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Emergency Preparedness Tips

Click below to go directly to the topic of your choice or scroll down to browse all:

Contacting Assistance
Types of Emergencies/ Disasters
Basic Preparation
Phone List
Pet Preparedness
Citizen Notification Systems
Natural Hazards
Summer Safety
Winter Safety
Earthquakes & Aftershocks
Cleaning Up After a Disaster

Contacting Assistance

Local Emergency Management Numbers

  • Charles County- (301)609-3402
  • Calvert County- (410)535-1623
  • St. Mary’s County- (301)475-4200

Types of Emergencies/ Disasters

  • Natural Disasters (ex. Tornadoes, Hurricanes, earthquakes)
  • Fires/Hazardous Materials
  • Transportation Accidents
  • Criminal Activities (ex. Burglary, Identity theft)
  • Terrorist Activities

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Basic Preparedness

The best course of action to handle a disaster is PREPARATION

  • Play the “What if” game
  • Think about potential disasters and think out what your reaction would be
  • Speak about these potential threats and your reactions with appropriate people

Be informed about the most imminent disasters for your area, and take specialized precautions, for example:

  • Natural Disasters- tape windows, have a place to go to underground or in the interior of the house
  • Fire/Hazards- have working fire/carbon monoxide detectors
  • Transportation Accidents- know alternative route
  • Criminal Activities- Install locks/ alarms and use them

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  • Mutually choose a point of contact that lives out of town that you and family members can contact to check in on each other in case you are separated during a disaster³
    • Be sure to carry that person’s contact information with you on your list³
  • Establish a meeting place in the event you are unable to get into your neighborhood or home after a disaster³

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Phone List

  • Make a list of important phone numbers, such as nonemergency numbers for the police and fire departments and local emergency management office³
    • Keep a copy near your home phone and in your wallet or programmed in your cell phone³

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Assemble an emergency preparedness kit to keep at home and in your car that includes the following

Home Supplies

  • Three-Five-day supply of water and food that doesn’t spoil or need to be cooked³
  • First-aid and tool kits³
  • Flashlight, Portable Radio³
  • Family documents, cash, prescription medications³
  • Clothing, bathroom supplies, and pet supplies³

Car Supplies

  • Flashlight with batteries, matches and candles³
  • Booster cables, tow ropes#
  • First-aid and tool kits³
  • Area road maps and compass³
  • Windshield scraper and brush, shovel#
  • Blankets and extra clothing#
  • Water and high calorie, non-perishable food³
  • Paper towels/napkins for sanitary needs³

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Pet Preparedness

  • Many public shelters, including Red Cross shelters, do not accept pets; therefore alternative plans must be made in the case of an emergency. Either contact a nearby family member who would be willing to take the animals for a time or check out this list of pet friendly lodging for the United States and Canada:
  • Regardless where you are taking your animal they will need a steel or fiberglass cage or carrier. The Maryland Emergency Management Agency recommends you have a carrier per pet that the pet can comfortably stand and turn around in. Be sure to familiarize your pet with the carrier beforehand.
  • Stay up-to-date with vaccines and have the paperwork to prove it. Most pet friendly facilities require that your pet be up to date on its rabies and distemper vaccines and have the paperwork to prove it.
  • Keep all of your documents regarding your pet organized and in safe place. Having more than one copy stored in a separate location is preferable, and remember to take a copy with you when traveling or evacuating your pet.
  • Outfit your pet with a collar including tags with all of your identifying information, including name address and telephone, as well as current rabies tags.
  • Always have your pet on a leash when out of its carrier to maintain control.
  • Invest in non-spill food and water dishes for caring for your pet.
  • Have an emergency supply of dry pet food. Not only will this food store well but it is also less palatable and therefore will discourage over eating.
  • Have an emergency stash of newspaper, plastic bags, kitty litter, cleaning supplies and disinfectants for handling pet waste

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Citizen Notifcation Systems

Citizen Notification Systems (CNS) or Emergency/Mass notification systems are an arrangement between local authorities and local residents to share information about emergencies in the local community. In most instances these systems involve local authorities notifying the public about an imminent emergency or other happening in the local area that it would benefit the public to know. These notifications can be delivered through multiple media such as over the radio, television, telephone and more recently email and text.

Most systems are set up to serve a local area like a town, city or county and are free. Below are some local and free Citizen Notification Systems to help you stay safe out and about the area:

  • Charles County has text or e-mail notification for severe weather, imminent crime reports, road closures, election results and other events taking place in or around the county. For more information or to sign up, please visit:
  • Calvert County has a phone, text, or e-mail notification system for county emergencies which they classify as code red. These include, but are not limited to, severe weather, power and water outages, and missing children notifications. For more information or to sign up, please visit:
  • St. Mary’s County has a telephone notification system which conveys recorded messages explaining the emergency situation and potential actions that should be taken. For more information or to sign up, please visit:

    Signing up for these systems is easy. Upon visiting their websites you will be asked for some basic information, the medium you wish to receive notifications, and will even be able to choose which type of notifications you wish to receive (such as “severe weather” or “road closures”). You may have to create a login and password so that you are able to change your preferences at a later time.

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Natural Hazards

Summer Safety

  • Sunburn - Redness and pain on skin caused by prolonged exposure to the sun. In more severe cases, sunburn can actually cause swelling, blisters, and fever. For mild cases without blisters, ointments can be used to treat. For more severe cases, a physician may need to be contacted.
    Prevention: wear lots of high SPF sunscreen (applied regularly) and/or keep skin shaded.
  • Heat cramps - Muscle spasms, generally occurring in legs, arms, or abdomen. To treat, massage muscle until it relaxes and drink water lightly.
    Prevention: stay hydrated, eat foods high in potassium (like oranges, bananas, and mushrooms) and stretch muscles before physical activity.
  • Heat exhaustion - Symptoms include heavy sweating, fatigue and skin looking pale and feeling cold to the touch. Note the victim’s temperature may still be normal. Get victim into shaded/air conditioned location and feed water in sips. Prevent this from occurring by drinking plenty of fluids and alternating between the hot outdoors and cool areas.
  • Heat stroke/sun stroke - Symptoms will be opposite those of heat exhaustion. Skin will be hot and dry and the victim may possibly be unconscious. The victim’s body temperature will be far above the normal body temperature. This condition is a serious medical condition and victim should be taken to a medical facility ASAP. This condition can turn fatal if treatment is delayed. Victims should be cooled down as quickly as possible by laying them in air conditioning and sponging cool water on their skin. Do not feed victims of heat stroke water.
  • Chill out - Plan outdoor activities for the coolest times of the day. When heat is extreme, gather in cool shaded places (not necessarily indoors, as not all facilities have air conditioning).
  • Dress for success (summer style) - Wear light-colored clothing that reflects heat rather than absorbs it. Also dress in layers that are breathable so you can protect skin from the sun while still having ventilation. Wear clothing of natural fabrics, such as cotton. Avoid polyester as it does not "breathe."
  • Eat less - Many people naturally eat less in the summer months, because consuming food raises your metabolism causing you to produce more heat as well as dehydrate. So, eat light meals consisting of fruits and vegetables to stay hydrated. Also, stay away from salty foods as they will cause you to dehydrate.
  • Drink more - Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of non-alcoholic fluids throughout the day. Try to avoid alcoholic beverages as they will cause you to dehydrate.
  • Wear sunscreen - As sticky and smelly as it is, sunscreen is a savor in hot sunny weather.

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Winter Safety

Dress for the Weather:
  • Wear layers of loose fitting, light weight clothes. These keep you warmer than one thick layer because trapped air between layers acts as a good insulator.
  • Remove and apply those layers as necessary to avoid perspiring which can bring on a chill later.
  • Cover your head when outside! Up to half of your body heat can be lost through your head.
In Your Home:

In addition to the general emergency supplies such as food, water, and first aid supplies, winter storms can also require you keep the following items handy in case of a winter emergency:

  • Battery-powered National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather radio. In the event you lose power this may be your only means get news from the outside. Also remember to have extra batteries.
  • Emergency Heating source such as fire place or wood stove with appropriate fuel. Also be sure you are properly trained how to use these devices safely in an emergency.
  • Portable generators. Only use portable generators outside away from your home. Generators produce an odorless, invisible gas called Carbon Monoxide (CO) which is lethal. Never use in an enclosed space such as house, shed, or garage even if the space is well ventilated.
  • Be sure to have a working fire extinguisher, smoke detector, and carbon monoxide detector in your house. The smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be battery powered. These devices are often given out for free at many local fire departments and community centers.
Driving in Winter Weather:
  • Have your car 'winterized' before the season begins (including having winter tires with correct pressure, and wiper fluid topped off)
  • Avoid driving when storm is in effect, if possible wait until roads are plowed and treated to travel
  • Clean ALL snow/ice off your car before you take it out (snow/ice left on the top of your car can become a projectile when driving)
  • If doors/locks are frozen you can use windshield wiper fluid to un-freeze them, so keep extra around in the winter
  • NEVER leave your car running/warming up unattended. Not only do you leave your car at risk of being stolen, but leaving a running vehicle unattended in Maryland is against the law!
  • Always keep your gas tank at least a quarter filled

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Hurricanes bring with them multiple natural dangers in any single storm. Refer below to get a brief overview of the many hazards associated with these violent storms and how to prepare.

  • Lightning - If possible stay indoors and avoid using appliances that use water, i.e., washing machine, dish washer. Stay away from windows and door and do not use the telephone. If traveling, stay in a car.
  • Storm Surges - Storm surges affect areas near the coast and can bring up to 25 feet of water in over the average sea level. If you live in an area that could be affected retreat inland to seek higher ground.
  • Flooding - Flooding is a massive increase of water in inland areas. Basically if you see standing water, turn around. Never attempt to cross standing water on foot or in a car.
  • High Winds - High winds can not only sweep away your patio furniture and shingles but can knock over trees and cause major damage when projectiles hit buildings or cars. Tie down all outdoor equipment that could be swept away by high winds or bring it inside. Bring in things that could become projectiles, such as garbage cans, lawn ornaments and hanging bird feeders. Turn off propane tanks. Avoid travel.

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Earthquakes & Aftershocks

In MOST situations, chance of injuries are reduced by the following the protocol of "Drop, Cover and Hold On."

  • DROP down onto your hands and knees (before the earthquakes knocks you down). This position protects you from falling but allows you to still move if necessary.
  • COVER your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) under a sturdy table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, only then should you get down near an interior wall (or next to low-lying furniture that won't fall on you), and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
  • HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.

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Cleaning Up After a Disaster

Safety First:

  • New safety issues can be caused by a disaster such as washed out roads, weakened bridges, contaminated buildings/houses, contaminated water, gas leaks, chemical spills, downed power lines, broken glass and dead animals.
  • Keep all of these hazardous in mind when venturing out after a disaster and notify local authorities about the above hazardous as soon as possible; don’t assume someone else will.

Aiding the Injured:

  • Check for and note all injuries sustained.
  • Do not move the severely injured unless their immediate safety is compromised in the location they are in. If you must move them, stabilize their neck and back before moving and call for help immediately after.
  • Never attempt to feed unconscious victims liquids.

Maintaining Health:

  • Be aware of exhaustion and do not try to handle too much. Set priorities and a pace when trying to recover. Ask for assistance if needed.
  • Drink plenty of water, eat well, and get plenty of rest.
  • Wash hands thoroughly when sorting through debris, and maintain a standard of cleanliness. Wearing gloves is strongly encouraged. Even if it is warm outside, wearing long sleeve shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes is also recommended as these will discourage bug bites as well as provide protection against accidental scrapes and cuts.

Returning Home:

  • Remember that returning home, especially if your home was severely damaged, can be physically and mentally challenging.
  • Stay updated by battery-powered radio on emergency updates and news reports, especially those that might pertain to your home’s location.
  • Do not enter your home if you smell or hear a gas leak, floodwater remains, or in the case of fire the home has not yet been declared safe.
  • Use a battery powered flashlight when entering and turn it on beforehand so as not to ignite any leaked gas with the spark.
  • Watch out for animals, especially poisonous snakes, who may have taken refuge in your home during the disaster. Poke through debris with a stick. If you find an animal in your home DO NOT try and remove it yourself. Leave and open door or window for the animal to escape through. Call local authorities for help if the animal(s) fail to leave.

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For this and more information check out the following websites:

Are you Ready? -
Turn Around Don't Drown -
Tornado Facts and Safety Tips -
Severe Storm Facts and Safety Tips -
National Weather Service Watches and Warnings -
Maryland Emergency Management Agency -

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