Safety Tips: Earthquake, Flood and Tornado


Help keep your family safe.

The University City Fire Department is requesting your help. We would like all of our residents to take time to ensure your home has the proper location and amount of WORKING smoke detectors.  This is a simple 5 step smoke detector safety checklist.
  1. Make sure you have smoke detectors – If you do not have smoke detectors please go get some. You can purchase them at most hardware stores. You can also contact the fire department for further assistance.
  2. Make sure they are in the proper locations- (1) in every bedroom, (1) on every level of your home, and (1) in the hallway(s) outside of bedrooms. Follow the instructions in the box for proper mounting instructions. The fire department can assist residents who are unable to install them.
  3. Test them -This is usually just as simple as pushing a test button and making sure it alarms. Try to do this monthly.
  4. Change your batteries every 6 months.  The best way to remember this is to change the batteries when we change our clocks for daylight savings time, "CHANGE YOUR CLOCK, CHANGE  YOUR BATTERY!!"
  5. Practice two ways out of your home from every room. This is especially important with your children. School age children may have come home asking parents about this in early October. This is because every October is Fire Safety Education Month; the fire department visits grade schools in University City and go over this procedure with them. We then ask them to go home and discuss and practice it with their parents.
It is very important to get the word out about smoke detectors. University City has not been unscathed from this tragedy, but we certainly would love to be.  Please tell your neighbors, friends, and family to check their smoke detectors.

Most fire departments will assist their residents with this issue. If your family and friends live outside of U-City have them call their local fire department to see if they will assist, most do.  No one wants a horrific tragedy to occur to their loved ones.

If you are a resident, PLEASE join the University City Fire Department in helping to keep our city and families safe. Please perform this checklist on your home. For any questions or assistance please contact the University City Fire Department.

Tornado Safety Tips

Fair weather months are tornado time – be prepared!

April is tornado awareness month, and Missouri ranks fifth among the states in the number of tornadoes that occur each year. Although tornadoes occur any time of the year, they happen most frequently from March to September.

Two levels of tornado weather conditions are issued:

1) A tornado WATCH indicates that weather conditions are favorable for tornado formations;
2) A tornado WARNING indicates that a tornado has actually been spotted or detected on radar (when a tornado WARNING is issued, St. Louis County will activate the weather alert warning siren which consists of a steady tone lasting three to five minutes".


Be Prepared:

  • Know a safe place at home, work and school in the event of a tornado warning, and identify local shelters.
  • Practice tornado drills at home and school.
  • Plan for family members to contact one another during an emergency. Establish an out-of-area contact, such as a relative or family friend, who can coordinate family members’ locations and information should you become separated. Make sure that children learn the phone numbers and addresses, and know the emergency plans.
  • Prepare a family disaster supplies kit. Families with children should have each child create their own personal pack. This should include a first aid kit and essential medications, canned food and opener, at least three gallons of water a day per person, protective clothing, bedding or sleeping bag, battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries, and special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members.
  • Keep written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas, and water if authorities advise you to do so. (Remember, you will need a professional to turn natural gas service back on.)
When a tornado watch is issued:
  • Listen to local radio and TV stations for updates.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions, such as blowing debris. Many say an approaching tornado sounds like a freight train
When a tornado warning is issued:

  • In a house or small building: move to the basement or storm shelter, or a lower-level room such as a closet, bathroom or interior hallway.
  • In a vehicle: get out of the vehicle and go to a shelter. If no shelter is available, lie flat in a ditch or another low-lying area.
  • Outside: move inside a shelter or other building with a strong foundation. If no shelter is available, lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area.
  • At school: children should follow their teachers’ direction and the school’s tornado emergency plan (inner hallways on the lowest level possible, away from windows).
After a tornado, continue to listen to news and weather updates for possible changes. 

Stay away from power lines and broken glass. Be aware of the possibility of broken gas lines and chemical spills. If you smell gas or chemical fumes, evacuate the area immediately and contact authorities. Stay out of damaged buildings and return home only after authorities have issued an all-clear signal.

Flood Safety Tips

Terms to Know

Flash Flood or Flood Watch: Indicates flash flooding or flooding is possible within the designated watch area. When a watch is issued, be alert and ready to take action.

Flash Flood or Flood Warning: Flash flooding or flooding has been reported or is imminent. You should take necessary precautions and actions at once.

Act Now To Be Prepared
  • Learn the safest route from your home or business to high, safe ground should you have to leave in a hurry.
  • Develop and practice a 'family escape' plan and identify a meeting place if family members become separated.
  • Make an itemized list of all valuables including furnishings, clothing and other personal property. Keep the list in a safe place.
  • Stockpile emergency supplies of canned food, medicine and first aid supplies and drinking water. Store drinking water in clean, closed containers.
  • Plan what to do with your pets.
  • Have a portable radio, flashlights, extra batteries and emergency cooking equipment available.
  • Keep your automobile fueled. If electric power is cut off, gasoline stations may not be able to pump fuel for several days. Have a small disaster supply kit in the trunk of your car.
  • Find out how many feet your property is above and below possible flood levels. When predicted flood levels are broadcast, you can determine if you may be flooded.
  • Keep materials like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber handy for emergency water-proofing.
During the Flood
  • Monitor the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Weather Radio or your local radio and TV station broadcasts for information.
  • If local officials advise evacuation, do so promptly.
  • If directed to a specific location, go there.
  • Bring outside possessions inside the house or tie them down securely. This includes lawn furniture, garbage cans, and other movable objects.
  • If there is time, move essential items and furniture to upper floors in the house.
  • Disconnect electrical appliances that cannot be moved. DO NOT touch them if you are wet or standing in water.
  • If you are told to shut off water, gas, or electrical services before leaving, do so.
  • Secure your home: lock all doors and windows.
Travel With Care
  • Leave early to avoid being marooned on flooded roads.
  • Make sure you have enough fuel for your car.
  • Follow recommended routes. DO NOT “sightsee”.
  • As you travel, monitor NOAA Weather Radio and local radio broadcasts for the latest information.
  • Watch for washed-out roads, earth-slides, broken water or sewer mains, loose or downed electrical wires, and falling or fallen objects.
  • Watch for areas where rivers or streams may suddenly rise and flood, such as highway dips, bridges, and low areas.
  • DO NOT attempt to drive over a flooded road. Turn around and go another way.
  • DO NOT underestimate the destructive power of fast-moving water. Two feet of fast-moving flood water will float your car. Water moving at two miles per hour can sweep cars off a road or bridge.
  • If you are in your car and water begins to rise rapidly around you, abandon the vehicle immediately.
After the Flood
  • Listen to the radio or TV for instructions from local officials.
  • Wait until an area has been declared safe before entering it. Be careful driving, since roads may be damaged and power lines may be down.
  • Before entering a building, check for structural damage. Turn off any outside gas lines at the meter or tank. Let the building air out to remove foul odors or escaping gas.
  • Upon entering the building, use a battery-powered flashlight. DO NOT use an open flame as a source of light. Gas may be trapped inside.
  • When inspecting the building, wear rubber boots and gloves.
  • Watch for electrical shorts and live wires before making certain the main power switch is off.
  • DO NOT turn on electrical appliances until an electrician has checked the system and appliances.
  • Throw out any medicine or food that has had contact with flood waters.
  • If the public water system is declared 'unsafe' by health officials, water for drinking and cooking should be boiled vigorously for 10 minutes.
  • Shovel out mud with special attention to cleaning heating and plumbing systems.
  • Flooded basements should be drained and cleaned as soon as possible. Structural damage can occur if drained too quickly. When surrounding waters have subsided, begin draining the basement in stages, about 1/3 of the water volume each day.
The Hidden Danger - Low-Water Crossing
  • Nearly half of all flash flood fatalities are vehicle related! When driving your automobile during flood conditions, look out for flooding at highway dips, bridges and low areas.
  • Even the largest and heaviest of vehicles will float. Two feet of water will carry most cars away.
  • As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Do not drive through flowing water!
  • A hidden danger awaits motorists where a road without a bridge dips across a creek bed.
  • Motorists develop false confidence when they normally or frequently pass through a dry low-water crossing.
  • Road beds may have been scoured or even washed away during flooding creating unsafe driving conditions.
  • Those who repeatedly drive through flooded low-water crossings may not recognize the dangers of a small increase in the water level.
  • Driving too fast through low water will cause the vehicle to hydroplane and lose contact with the road surface.
  • Visibility is limited at night increasing the vulnerability of the driver to any hidden dangers.
  • Heed all flood and flash flood watches and warnings.

                                                           Earthquake Preparation

Take cover under a heavy desk, table or bench, in a supported doorway, or along an inside wall.

Earthquake Preparation

  • Home emergency supply kit
  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Portable radio with spare batteries
  • First aid kit and handbook
  • Multipurpose dry chemical fire extinguisher
  • Nonperishable food
  • Water for one week
  • Medications
  • Pipe and adjustable wrenches

Earthquakes Are Possible in Missouri

The New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) is the most active seismic area in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. According to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Division of Geology and Land Survey, the NMSZ averages more than 200 measured events per year (magnitude 1 or greater), about 20 per month. Tremors large enough to be felt (magnitude 2.5 to 3.0) are measured annually. Every 18 months, a 4.0 or greater shock, capable of minor local damage, occurs. Events of 5.0 or greater occur about once every decade and can do significant damage and be felt in several states.

Based upon historically and instrumentally recorded earthquakes, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis now estimate that the probability of a magnitude 6.0 or greater earthquake is 25 to 40 percent in the next 50 years and there is a 7 to 10 percent probability of a repeat of the 1811–1812 earthquakes (magnitude 7.5 to 8.0) within the next 50 years.

If an event equal in magnitude to the largest 1811–1812 quake occurred today, it is estimated that the loss of life would be great and property damage would be many billions of dollars. There would be major damage near the fault system in the Missouri Bootheel, northeast Arkansas and western Kentucky and Tennessee. Significant damage is expected to extend north of St. Louis up the Mississippi River valley, up the Ohio and Wabash River valleys to near Owensboro, Kentucky, and Indiana, and down the Mississippi River valley to near Greenville, Miss. Significant damage is also expected in about 15 additional counties each in southern Illinois, western Kentucky and Tennessee, northeastern Arkansas and northwestern Mississippi and in about five counties in southeast Missouri outside the Bootheel.

Preparation lessens danger

This guide is designed to help you and your family plan for and survive a major earthquake. With advance preparation, the impact of an earthquake can definitely be lessened. Set aside some emergency supplies and plan with your family what to do at home during and after a disaster. You could be without help for up to 72 hours, so learn to cope for at least that long and possibly one week. Movement of the ground is seldom the actual cause of death or injury. Most injuries and casualties result from partial building collapses, falling objects and debris, such as toppling chimneys and falling bricks, ceiling plaster and light fixtures. Many of these conditions are preventable.

Because earthquakes occur without warning, it is important to take precautionary steps so you and your family can respond during this emergency.

Preparation saves lives

Before the earthquake happens, be prepared by having a home emergency supply kit available. The kit should include the following supplies:

  • Flashlights with extra batteries
    One of these flashlights should be near your bed. Never use matches or candles until you are certain no gas leak exists.
  • Portable radio with spare batteries
    Most telephones will be out of order or should be used for emergency purposes only, so the radio will be your best source of information.
Extra flashlight and portable radio batteries should be stored in the refrigerator to extend their useful life.

  • Well-stocked first aid kit and handbook
    Every member of the family should have basic first aid knowledge and be competent in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
  • Fire extinguisher
    Keep a multipurpose dry chemical extinguisher handy for small fires. Every family member should know where and how to use these fire extinguishers.
  • Food
    Maintain a supply of nonperishable food that can be rotated into the family's diet and replaced on a regular basis. Have enough canned foods, a mechanical opener, powdered milk or canned juices for at least one week. Dried cereals, fruit and nonsalted nuts are a good source of emergency nutrition.
  • Water
    Store water in airtight containers and replace about every six months. Store at least 6 gallons of water per person to be prepared for a one-week period. Have purification tablets such as Halazone and Globaline, but read the label on the bottle before using tablets.
Water can be disinfected with 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite solution (household chlorine bleach). Do not use a solution in which there are active ingredients other than hypochlorite. Use the following proportions:

Clean water
Cloudy water
Two liters
4 drops
1/8 teaspoon
One gallon
1/8 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon
Five gallons
1/2 teaspoon
1 teaspoon

  • Special items
    Have at least one week's supply of medications and special foods needed for infants or those on limited diets.
  • Tools
    A pipe wrench and an adjustable wrench should be available for turning off gas and water mains. Family members should be taught where and how to shut off electricity, gas and water at the main, or main switch.
How to shut off gas:
Keep pipe, top, and adjustable wrenches, bottom, handy for emergencies.
Know how to shut off gas valve.

Your main gas shut-off valve is located next to your meter on the inlet pipe. On an LP gas system, the shut-off is located at the tank.
Use a wrench to give the valve a quarter turn in either direction so that the valve runs crosswise on the pipe. The gas line is now closed.

Do not shut off gas unless an emergency exists. If gas is ever turned off, remember that all pilot lights must be relit when the gas is turned back on.

How to shut off water

Know how to shut off the water main valve.

Locate the water shut-off valve where it enters the house. Show all family members where the valve is. Also locate the main water shut-off at the water meter.

How to shut off electricity

Locate your circuit breaker, left, or pull-out cartridge fuses in fuse box, right.

Look closely at your circuit breaker box or fuse box. Locate the main cartridge fuses or circuit breaker.

Be certain you can shut off electricity if there is damage to your home electrical wiring. To properly shut down the electrical circuits in your home, turn off each breaker one at a time and then shut off the main breaker. Reverse these steps to re-energize the home's electrical panel.

Staying calm is very important

First and foremost — keep calm. During a major earthquake, you may experience a shaking that starts out to be gentle and within a second or two grows violent and knocks you off your feet. Or, you may be jarred by a violent jolt — as though your house is being hit by a truck. A second or two later you will experience the shaking, making it difficult (if not impossible) to move from one room to another.

If you are indoors, stay there. Take cover under a heavy desk, table, bench, in a supported doorway, or along an inside wall. Stay away from windows, bookcases, china cabinets, mirrors and fireplaces until the shaking stops.

If you are in the kitchen, turn off the stove at the first sign of shaking and quickly take cover under a counter or sturdy table, or in a doorway.

If you are in a high-rise building, get under a desk or similar heavy furniture, and stay away from windows and outside walls. Stay in the building on the same floor. Do not dash for exits because stairways may be broken or jammed with people. Don't be surprised if the electricity goes off, or if fire alarm systems or sprinklers go on. Do not use elevators.

If you are in your car, pull to the side of the road and stop the car. Do not park under overpasses or power lines. Stay in your car until the earthquake is over. When you drive on, watch for hazards created by the earthquake, such as fallen or falling objects, downed electric wires, damaged, broken or undermined bridges, roadways or overpasses.

Check for injuries

  • If anyone has stopped breathing, give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, now called rescue breathing.
  • Stop any bleeding injuries by applying direct pressure to the wound. For more detailed emergency procedures, consult your first aid book.
  • Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of future injury.
  • Cover injured persons with blankets to keep them warm. Be reassuring and calm.
  • Do not use the telephone unless there is a severe injury.
  • Wear shoes in all areas near fallen debris and broken glass.
  • Immediately clean up any spilled medicines, drugs or other potentially harmful materials — bleaches, lye, gasoline or other petroleum products.
Check for safety

  • Check your home for fire or fire hazards. If possible, put out small fires. If not possible, leave your home immediately, alert your neighbors and call the fire department.
  • Check utility lines and appliances for damage. If you smell gas or see a broken line, shut off the main valve. Do not search for a leak with a match or lighter. Do not use electrical switches or appliances, because sparks can ignite gas from leaks or broken lines. Do not switch on the gas or electricity until the utility company has checked your home.
  • Do not touch downed power lines or objects touching downed lines or electrical wiring of any kind.
  • Check to see that sewage lines are intact before using drains or toilets. Plug bathtub, shower, drain or sink drain to prevent sewage backup.
  • Check your home, chimney and other structures for cracks and damage. Approach chimney and masonry walls with caution — they may topple. Do not use a fireplace or chimney unless it is undamaged and without cracks. When in doubt, don't use it.
  • Check closets and cupboards. Open doors cautiously. Beware of falling objects tumbling off shelves.
Check your food supply

If water is off, emergency water supplies may be all around you — in water heaters, toilet water tanks, melted ice cubes, canned fruits and vegetables, etc.

Do not eat or drink anything from open containers near shattered glass. Liquids may be strained through a clean handkerchief, cloth or cheesecloth if danger of glass contamination exists.

If power is off, check your freezer and plan meals to use up foods that will spoil quickly. Keep your freezer door closed and insulate the freezer with blankets or quilts to reduce cooling loss. Cook thawed frozen foods immediately if they are still cool. If in doubt about their safety, do not use them.

Use outdoor charcoal broilers for emergency cooking. Never use the cookers indoors because of fire and carbon monoxide hazards.

If you must evacuate

  • Don't use your vehicle unless there is an emergency. Don't go sightseeing. You will only hamper relief efforts. Keep streets and roads clear for the passage of emergency vehicles.
  • Don't use your telephone except to report medical or fire emergencies or violent crimes.
  • Turn on your portable radio for emergency information and damage reports.
  • Be prepared for aftershocks. Most of these are weaker than the main quake, but some may be large enough to do additional damage.
  • Cooperate with public safety officials, including fire fighters, police and medical personnel. Do not go into the damaged areas unless your help is requested.
  • If you must evacuate your home — post a message in clear view where you can be found. Take medicine, first aid kit, flashlights, radio and batteries, important papers, and cash, food, sleeping bags or blankets and extra clothing with you to the emergency shelter. Don't forget to make arrangements for your pets. Have food, water, medications and cages ready for your evacuation. Don't leave them behind and assume you will be able to return to your home to care for them once you have evacuated.
The potential for earthquakes in Missouri always exists. Family earthquake preparedness and what family members do during and immediately after the tremor can help minimize damage and may make the difference of life-or-death.

For more information and additional resources: Alarms.Org Flood Survival Guide