Disaster Specific Planning Resources

 “Action is the best antidote to worry.”
Washington State Emergency Resource Guide

“Disaster strikes – rarely. But when it does, preparation is what can save your business.”
SCORE: Counselors to America’s Small Business

Fire, flood, earthquake, tornado, snow, ice — every area has its vulnerabilities. Knowing which hazards could affect your community enables you to prepare in specific ways to lessen and manage the risks to yourself and your family, your assistants or co-workers, your art and your workplace.

Here are checklists of basic disaster-prepping measures to take in your studio.


If you live in an area that may experience high-wind events, prepare in advance to secure your property:

  • Windows: Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection. A second option is to cut 5/8” sheets of marine plywood to fit your windows, and have them ready to install securely. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.

  • Roof: Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.

  • Trees and shrubs: Be sure that any trees and shrubs close to your home are well-trimmed. Remove all dead and hanging wood.

  • Gutters and downspouts: Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.

Other than building or modifying your structure to withstand high winds, there is little you can do to prevent damage from a tornado. However, there are things you can and should do in advance that will greatly improve your chances of surviving a tornado. Even if you do not live in a tornado-prone area, you may be visiting an area where tornadoes happen, or may experience a freak weather event. Here are some tips to help you survive a tornado:
  • Get a NOAA weather radio. Many tornado fatalities occur when people are asleep and not aware that they need to seek shelter. These radios have an alert feature that will wake you if there is a tornado warning. Some weather radios can be programmed so they do not go into alarm mode for weather events that are out of your immediate area, or are not life-threatening. Be sure the radio has a battery backup and the battery is good.

  • If you have power, stay tuned to your local TV station with the best weather reporting. Many people who survived the tornadoes in Alabama credit the local weather forecast for saving their lives.

  • Have a designated safe place to shelter during a tornado warning. This can be a basement, downstairs bathroom, closet, interior hallway, or other small room that is structurally sound and safe from flying glass.  If you are in a bathroom, get into the bathtub and cover yourself with a mattress or sofa cushion so you will be protected on all sides.

  • Helmets or hard hats, especially those with face protection provide extra protection while in your safe room.  The most serious injuries caused by tornadoes are head injuries, and the hands and arms are inadequate to protect the head and face. 

  • A mobile home is not a safe place to be in a tornado, even if strapped to the ground. If you are in a mobile home community seek shelter in a more substantial building, and as a last resort take refuge in a ditch, culvert or other low-lying area.

  • If you are in an office building, shopping center, or other building away from home, take shelter in a smaller interior room, bathroom, or hallway on a lower level.  Avoid areas with wide expanses of roof that could collapse on you. A space under a heavy piece of furniture or a corner may provide protection against falling objects and flying debris.

  • Schools and some commercial buildings will have plans and designated shelters.  Follow instructions and/or ask where the designated shelter is located. Otherwise try to locate a safe place on a lower level as described above, where you are protected from flying glass, debris, and protected from roof collapse. 

  • Automobiles are routinely picked up and destroyed by tornadoes.  If you are in your car, stop and take shelter in a building, or as a last resort, take shelter in a culvert or ditch, and try to protect yourself from flying debris.  Do not try to outrun a tornado!

FEMA photo Iowa CityIf your property is susceptible to flooding:

  • Elevate the furnace, water heater, and circuit-breaker panel or fuse box.

  • Install "check valves" in sewer traps, to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains of your studio or home.

  • Seal your basement walls with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.

  • If a flood is imminent, move essential items upstairs. Turn off utilities at main switches or valves.

 If you live in an earthquake-prone area, be sure to:

  • Secure shelving and cabinets to the wall; have safety locks on storage units.

  • Use museum wax to secure smaller objects to shelves.

(note: museum wax --sometimes called quake wax--can be purchased from a supplier of art conservation products, such as University Products, Inc.,www.universityproducts.com  or Conservation Resources www.conservationresources.com)

  • Place heavy objects near the floor.

  • Brace overhead light fixtures.

  • Have an expert check your building for structural defects.

  • Hung items that are heavy should be located away from where people sit.

Seattle glass artist, Richard Royal talks about his experience with an earthquake:


  • View a short video on earthquake-proofing by the Insurance Information Institute:

Fire is a danger everywhere! To protect your home and/or studio, along with yourself and loved ones:
  • Install smoke alarms — then test them regularly. Replace alarms once every 10 years.

  • Make sure windows are not painted or nailed shut.

  • Consider escape ladders if your residence or studio space has more than one level.

  • Clean out storage areas. Do not let trash accumulate.

  • Be extremely careful when using and storing flammable liquids.

  • Insulate chimneys and place spark arresters on top. Chimneys should rise at least three feet higher than your roof.

  • Do not overload extension cords and outlets. Make sure the insulation on these cords doesn’t touch bare wiring. Inspect cords for exposed wires and loose plugs.

  • Place heaters at least three feet away from flammable materials. Make sure the floor and adjacent walls are properly insulated. Inspect all heating units.

  • Ask your local fire department to conduct a safety inspection. 

If wildfire is a danger where you live or work:

USDA Photo

  • Create safety zone of at least 30 feet around your studio and home, by removing and reducing highly flammable vegetation.

  • Remove debris from locations close to structures.

  • Enclose all eaves.

  • Use fire-resistant siding and safety-glass windows and doors.

  • Use non-combustible materials for your roof.

  • Develop an external water supply — such as a small pond, well or pool. 

These resources have in-depth information on planning for specific disasters:

Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety’s website details how to prepare for wildfires. Some of this information is equally helpful for averting home or business fires — like retrofitting your building with non-flammable materials, and examining the role landscaping can play in fires. www.disastersafety.org has more info on Fire safety.

FEMA provides a list of fire prevention steps, including smoke alarms, escape equipment, electrical inspections, and having A-B-C fire extinguishers at the ready. http://www.ready.gov/home-fires

The National Park Service’s Emergency Planning document covers fire prevention, with an emphasis on “good housekeeping” and some common-sense advice.
See section 10.4-10.6

Washington State’s Emergency Resource Guide gives a bulleted list, including information on escaping a fire.
See page 30 (32 in pdf) of Emergency Resource Guide. 

Along with fire, flood is the most common and widespread of natural disasters. The sheer force of just six inches of swiftly moving water can knock people off their feet! Cars are easily swept away in just two feet of water..

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety’s website covers everything from sealing out water to installing sewer backflow valves and raising up electrical system components, including wiring, at least one foot above the 100-year flood level. www.disastersafety.org has more.  

The FEMA site (http://www.ready.gov/floods) contains this “Before a Flood” list:

  • Avoid building in a flood-prone area unless you elevate and reinforce your home.

  • Elevate the furnace, water heater and electric panel if their location is susceptible to flooding.

  • Install "check valves" in sewer traps to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains of your home.

  • Contact community officials to find out if they are planning to construct barriers (levees, beams, floodwalls) to stop floodwater from entering the homes in your area.

  • Seal the walls in your basement with waterproofing compounds to avoid seepage.

The Museum Handbook of the National Park Service reminds us: “Water damage is often the result of fire-fighting activities, storms and structural damage, but may also be due to flash floods; floor drainage backups; leaking HVAC systems, pipes, roofs and skylights; seepage and slow-rising floods; and tidal waves.” The handbook also goes over various artifact vulnerabilities to water damage.
See section 10.7-10.

Also see p. 40 (42 in pdf) of the Washington State Emergency Resource Guide

Artist-to-Artist Video: It came as a big surprise


Furniture maker Russell Karkowski talks about the flood that affected his Iowa studio in 2008.

Although earthquakes strike without warning, you can retrofit your studio space to better ride one out successfully, plus deal with possible aftershocks.

A clear, three-page guide prepared by art/earthquake specialist Jamie Hascall for the Artist Trust begins by addressing personal safety, then details how to secure shelving and objects. She also covers tipping, tripping, collision and falling hazards. http://artisttrust.org/index.php/for-artists/resource/studio_earthquake_preparedness

For the top 10 retrofits to protect your work space and home from earthquake damage, visit www.ibhs.org. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety gives specifics about everything from securing lighting and water heaters to tips on how to keep fluorescent bulbs from scattering if they break. Download this comprehensive guide in pdf format.

Washington State’s Emergency Resource Guide has a tab for home preparedness in case of an earthquake. It gives detailed illustrations and video links for many of the standard “how-tos.” http://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/821-001_ResourceGuide.pdf  See page 39 (41 in pdf) of the Emergency Resource Guide.

The Guide provides the following checklist:

  • Hang pictures and mirrors away from anywhere people sit. Anchor overhead light fixtures and hanging plants to the structural support above the ceiling.

  • Secure televisions, computers and stereo equipment using inexpensive products, including adhesive-backed latches, nylon and elastic cords, and shelf edges to prevent items from falling.

  • Wood burning and other freestanding stoves pose a fire hazard in an earthquake, and should be anchored to the floor.

  • Strap the water heater to wall studs. The water heater may be your best source of drinkable water following an earthquake. Protect it from damage and leaks.

  • Bolt bookcases, china cabinets, and other tall furniture to wall studs. Brace or anchor top-heavy objects — these items can fall over, causing damage or severe injuries.

  • Secure kitchen equipment to the floor, wall or countertop, such as stoves and ovens, built-in and countertop microwave ovens, garbage compactors, dishwashers, refrigerators and freezers, clothes washers and dryers.

Also see the Museum Handbook of the National Park Service, section 10.28-30.

Drop, Cover, Hold On is the mantra for what to do when an earthquake strikes.  Dropcoverholdon.org has tips for protecting yourself during a quake, and you can test your knowledge on preparing a room for a quake with their game "Beat the Quake."

California, the Central U.S., and states in other siesmic zones have periodic "ShakeOuts" or earthquake preparedness drills.  Find out what is happening and get information on how to participate at www.shakeout.org.

Before the storm, the Heritage Emergency National Task Force (www.heritageemergency.org) provides this list to help you prepare:

  • Move vital records and high-priority items away from windows and below-ground storage into water-resistant areas. Avoid areas under roofs.

  • Screw plywood over windows or use tape to reduce shattering.

  • Verify location and procedures for shutting off water, gas and electricity.

  • Wrap shelves, cabinets and other storage units in heavy plastic sealed with waterproof tape.

  • Move outdoor objects indoors or secure in place.

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety gives detailed information on shuttering your building, with clear and complete specifications. Its site also covers evaluating trees for potential hazard, strengthening your roof and gables, and identifying items around your home that could become an airborne danger. See Tornado and Hurricane.

Page 31 (33 in pdf) of the Washington State Emergency Resource Guide offers a detailed list of what to do before and during a power outage, including the reminder about having a corded telephone as well as food-storage equipment.

Also see the Museum Handbook of the National Park Service, section 10.30-33.

NOAA Hurricane Tracking Map

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has an interactive map tracking the paths of hurricanes since 1842.

To use the interactive map, enter your zip code or city/state in the “Enter location” field of the Search area of the map and click the “Go” button. The web tool will plot the paths of hurricanes that have come through your area. The path color indicates the intensity of each storm as it strengthened and weakened. Click on a path to view date, name and atmospheric information for the storm. A similar tracking map for tornadoes is available in the Tornado section of these disaster planning resources.

NOAA Hurricane Tracking Map
The <strong>National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration</strong> has an <a href=http://coast.noaa.gov/hurricanes/# target=_blank>interactive map tracking the paths of hurricanes since 1842
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has an interactive map tracking the paths of hurricanes since 1842

FEMA has plans for building a safe room for your home or studio in pdf and dwg formats: www.fema.gov/library/viewRecord.do?id=1536

FEMA has information on selecting refuge areas in buildings, preparing buildings to withstand winds, and tornado safety information at: http://www.ready.gov/tornadoes

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety has information on creating a safe room, protecting commercial property and other tornado-related topics at: www.disastersafety.org/tornado/


Tornado Tracks

This graphic above contains 61 years of tornado tracking information. 


Search the map below by dates for locations of reported tornadoes:

Along with power outages, storms may cause structure collapse, fires and floods.

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety makes recommendations for alternative heating sources, avoiding ice dams and keeping pipes from freezing. See “Winter Weather.”

FEMA details everything from preparing for possible isolation to having sufficient fuel and supplies, and how to turn off water valves in case of pipes bursting. The site also refers to secondary disasters, like flooding. www.ready.gov/winter-weather

Among its dozens of instructions, the Museum Handbook of the National Park Service can help you install lightning rods, ensure that all drainage systems are clear, and become familiar with emergency broadcast stations on television and radio. http://www.nps.gov/history/museum/publications/MHI/CHAP10A-B.pdf  See section 10.14-17

See also p. 46 (48 in pdf) of Washington State’s Emergency Resource Guide http://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/821-001_ResourceGuide.pdf  Page 36 (38 in pdf) has information about using a generator safely during power outages. 

Washington State’s Emergency Resource Guide details basic preparation for volcanic eruption, and tells how to prepare for the often-devastating ash fall that can follow. Especally important: having dust masks available, blocking off sources of draft and protecting dust-sensitive electronics. Lots of information here, too, on removing volcanic ash. http://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/821-001_ResourceGuide.pdf
See page 39 (41 in pdf) of the Emergency Resource Guide.

FEMA also gives some information on what to do during and after an eruption.

FEMA gives the prevention basics, along with how to identify the warning signs in situations such as landslides. www.ready.gov/landslides-debris-flow

Pages 20 (22 in pdf) & 41 (43 in pdf of Washington State’s Emergency Resource Guide cover mud and landslides, along with chemical hazards (p.20).

Also see section 10.21-22 of the National Park Service’s Museum Handbook for information on hazardous materials.