
  • Channels along a stream or river; and
  • Areas where surface runoff is directed.

How to Prepare for a Mudslide

  • Recognize landslide warning signs before they happen so you know what to do when they happen.
  • Before the first raindrop falls, assume that steep slopes and areas burned by wildfires are vulnerable to landslides and debris flows.
  • Contact local authorities to help determine whether landslides or debris flow have occurred previously in your area.
  • Develop emergency and evacuation plans for your family and business.
  • Find out about local emergency and evacuation plans, so you’ll know where to go and what to do if you are caught in a mudslide.

What to do During a Mudslide:

  • Once the storm starts, look for tilted trees, telephone poles, fences, or walls, and for new holes or bare spots on hillsides.
  • Avoid river valleys and low-lying areas.
  • Stay awake and alert.
  • Watch TV or listen to the radio for warnings about intense rainfall and for information and instructions from officials.
  • Be aware of sudden increases or decrease in water level on a stream or creek that might indicate debris flow upstream. Remember; a trickle of flowing mud may precede a larger flow.
  • Listen for rumbling sounds that might indicate an approaching landslide or mudflow.
  • If you are out and about in a storm, be alert while you’re driving. Roads may become blocked or closed due to collapsed pavement or debris.
  • If landslide or debris flow danger is imminent, quickly move away from the path of the slide.
  • Evacuate! Get out of the path of a debris flow. Move to high ground, away from the path. If rocks and debris are approaching, run for shelter and take cover.
  • If you can’t escape, curl into a tight ball and protect your head.
  • Don’t forget about your neighbors. They may not be aware of potential hazards. Advising them about potential threats could save their life.

How to Recover from a Landslide

  • Stay away from the mudslide site, since flooding and additional slides may occur after the initial landslide. Floods can follow landslides and debris flow because they may have occurred as a result of the same event.
  • If it is possible to do so without entering the path of the mudslide, check for injured or trapped people near the affected area.
  • Listen to the radio or TV for emergency information.
  • Report broken utility lines to authorities.
  • Check the building foundation, chimney, and surrounding land for damage. Damage to foundations, chimneys, or surrounding land may help you assess the safety of the area.
  • Replant damaged ground as soon as possible since erosion caused by loss of ground cover can lead to flash flooding and additional landslides in the near future.
  • Seek advice from a geotechnical expert for evaluating landslide hazards or designing corrective techniques to reduce landslide risk. A professional will be able to advise you of the best ways to prevent or reduce landslide risk, without creating further hazard.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The best way to prepare for severe weather is to be aware. The Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

The CDC, Emergency Kits, and …..Zombies?!

Monday, May 30th, 2011
cartoon image of zombie in shadows of trees

Make sure you are prepared for everything--even zombies!

When you think about preparing for an emergency, you likely worry about threats that occur in your area. Californians contend with fires, mudslides and the specter of big quakes. East Coasters have hurricanes, floods, and damaging thunderstorms. But one threat can affect everyone from San Francisco through Topeka and beyond to Jacksonville. Zombies. Yep, brain-eating zombies who are bent on destruction.

Few scary scenarios capture popular culture quite like zombies. In real life, some individuals such as this man profiled by National Geographic Television view zombies and a possible outbreak as real scenarios that deserve proper planning. There even exists a book called “The
Zombie Survival Guide

Wait. Isn’t this blog about disaster planning? Well, the CDC has a current campaign that warns of the coming “Zombie Apocalypse.” Citizens are encouraged to plan for “zombies” by taking certain initiatives. While the premise is silly, the CDC is using thoughts of a zombie takeover to get people really thinking about how to plan and manage big disasters.

For businesses that want to promote the zombie campaign, the CDC offers various images such as this one that look like the poster art for the newest zombie scare fest.

To prepare for the coming hordes of zombies, the CDC recommends some planning tips:

Create a disaster plan:

  • Discussing a disaster plan in advance can allow cooler heads to prevail (and not be eaten…) during an emergency.
  • Set two emergency meeting places. A primary spot and a distant alternate to be used in case the first one is inaccessible.

Stock your disaster kit:

  • Include some of the basics, such as light, food, and water. You need multiple flashlights with extra batteries, some canned or dried meals, and up to one gallon of water per person per day.
  • Additional items such as duct tape, plastic tarps, radios, and a whistle allow you to be prepared or reenact an episode of MacGyver.
  • Important family documents such as passports, insurance papers, and other essentials.
  • The CDC wisely leaves off the list items such as mines or bats that would truly be useful in a real zombie pandemic!

It’s refreshing to see such a serious organization as the CDC employing some humor like “Zombie Apocalypse” to get its point across. The campaign was also perfectly timed, coming days before the “end of the world” that thankfully did not come to pass. The zombie blog was so popular that it crashed the campaign’s site (not the CDC’s main site).

So what exactly is the point of the “Zombie Apocalypse?” For any type of disaster, preparation is the key. If you over prepare for the worst case scenario (it doesn’t get worse than flesh-eating zombies), then you will be able to handle any emergency.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit for more information and remember to BE SAFE.