Natural Hazards

Monroe County Emergency Management Natural Hazards Safety Guide

Severe weather in Monroe County can take on many shapes and forms. The following page is a list of safety tips you should use as threatening weather approaches:

  • Tornado Safety
  • Flood Safety
  • Lightning Safety
  • Winter Safety

Flood Safety

Flash Floods are a weather related killer in the United States with around 140 deaths recorded each year. Flash Floods can happen anywhere, anytime. Monroe County's terrain supports flash floods, especially in the area of the River Raisin. One of the most memorable floods occurred in Dundee in 1982. There have also been several smaller-scale flood events associated with the spring thaw when ice jams on the River Raisin cause flooding along its banks and in the City of Monroe. Here are some Flood Safety rules:

When Inside

  • If ordered to evacuate or if rising water is threatening, leave immediately and get to higher ground!

If Caught Outdoors

  • Go to higher ground immediately! Avoid small rivers or streams, low spots, dry riverbeds, etc.
  • Do not try to walk through flowing water more than ankle deep.
  • Do not allow children to play around streams, drainage ditches or viaducts, storm drains, or other flooded areas!

If in a Vehicle

  • Number 1 Rule: Do not drive through flooded areas! Even if it looks shallow enough to cross. The large majority of deaths due to flash flooding occur with people driving through flooded areas. Water only a foot deep can displace a 1500 lb. vehicle! Two feet of water can easily carry most automobiles! Roads concealed by water may not be intact.

Lightning Safety

Lightning causes around 100 deaths in the U.S. annually.

When Inside

  • Stay away from windows
  • Avoid using the telephone (except for emergencies) or other electrical appliances.
  • Do not take a bath or shower.

If Caught Outdoors

  • Go to a safe shelter immediately! This includes a building or a hard-top car with the window up.
  • If you are in a wooded area, seek shelter under a thick growth of relatively small trees.
  • If you feel your hair standing on end, you may be getting ready to be struck by lightning. Squat down and curl up in a ball with your head between your knees. Do not lie flat!
  • Avoid: Isolated trees or other tall objects, bodies of water, sheds, fences, convertible automobiles, tractors, and motorcycles.

Tornado Safety

Tornadoes are the most violent atmospheric phenomenon on the face of the earth, with winds estimated close to 300 mph in large tornadoes. Although Michigan's number of tornadoes does not rank high in the United States, we do average around 16 tornadoes a year, and does rank 3 in deaths associated with tornadoes. Many of these tornadoes are weak (F0 or F1 on the Fujita Scale), but Michigan has been struck by some destructive tornadoes, including the Flint Tornado in the 1950's, and the Kalamazoo tornado in 1980.

A Tornado Watch

means that conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes. During a watch, you should be on the lookout for severe and threatening weather, and be prepared to take shelter. It is advisable to listen to local radio and television for the latest information.

A Tornado Warning

means that a tornado has been sighted or detected by radar and is currently affecting Monroe County. The Emergency Management Division and local fire departments will activate all county sirens in the National Alert Tone. This is a long, loud 3-minute steady siren blast. There will be no public address voice announcement with the tornado siren. Remember: A long siren blast means take cover IMMEDIATELY!

In Homes or Small Buildings

  • Go to the basement or to an interior room on the lowest floor, such as a closet or bathroom. Get under a sturdy piece of furniture or wrap yourself in blankets or towels to protect yourself from flying debris.

In Cars or Mobile Homes

  • Number 1 rule: Abandon them immediately! Most deaths occur in cars and mobile homes. If you are in either of these locations, leave them and go to a substantial structure. If no structure is near, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression.

In Schools, Hospitals, Factories, or Shopping Centers

  • Go to interior rooms or halls on the lowest floor. Stay away from glass enclosed places or areas with wide-span roofs such as an auditoriums and warehouses. In schools, seek shelter in the interior-most areas, away from glass. Crouch in hallways against walls, and protect your neck and hands. Avoid auditoriums, gymnasiums, cafeterias and other areas with wide-span roofs.

In High-Rise Buildings

  • Go to interior small rooms or halls. Stay away from exterior walls or glassy areas.

If No Suitable Structures Are Nearby

  • Lie flat in the nearest ditch or depression and use your hands to cover your head and neck.

Winter Storm Safety

Winter storms are considered one of America's deceptive killers, because many people don't think of the dangerous risks involved. Many deaths are indirectly related to the storm itself (heart attacks, hypothermia, etc.)

When caught in a winter storm:

In a Car or Truck

  • Stay in your car or truck! Disorientation occurs quickly in wind-driven snow and cold.
  • While in your car, make yourself visible to rescuers. Tie a colored cloth (preferably red) to your antenna or door; turn on dome light while engine is on, and raise hood after snow stops.
  • Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat.
  • Open the window a crack for fresh air.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked.
  • Exercise from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.

If Outside

  • Find shelter - try to stay dry. Cover all exposed parts of the body.
  • If no shelter is available, prepare a lean-to, snow cave or a wind break for protection against the wind.
  • Build a fire for heat and to attract attention.
  • Place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat.
  • Do not eat snow! It will lower your body temperature. Melt it first.

At Home or in a Building

  • Stay inside.
  • If you have no heat, close off rooms which are not needed. Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors, and cover the windows at night.
  • Eat and drink non-alcoholic beverages. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat.
  • Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight warm clothing. Remove layers as it warms up to avoid overheating, perspiration and subsequent chills.

Other Tips

  • Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
  • Dress to fit the season:
    • Wear loose-fitting, light-weight clothing in several layers.
    • Trapped air between layers of clothing insulates. Layers can be removed to avoid perspiration and subsequent chills.
    • Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent, and hooded.
    • Wear a hat. Half of all body heat is lost through the head.
    • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
    • Snug mittens at the wrist are better than gloves.
    • Try to stay dry.


Everyone is potentially at risk during a winter storm. Actual threat to safety is dependent on specific situations. About 70% of people die in winter-weather related auto accidents. Another 25% are caught in the storm itself. Preparation is the best way to reduce the risk of death or injury in the winter. Here are some ways to prepare yourself:

  • Use common sense - Many deaths occur because people do not heed warnings by the National Weather Service.
  • Dress to fit the season - This will help prevent overexposure.
  • If in your automobile:
    • Plan your travel and check the latest weather reports.
    • Fully check and winterize your vehicle before the winter season begins.
    • Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice formation in the tank and fuel lines.
    • Let people know where you're going and approximate times of arrival.
    • Carry a "Winter Storm Survival Kit". Some items that should be in the kit:
      • Blankets and sleeping bags
      • Flashlight with extra batteries
      • First-aid kit
      • Knife
      • High-Calorie, non-perishable food
      • Extra clothing
      • Large empty can w/plastic cover filled with tissues and paper for sanitary purposes
      • Smaller can for melting snow (drinking water)
      • Coffee can w/waterproof matches to make a fire
      • Sack of sand or cat litter
      • Shovel
      • Windshield scraper and brush
      • Tool kit
      • Tow rope
      • Booster cables
      • Water container
      • Compass and road maps

Please contact Monroe County Emergency Management at 734-240-3135 if you have questions on this, or any emergency preparedness topic.