The Dos and Don'ts of Surviving Every Natural Disaster

When a natural disaster strikes, it's nice to think that you could make like The Rock and save everyone in sight with your strength/leadership/chiseled jawline, but if you're unprepared, you're more likely to make like a rock and roll around aimlessly.

No one knows exactly how they'll react, but a basic survival blueprint makes a world-saving amount of difference. One guy that knows what to do in the case of catastrophe is Warren Faidley, who has made a career photographing and reporting on extreme weather, as well as teaching people little tips on how not to die and stuff.

Warren stressed that in each of these situations, preparation is half the battle (the other half presumably has something to do with the Cobra Kai), but even the most meticulous End of Days prepper needs to know what to do when disaster comes knocking. Here are the dos and don'ts of every extreme weather situation, they just may literally save your stupid life.

Flickr/Ian Britton

Flash floods

DO take storm warnings seriously. Among the rogue's gallery of extreme weather conditions, flash floods are the sleeper supervillain and responsible for the highest amount of death per year. "Most of it is people trying to cross through flooded road: it's a stupid factor," says Warren.

DON'T try to drive across flooded roads. You never know how deep the water is, and even in shallow water a piece of debris can immobilize your car.

DO make like Stevie Wonder and get to higher ground.

DON'T think dry conditions mean safety, especially when hiking. It can take hours or even a full day for rain to traverse from one area to another. "There can be no water in a dry riverbed, but a half hour later a gigantic flood wave can come rolling down," says Warren. "You just don't want to hike or camp in areas where there's flash flooding."

Flickr/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


DO follow Stevie's lead once again and get to higher ground. If there's no elevated land nearby, find to the roof of the tallest, sturdiest building you can. Also, it couldn't hurt to pray even if you think it's just Superstition.

DON'T stay in the path of the storm. Evacuate early. "It's probably the easiest storm to survive because you know literally days in advance," says Warren.

DON'T try to hide in a basement. "You shouldn't be in any building in the path of the storm surge, but particularly a basement. It'll flood and kill you," says Warren, who called Darwinism on anyone who tries to hide underground.

DON'T travel. Cancel any plans you'd made to go through a threatened area, and take shelter rather than trying to flee at the last moment.

Flickr/UCL Mathematics and Physical Science's


DO hide under something sturdy. A desk or a well-built area is best. The basic goal is to shield yourself from falling debris.Stay away from things that can shatter or fall over, such as glass windows or bookshelves.

DON'T hesitate. "Earthquakes are very unique in that there's no real warning," says Warren. "There are devices that will alert you, but even then you may only have a second or two."

DO turn off the gas lines. "Electricity is knocked out a lot, but the gas stays on," says Warren. Know where to find a wrench and which way to turn your gas gauge (lefty apparently isn't always loosey).

DON'T clog the phone lines. A quick call or text is obviously fine, but long chats make emergency workers' jobs harder.

DO pay attention to the location of the epicenter. A quake might have only registered as a 4.0 in your area, but if it's main point of fissure was off-shore, there's likely to be a tsunami, which should be treated just like a hurricane.

DON'T dig through your stuff immediately. You could get caught in an aftershock, or be in danger because of damaged utility infrastructure.

DON'T immediately evacuate a building if you're in an urban area and the structure seems stable. There's too much danger of falling debris. Only exit immediately if you're in an old building that's in danger of collapse.

Flickr/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Volcanic eruptions

DO just drive away. "Most volcanos don't just blow," says Warren. "You'd hopefully have time to get away from the main dangers like seismic flow or a gigantic flash flood from melting ice."

DON'T breath in the ash. It can't hurt to have an N95 mask handy if you have a prepper mentality, but holding a T-shirt over your face will still help.

Flickr/Kaibab National Forrest

Wild fires

DO clear the brush around your house. There's no better kindling than a poorly kept yard.

DON'T take for granted that the fire will move in a certain direction. "I've fought wild fires in Northern Arizona and I've seen a downdraft make a fire move from north to south in seconds," says Warren.

DO evacuate early. "The big mistake is that people don't evacuate soon enough. If you wait too long you can get caught off guard and find yourself in a lot of trouble," says Warren.

DON'T try to gather all of your belongings. Think about what you'll take with you in three tiers of priority: the absolute essentials that you can grab in a minute (cell phones, pets, critical medications, glasses, Xbox), irreplaceable things that you could gather in an hour, and then lower-priority items that you'd only take if you had hours or days to prepare.

Flickr/Daniel Rodriguez


DO get underground. A tornado shelter is your best friend.

DON'T try to outrun it. "You can almost create a bigger disaster. Sometimes it's one storm, but usually there's several storms, so unless you know what you're doing, you could drive into an even worse situation," says Warren.

DO treat every tornado like it's dangerous. "There's a tendency for news stations to try to rate a tornado and tell you what to do, but it's too unpredictable. Don't try to second guess how strong it's going to be," says Warren.

DON'T trust social media. Local TV news and or weather radio are your best sources for info. It's too difficult to wade through the hyperbole on Twitter to gather trustworthy information.

Flickr/Seth Sawyers


DO own a radio. A battery-powered, old-fashioned AM/FM or a special weather radio are much more reliable methods of receiving emergency communications than TV, internet, or cell phone.

DON'T travel. 99.9% of deaths in blizzards could have been avoided by not leaving the house. "If it's 60 below, you're going to freeze to death before you cross the street," says Warren. And you don't want to be the dude who freezes to death crossing the street.

DO have enough food and water on hand to last a week. Warren suggests keeping a stock of food that you wouldn't normally eat, like army rations, so you won't have to keep restocking.

DON'T leave the main highway if the storm hits while you're driving. There are generally rescue vehicles patrolling major roads, but that's not the case with shady shortcuts.

DO feel around your doors and windows for cold drafts and cover them with towels or blankets to keep out the cold air.

DON'T use gas-burning heat sources or generators indoors. The risk of asphyxiation is too high if you don't have proper ventilation or a CO2 detector, which Warren thinks should be legally mandated like fire alarms.

DO turn off your cell phones when not in use. You'll need to conserve battery power, which isn't happening if your parents are calling every hour.

Flickr/Eddo Dadyka


DO get out, fast. Know the evacuation routes and be prepared to flee immediately. "A 5-10 minute delay can mean your life because of the traffic," says Warren. 

DO find high ground (always!), but if there isn't high ground and you don't have a vehicle for evacuation, look for a sturdy, tall building that has other buildings between it and the coast.

DON'T think that grabbing onto a random piece of debris and floating to safety is a good plan. "It's too much fate, there's just too much debris and stuff. If you are caught in water, definitely cling onto something and try to get to a building, but at that point it just comes down to luck," says Warren.

Flickr/Sean Gilles


DO keep upright. There's reports of people treating an avalanche like a wave and successfully body surfing it, but this is a real long shot.

DON'T put yourself in that situation. There's very little you can do in an avalanche other than try to flee downhill.

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Dan Gentile is a staff writer at Thrillist and is ready to save the day. Follow him to 140-character heroics at @Dannosphere.