How to Stay Safe and Avoid Property Damage When Conditions Are Right for a Landslide
Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto shares strategies to stay safe before, during, and after a landslide or mudflow.
When a fire damage, smoke damage, water damage, storm damage, or flood damage disaster strikes, SERVPRO of Palo Alto provides Palo Alto and the surrounding Bay area with property damage cleanup and restoration services. Natural disasters such as landslides and mudflows can cause financial, physical, and emotional pain. SERVPRO of Palo Alto shares strategies to help homeowners and business owners stay safe when the risk of landslides and mudflows is high.
Understanding Landslides: Common Causes
A landslide refers to land sliding down a hill. A landslide occurs when large amounts of earth, rocks, and debris such as trees, plants, and structures move down a slope. Not all landslides are the same. One type of landslide is a debris flow. Also known as a mudslide, a debris flow is a common type of landslide. What sets the debris flow apart is its high velocity and the tendency to flow in channels.
Natural and Man-Made Causes of Landslides and Debris Flows
Earth and debris are usually stable. As the slope of the terrain increases, naturally stable ground becomes vulnerable and fragile. Any disturbance of the ground can cause a landslide if the slope is steep enough. Seismic tremors, full-scale earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions can tip the scales on heavily sloped land, triggering massive landslides.
A period of heavy rain followed by a season of drought creates conditions that are susceptible to mudslides when the rains return. Dry ground rapidly soaks up the moisture like a sponge. If the rain continues, mudslides are sure to follow. Mudslides typically start on steep slopes. Landslides are a risk hazard where wildfires and human encroachment have deforested a land area.
Health Risks from Landslides and Debris Flows
In areas where the likelihood of a landslide is high, so are the risks of property damage, physical harm, and even death. Landslides and mudflows account for 25 to 50 fatalities annually. Health hazards include:
- Broken utility lines, such as electrical, gas, or sewage, that can cause injury, disease, or illness
- Damage to the transportation infrastructure, which can endanger motorists traveling on the treacherous roads and prevent first responders from giving aid to injured persons
- Trauma and broken bones from impact by swiftly moving water and debris
An awareness of local areas that are prone to landslides and mudflows is essential. When conditions arise that would elevate the likelihood of a landslide, residents and businesses should be on the alert for danger. Preparation, awareness, and a swift response can prevent injury and property damage and save lives. Land areas and terrains most susceptible to a natural disaster such as a landslide or mudflow include:
- Acreage where vegetation is sparse or absent (from fire or human modification)
- Steep slopes
- Sites that have already experienced a landslide
- River and stream beds
- Terrain altered to accommodate new construction and infrastructure
- Areas modified to accommodate drainage and runoff
Anyone visiting or living in any of the areas above should keep alert to the weather, to wildfires, and to other natural disasters that could set in motion a wave of rocks, earth, organic matter, and mudflows.
Tips and Strategies to Stay Safe Before, During, and After a Landside or Mudflow
Tip #1: Know the area well.
Severe weather involving heavy rains, hail, and winds should signal a heightened state of alertness. Assume that high-risk land areas will produce some measure of erosion, flooding, and property damage. Prior to a dangerous situation, reach out to local authorities such as the police, fire department, and emergency medical services to learn if the area has a history of natural disasters, including landslides. The local university, a county agent, the planning commission, or the state geological survey may be able to provide some insight.
Tip #2: Plan, prepare, and practice before a natural disaster.
The key to weathering a natural disaster is to plan, prepare, and practice before a storm or flood strikes. Communicate with local authorities to learn about the area’s emergency preparedness and evacuation plans. Formulate a family and business emergency response plan. Include several evacuation routes. Provide alternate ways to communicate besides cell phones in case family members become separated. Residents living in high-risk areas should consider leaving when severe weather is forecast or when hazardous conditions arise.
Tip #3: Stay on high alert during severe weather.
Weather radios can be lifesavers during a natural disaster. Stay tuned to accurate sources, and act accordingly on the information. Watch for sudden increases in water levels in streams and creeks. These sudden changes might indicate a mudflow upstream. If trees, fences, and telephone poles are tilting on a slope, the land may be shifting. Listen for a rumbling noise. This sound may give a family the seconds they need to seek safety on high ground out of the path of the landslide.
Tip #4: Practice extreme caution after a landscape or mudflow.
Keep a safe distance from the affected area in case more landslides or mudflows occur. If possible, attend to the needs of physical injuries and emotional trauma. Report downed powerlines, broken water lines, and ruptured gas lines to the proper authorities. Stay informed. Listen carefully to radio and TV broadcasts for emergency information, and update family members about the situation.
Tip #5: Begin the cleanup and restoration process.
In case of a storm or flood damage disaster from a landslide or mudflow in a residential or commercial setting, SERVPRO of Palo Alto is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to begin the cleanup and restoration process. A rapid response minimizes disruptions and enables life at home or at a business to return to normal as soon as possible.
For more information about flood and storm damage restoration services, contact SERVPRO of Palo Alto by phone at (650) 800-3448 or by email at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com