The future disasters we will face can be lessened by simple preparedness measures, and undertaking pre-disaster mitigation actions now. We can also educating ourselves about what types of hazards we might face and specific safety measures associated with each.
Brief information and related links on the following specific types of hazards that could potentially affect our area are available below:
People fleeing from a disaster in the northeast metropolitan corridor could seriously affect Vermont, especially if the event created the need for long term shelter. This is a newly realized risk.
Several severe droughts have been recorded during the last century, including 1964-1966 and 1999-2002. Droughts can cause the loss of potable water due to wells running dry, and can have severe impacts on crops and livestock. For the latest on drought in Vermont go to the Vermont Department of Public Safety's Drought Hazard Page. National updates and draught information, including the latest assessments and forecasts, are available on NOAA's Drought Information Center web site.
NOAA Drought Assessment
Surprising as it is to some, Vermont is classified as an area with "moderate" seismic activity. This can be compared to the west coast of the U.S., which is classified as "very high" and the north-central states classified as "very low." Many earthquakes have been centered in Vermont, and a HAZUS earthquake hazard analysis conducted by the Vermont State Geologist's office predicted significant damage for parts of the state based estimated 500-year quakes that could occur from six epicenters. The latest information on earthquakes can be found at the National Earthquake Information Center.
USGS Earthquake Hazards Program
Vermont Geological Survey
Contagious diseases that are fatal or cause serious illness are generally not thought of a hazard, but even the annual flu season causes tens of thousands of deaths nationwide. The great influenza epidemic of 1918 killed millions worldwide, and another pandemic of such strength would likely cause hundreds to thousands of deaths in Vermont. You can find the latest state-level information about this topic from the Vermont Department of Health, or check the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for national and international news.
Vermont Department of Health
Center for Disease Control (CDC)
Community Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Mitigation
Providing Mass Medical Care with Scarce Resources: A Community Planning Guide
World Health Organization (WHO)
Pandemic Influenza Resource Summary
Extreme cold or heat can create emergencies by themselves if they continue for several days. Extreme cold, especially when the ground is not insulated by snow, can freeze water lines, overburden power and heating systems, hamper transportation and directly threaten individuals exposed to weather with frostbite and hypothermia. Extreme heat can overload power and cooling systems and threaten people with heat exhaustion and stroke. Listen to the TV or radio on tips to stay comfortable, drink lots of water, do not overexert yourself, dress properly and seek more appropriate shelter if necessary.
CDC advice for extreme cold
CDC advice for extreme heat
Please click here for more information on flooding in Vermont.
The state of the science behind global warming is now mature enough to be highly confident that warming is occurring and that much of it is human-caused. The results of warming will differ considerably depending on where you live, and computers models are not yet sophisticated enough to give us short-term or state-level impacts. If climate change occurs as projected, it will "fundamentally change both the character and quality of life in the New England Region." The two models used for New England suggest generally warmer temperatures, while one predicts more dramatic warming and some droughts, and the other predicts a dramatic increase in precipitation. Either model predicts greater climate variation than New England has seen for at least 10,000 years, and global temperatures that have not been experienced in over two million years. The effects of global warming are generally going to occur over decades, and will slowly shift the native vegetation of Vermont, allowing the introduction of new species and possibly terminating our maple sugaring season. A warmer climate could also allow disease vectors into the state that our climate had previously precluded. For current information, try the links below.
EPA: Climate Change
Pew Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
Worldwide Panel on Climate Change
Union of Concerned Scientists Global Warming FAQ
Dr. James E. Hansen, head of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and leading researcher in climatology.
Hailstorms have occurred in Vermont, usually during the summer months in association with severe thunderstorms. While local in nature, these storms are especially significant to area farmers, who can lose entire fields of crops in a single hailstorm. Large hail is also capable of property damage. Stay under shelter during a hail storm.
Hurricanes (storms with sustained winds greater than 74 mph) rarely reach as far inland as Vermont, more often having weakened to tropical storms or depressions by the time they get here. The most infamous hurricane in Vermont was the disastrous hurricane of September 21, 1938, a very fast moving hurricane that hit Vermont with severe flooding and high winds that downed power lines and felled trees by the thousands To see the latest on hurricanes go to the National Hurricane Center's Tropical Prediction Center.
NHC Tropical Prediction Center
AccuWeather Hurricane Information
Infestations by pests or invasive species are capable of altering ecosystems, damaging fields and forests, clogging waterways and water supply intakes, and even causing problems with vehicles and ventilation systems functioning properly. A recent example was the army worm invasion (actually a type of caterpillar) that caused over $8 million dollars in damage to the 2001 hay crop in eastern Vermont. Other non-native, invasive plants and animals, from Eurasian milfoil to zebra mussels cause millions more in damage in Vermont.
Non-native Plant and Animal Species in Aquatic and Wetland Habitats in Vermont
Invasive species in Vermont forests
Vermont Invasive Plants
Vermont actually has a relatively high danger due to landslides, though this type of disaster rarely occurs. Landslides can be caused by seismic events, changes to groundwater flow that cause pressure changes in bank materials, removal of hillside vegetation and manmade or natural undercutting of steep banks. People should avoid building near the edge of high banks and should carefully think about any activities that remove vegetation or reroute drainage in steep areas. If you are looking for further information on landslides, the National Landslide information center is an excellent resource.
National Landslide Information Center
Jeffersonville, VT Landslide
Power outages can be caused by a variety of weather conditions, as well as failures within the electrical grid itself. Below are safety tips and links to the electric utilities in the region.
CVPS To report a power outage, call 800-451-2877.
Washington Electric Co-op to report a power outage, call 802-223-5245. At night, Saturday, Sunday, and holidays, call 802-223-7040. The toll-free number is 1-800-932-5245.
Diagram of how power crews fix lines
Green Mountain Power Company - To report a power outage, call 1-888-835-4672 CDC outage
Vermont has a very high per capita death rate from fire, which is the deadliest form of disaster throughout the state. Many needless deaths occur due to lack of smoke detectors. Every dwelling should have working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers! To learn more about fire safety in Vermont, click the link below.
Vermont Fire Safety Programs
Fire Safety.gov - An information resource for eliminating residential fire deaths.
Fire Safety for Kids
"Technological hazards" is the emergency field's term to cover accidental hazards created by man-made substances, facilities or actions that threaten people or property. This includes such things as train derailments, airplane crashes, vehicle crashes, hazardous materials (HAZMAT) spills or leaks, explosions, radiation hazards, noxious or poisonous fumes, dam failure and structure collapse. Vermont has the potential for all of these types of events. National Information on Hazardous Materials, as well as information regarding the Vermont Yankee Nuclear power plant is available from the links below.
VT Dam Safety Section
VT HAZMAT Response Team
VT Yankee Nuclear Plant: Emergency information, see links at the bottom right side of page:
Terrorism and civil hazards include actions that people intentionally do to threaten lives and property. They may range from a single person on a shooting rampage, to a cyberattack that harms computer systems to the organized use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). WMD events could involve chemical, biological, explosive or radioactive weapons. Up-to-date information on Terrorism and Civil Hazards in Vermont can be found on the Vermont Homeland Security Unit Website. For the same type of information on a National level, link to The National Domestic Preparedness Office.
VT Homeland Security Unit
Department of Homeland Security
Thunderstorms can create heavy rainfall that can lead to flash flooding. Thunderstorms are also often accompanied by strong winds and lightning. If there is a severe thunderstorm watch or warning, pay attention and seek appropriate shelter. If you are driving, slow down on wet pavement, and never drive through running water. To learn how to stay safe from lightning, go to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) lightning safety web site.
NOAA Lightning Safety
Tornadoes have occurred throughout Vermont, and the state averages about one tornado per year. Nearly all of these occur from May through August, and most in the afternoon in association with severe thunderstorms. Tornadoes are classed by wind speeds and placed into five categories (F0-F5). All recorded tornadoes in Vermont have either been FO (40-72 mph winds), F1 (73-112 mph winds) or F2 (113-157 mph winds). Interestingly, F2 tornadoes are the most common of the three classes recorded in the state.
Online Tornado FAQ
Wildfire conditions in Vermont are typically at their worst either in spring when the dead grass and fallen leaves from the previous year are dry and new leaves and grass have not come out yet, or in late summer and early fall when that summer's growth is dry. In drought conditions, this risk is obviously higher. Make sure to get any needed permits before outdoor burning and heed all fire danger warnings. The Forest Resource Protection Unit within the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation and local Fire Wardens handle wildfire protection for the State of Vermont. The US Forest Service's (USFS) Eastern Region also has information on wildfires and national wildfire information can be found at the National Interagency Fire Center.
VT Division of Forest Resource Protection - Forest Fire Control
US Forest Service: Eastern Region: Fire and Aviation
Fire Warden Wildland Fire Reporting
National Interagency Fire Center
Eastern Area Coordination Center (EACC) for Wildfire
Winter storms are a regular occurrence in Vermont. However, severe winter storms can cause serious damage, including collapse of buildings due to overloading with snow or ice, brutal wind chills, power outages due to downed trees and power lines and the closure of rail, road and air travel. People can be at risk of freezing in extended power outages if they lack wood heat or backup power and individuals shoveling large accumulations of snow can also be at risk from frostbite, hypothermia and heart attacks due to cold and overexertion. Ice storms are more unusual that snow storms, and in January of 1998, just the right combination of precipitation and temperature led to more than three inches of ice in spots, closing roads, downing power lines, and snapping thousands of trees. This storm was estimated as a 200-500 year event. Power was out up to 10 days in some areas and 700,000 acres of forest were damaged in Vermont. For tips from the Red Cross on staying safe in the snow, click on the link below.
FEMA Winter Storm Tips
1998 Ice Storm Report