Natural Disasters

Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as making an emergency supply kit and developing a family communications plan are the same for both a natural or man-made emergency. However, there are important differences among natural disasters that will impact the decisions you make and the actions you take. Some natural disasters are easily predicted, others happen without warning. Planning what to do in advance is an important part of being prepared.

Flooding is the nation’s single most common natural disaster. Earthquakes, though commonly thought to be a West Coast phenomenon, can happen in most every region of the country, including Illinois. The State of Illinois, due to its location, can experience severe snow during the winter and severe heat during the summer months. Tornadoes are another type of disaster known to occur in this region.

  1. Earthquakes
  2. Extreme Heat
  3. Flooding
  4. Tornadoes
  5. Winter Storms / Extreme Cold


An earthquake is a sudden shaking of the earth caused by the breaking and shifting of rock beneath the earth’s surface. Earthquakes can cause buildings and bridges to collapse, telephone and power lines to fall, and result in fires, explosions and landslides.

Seismic Waves

The term aftershock refers to an earthquake of similar or lesser intensity that follows the main earthquake. Seismic waves are vibrations that travel outward from the center of the earthquake at speeds of several miles per second. These vibrations can shake buildings so rapidly that they collapse. Magnitude indicates how much energy was released. This energy can be measured on a recording device and graphically displayed through lines on a Richter scale.

A magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter scale would indicate a very strong earthquake. Each whole number on the scale represents an increase of about 30 times the energy released. Therefore, an earthquake measuring 6.0 is about 30 times more powerful than one measuring 5.0.


Items in your home may become hazards during an earthquake. Be sure to repair any defective electrical wiring, leaky gas lines and inflexible utility connections. 

  • Bolt down water heaters and gas appliances and consider automatic shut-off devices triggered by an earthquake. 
  • Place large or heavier objects on lower shelves. Make sure that shelves are fastened to the walls. 
  • Store bottled foods, glass, chin and other breakables on lower shelves in cabinets that can fasten shut. 
  • Anchor overhead lighting fixtures. 
  • Check and repair deep plaster cracks in ceilings and foundations. Know where and how to shut off electricity, gas and water in your home. 
  • Hold earthquake drills and develop plans to evacuate and return to your home. 
  • Assemble a survival kit that will sustain you and your family for three days.

Use caution when returning to your home. Be alert for structural hazards such as broken beams, collapsed walls, floors and roofs and electrical and gas deficiencies. Listen to news reports for the latest emergency information. Stay away from damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire or relief organizations.