Need expat info for USA?

Connect with fellow expats in the USA
Join exciting events and groups
Get information in our USA guides
Exchange tips about expat life in the USA

Emergency Preparedness in the US

Does your family have an emergency preparedness plan? What would you do in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency situation? This InterNations article on emergency preparedness gives you advice on what to do when disaster strikes.
Stay tuned to your local radio or TV station for severe weather warnings.

Natural Disasters


Many types of natural disasters occur in the US each year. One of the most destructive kinds of natural disaster are hurricanes and tropical storms. Hurricane season on the east coast of the US lasts from June to November. The most southerly states, especially Florida, tend to be hit most often, but hurricanes can affect any state along the entire eastern seaboard, as well as states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. The west coast also has a hurricane season, running from mid-May to the end of November.

Large areas are often evacuated when a particularly powerful hurricane is heading their way, so if you will be moving to one of these areas of the US, be sure to know the evacuation route and have an evacuation plan in place. If an evacuation order is issued, please heed the advice of local officials and do not underestimate the power of a hurricane. After all, the safety of you and your family is more important than any material possessions.


Earthquakes can happen in any of the 50 states, but are most common in Alaska, California, and Hawaii. Along the coastline, earthquakes may lead to a tsunami. If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, make sure any large furniture and other items in your house are secured, and figure out the safest place in the house for you and your family to go during an earthquake, such as under a sturdy table. Do not try to leave your house during an earthquake.


Tornados can also occur anywhere in the US, but are most common in the central US, between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains. They are nature’s most violent storms, with winds of up to 300 miles per hour, wreaking destruction over areas one mile wide and up to 50 miles long. Tornados are created during particularly violent thunderstorms. Tornado watches and warnings will often be issued well before a tornado is formed, so listen to the radio or TV for the latest information. Areas that experience frequent tornados may have sirens that will sound in the event of imminent danger. Sometimes, however, the tornado develops too quickly and no advance warning is possible.

You can tell that a tornado is coming if the wind suddenly stops and the air gets very still. The sky will often turn a greenish color and you will hear a sound like a freight train. In the event of a tornado, go to the basement or a room with no windows. If you are outside, proceed immediately to the nearest safe shelter, or if this is not possible, to a low, flat area.

Wireless Emergency Alerts

If you have a cell phone from most major US carriers, you will automatically receive Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) in the event of imminent danger from severe weather or other dangerous local situations. In addition, it is important to make an emergency preparedness plan with your family. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has an excellent website with information on what to do before, during, and after many types of natural disasters or other emergency situations.

In Case of Emergency

911 is the emergency number for police, fire, and ambulance services in the United States. Dialing this number will automatically connect you with an emergency dispatch center operator, who will then alert the appropriate emergency responders. Dispatchers will sometimes be able to speak a foreign language, usually Spanish, but this cannot always be relied upon. Emergency dispatch centers in some areas, especially those with high numbers of immigrants, work with interpretation services to make sure all 911 calls can receive a proper and timely response, no matter what language the caller speaks.

If you or one of your family members accidentally ingests a poisonous substance, you can call the emergency Poison Control Center hotline at 1-800-222-1222 for free and confidential medical advice. They will be able to advise you if you can treat the problem at home or if you had better call an ambulance.

You should also always have the contact information for your nearest embassy or consulate close at hand in case you need their support in an emergency situation.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 


Brian Norris

"When first moving to Washington, D.C., I didn't know many people outside of the office. InterNations has changed that with some exciting events."

Caroline Stiles

"In such an international city such as Washington, D.C. InterNations holds great events for everyone to network and enjoy themselves."

Expat Guide USA

Global Expat Guide