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Natural and Man-Made Disasters

Orange County residents can best cope with natural and man-made disasters by preparing in advance.

While Orange County enjoys a fairly stable climate, residents are not immune to natural disasters such as extreme heat and severe weather. Other disasters, such as pandemic, hazardous material spills, and terrorism can occur no matter where you live — and Orange County is no exception.

Orange County regularly experiences heat waves, which can be particularly dangerous for children, seniors, residents with cardiovascular disease or those taking psychotropic and other medications. Heat waves can even cause causalities.

Studies show that a significant rise in heat-related illnesses occurs when excessive heat lasts for more than two days. Spending even two hours per day in air-conditioned spaces can significantly reduce the number of heat-related illnesses.

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Like many other parts of the country, Orange County sometimes experiences rainstorms, hail, flash flooding, high winds, thunderstorms and lightening. Flash flooding is responsible for more fatalities—more than 140 annually—than any other thunderstorm-associated hazard. Some 90 percent of all presidentially-declared disasters across the U.S. are weather-related, and account for around 500 deaths and nearly $14 billion in damage per year.

Every thunderstorm is dangerous because every thunderstorm produces lightning. Every year in the United States, an average of 300 people are injured and 80 people are killed by lightning. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms. In the case of dry thunderstorms, rain does not reach the ground and evaporates instead. However, lightning from these storms can still reach the ground and can start wildfires.

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A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Tornadoes do not occur often in Orange County as in other parts of the country, but they do happen.

Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while rain or nearby low-hanging clouds obscure others. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible. Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land. Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water.

Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.

Know the difference…

Tornado Watch
Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.

Tornado Warning
A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

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Every year thousands of people get the flu, but sometimes flu spreads quickly. An influenza pandemic is a global outbreak of disease that occurs when a new influenza A virus emerges in the human population, causes serious illness and then spreads easily from person to person worldwide.

You can prepare for an influenza pandemic by knowing what can happen during a pandemic outbreak and what you can do to help lessen the impact on you and your family.

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We use hazardous materials in our homes and businesses every day. Small spills occasionally occur, but these incidents generally cause the public little difficulty other than traffic delays. In the event of a major spill authorities will instruct you on the best course of action. Also, be aware of chemical attack, which is the deliberate release of a toxic gas, liquid or solid that can poison people and the environment. Know how to protect yourself and your family from bioterrorism.

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Orange County residents rely on working utilities for everyday living and working, so the ability to function without electric power, water and/or gas if necessary is vital. Power outages often occur during the summer months, when customer demand reaches its peak.

During an outage, you should be prepared to encounter water contamination, drought, gas leaks, and telephone service disruptions.

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Orange County residents can best cope with potential terrorism and other crisis situations by preparing in advance. Preparedness begins with each individual and extends to their families, friends and co-workers. While there is no way to predict terrorism, or where you will be if it happens, advance planning will help protect you and your loved ones.

In July 2010, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security launched a national "If You See Something, Say Something™" public awareness campaign. This is a simple and effective program to raise public awareness of indicators of terrorism and violent crime, and to emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious activity to the proper state and local law enforcement authorities. Homeland security begins with hometown security, where an alert public that practices common sense can play a critical role in keeping our community safe.

Over-sized red backpack.
If you SEE something SAY something.

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