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4 safety tips for fall hazards: Small actions can have big impacts

October 2, 2020
A first autumn snowfall with a snowplow-fitted truck on a local street in Missouri. Undated image.

The U.S. moved into astronomical fall on September 22. From a weather point of view, though, we’re knee-deep in typical fall hazards, such as raging wildfires across the West and an remarkably busy  hurricane season in the Atlantic. Depending on where you live, you might get snow — maybe lots of it.

To stay safe and healthy, simple but effective preparedness actions are key — and NOAA’s National Weather Service has you covered.

Check out these four safety tips you can use in the face of potential fall weather hazards highlighted in our latest public safety campaign, “Small Decisions Can Have a Big Impact.” 

A view of spreading flames from the wildfire in Anaheim Hills, Orange County, California. October 2017.
A view of spreading flames from the wildfire in Anaheim Hills, Orange County, California. October 2017. (iStock)

1. Prevent damage to life and property as wildfires threaten

The devastating impacts of wildfires — from property damage to causing injuries to humans and animals — can be felt far and wide. 

Fortunately, taking small precautions could potentially save not only your life, but also those around you:

  • Properly discard cigarettes;

  •  Avoid activities with open flames or sparks; and

  • Use fire-resistant landscaping around your home. 

Remember to check the forecast: A Red Flag Warning will alert you to critical fire weather conditions ongoing or expected to occur within the next 12-48 hours.

Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida on October 10, 2018. The category 5 hurricane came ashore with 160 mph winds and strong storm surge.
Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida on October 10, 2018. The Category 5 hurricane came ashore with 160-mph winds and strong storm surge. (FEMA)

2. Know your risk during this unusually active hurricane season. 

Even if you don't live in a hurricane surge evacuation area, it’s important to know your home's vulnerability to damage from high winds and inland flooding. Be sure to have a plan that includes an emergency kit and a safe place to shelter should you need to evacuate. The National Hurricane Center is the best resource for around-the-clock forecast information. (Note: For safety tips on evacuating during the COVID-19 pandemic, see these recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

Wind damage can be severe, especially in residential areas with lots of trees, as shown in this undated photo.
Wind damage can be severe, especially in residential areas with lots of trees, as shown in this undated photo. (NOAA NWS)

3. Even on a clear day, strong winds can pose a threat. Have a plan. 

Clear isn’t always calm. When preparing for an extreme wind event, secure objects that can be tossed or rolled, trim trees near your home and have a plan in case of a power outage. Should a high-wind warning be issued, seek immediate shelter, preferably in an interior room or basement.

Michigan’s Bay Region sustained an unprecedented flooding event beginning May 19, 2020, following several days of heavy rain and multiple dam failures. At its peak, more than 20 state trunkline and local bridges were impacted by flooding, resulting in immediate closures to protect the motoring public. More than 10,000 households were evacuated in Midland County over a 24-hour period. Between May 19 and 26, five Michigan counties were declared to be a state of emergency (Midland, Gladwin, Saginaw, Arenac, and Iosco). May 2020 image of a section of highway washed out in the area of Edenville, Michigan.
Michigan’s Bay Region sustained an unprecedented flooding event beginning May 19, 2020, following several days of heavy rain and multiple dam failures. At its peak, more than 20 state trunkline and local bridges were impacted by flooding, resulting in immediate closures to protect the motoring public. More than 10,000 households were evacuated in Midland County over a 24-hour period. Between May 19 and 26, five Michigan counties were declared to be a state of emergency (Midland, Gladwin, Saginaw, Arenac, and Iosco). May 2020 image of a section of highway washed out in the area of Edenville, Michigan. (Michigan Dept of Transportation/MDOT Photography Unit)

4. If you encounter flood waters, ‘Turn around don’t drown’.

Repeat after us: “It's never safe to walk or drive into a flooded roadway.” It's best to delay travel until roads are clear. Follow the advice of local officials. You might be told to stay put during flash flooding, but if river flooding takes place, be prepared to evacuate immediately when water starts to rise. 

Go further: Interested in helping us build a Weather-Ready Nation this season? Visit our Fall Weather Safety website for sample social media posts, infographics, videos and presentation materials. Then, please share this potentially lifesaving information with everyone you know.