Severe Storm Safety Minimize
What to do Before Intense Storms
  • Learn about landslide/mudslide risk in your area by contacting your City or County government office of planning or public works department (check yellow pages of your phone book). Ask for information on landslides in your area, specific information on areas vulnerable to landslides, and request a professional referral for a very detailed site analysis of your property, and corrective measures you can take, if necessary. 
  • Discuss landslides and debris flow with your family. Everyone should know what to do in case all family members are not together. Discussing disaster ahead of time helps reduce fear and lets everyone know how to respond during a landslide or debris flow. 
  • Develop a Family Disaster Plan: Contact the American Red Cross of Santa Cruz County at 462-2881, and ask for a brochure on developing a family disaster plan.   Online brochures can also be obtained at:
  • Watch the patterns of storm-water drainage on slopes near your home, and especially the places where runoff water converges, increasing flow over soil-covered slopes. Watch the hillsides around your home for any signs of land movement, such as small landslides or debris flows, or progressively tilting trees. Watching small changes could alert you to the potential of a greater landslide threat.  
What to do During Intense Storms
  • Stay alert and awake. Many debris-flow fatalities occur when people are sleeping. Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or portable, battery-powered radio or television for warnings of intense rainfall. Be aware that intense, short bursts of rain may be particularly dangerous, especially after longer periods of heavy rainfall.
  • If you are in areas susceptible to landslides and debris flows, consider evacuating if it is safe to do so. Remember that driving during an intense storm can be hazardous. If you remain at home, move to a second story if possible. Staying out of the path of a landslide or debris flow saves lives.
  • Listen for any unusual sounds that might indicate moving debris, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together. A trickle of flowing or falling mud or debris may precede larger landslides. Moving debris can flow quickly and sometimes without warning.
  • If you are near a stream or channel, be alert for any sudden increase or decrease in water  flow   and for a change from clear to muddy water. Such changes may indicate landslide activity upstream, so be prepared to move quickly. Don't delay! Save yourself, not your belongings. 
  • Be especially alert when driving. Embankments along roadsides are particularly susceptible to landslides. Watch the road for collapsed pavement, mud, fallen rocks, and other indications of possible debris flows.


  • Contact your local fire, police, or public works department.
  • Inform affected neighbors. Help neighbors who may need assistance to evacuate.
  • Evacuate. Getting out of the path of a landslide or debris flow is your best protection.

Flood Safety Minimize

 During a Flood:

  • Avoid areas subject to sudden flooding. If you are caught outdoors during a heavy rain and flood, climb to high ground and stay there.
  • Stay back from rushing water, as during flash floods water can increase suddenly.
  • If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, STOP! Turn around and go another way.
  • Children should NEVER play around high water, storm drains, viaducts, or arroyos.
  • Don't walk through flooded areas. As little as six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet.
  • Stay away from downed power lines and electrical wires. Electrocution is another major source of deaths in floods. Electric current passes easily through water.
  • Look out for animals - especially snakes. With homes along hillsides, animals lose their homes in floods, too. They may seek shelter in your home.
  • If the waters start to rise inside your house before you have evacuated, retreat to the second floor, and if necessary, the roof.
  • Take dry clothing, a flashlight and a portable radio with you. Then, wait for help.
  • If you are stranded and surrounded by water, do not swim to safety; wait for rescuers to come to you. 
After a Flood:
  • If power is out, use flashlights and battery lanterns (Do not use flammable or gas lanterns).
  • Look for electrical system damage--If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If your power is off, keep it off, until an electrician has inspected your system for safety (PG&E’s customer service line is 1-800-743-5000).
  • Check for gas leaks--If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional, so call PG&E or your local gas provider for assistance).
  • Report broken utility lines to appropriate authorities (in the yellow pages of your phone book).
  • Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance--infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities.
  • Before entering a building, inspect foundations for cracks or other damage. Do not go in if there is any chance of the building collapsing.
  • Floodwaters pick up sewage and chemicals from roads, farms and factories. If your home has been flooded, protect your family's health by cleaning up your house right away. Throw out foods and medicines that may have met floodwater.
  • Be careful walking around. After a flood, steps and floors are often slippery with mud and covered with debris, including nails and broken glass.
  • Until local authorities proclaim your water supply to be safe, boil water for drinking and food preparation vigorously for five minutes before using.
  • Check for sewage and water line damage--If you suspect sewage lines are damaged avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid the water from the tap. You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes.
  • Take steps to reduce your risk of future floods. Make sure to follow local building codes and ordinances when rebuilding, and use flood-resistant materials and techniques to protect yourself and your property from future flood damage.
  • If your home, apartment or business has suffered damage, call the insurance company or agent who handles your flood insurance policy right away to file a claim. Flood insurance can be crucial in helping to rebuild your home after a flood.  For more information on flood insurance, visit FEMA’s “Flood Smart” page at
Information for this article was obtained from, and the Los Angeles Injury and Violence Prevention Program. 

Landslide Safety Minimize
What to do During a Landslide
  • Quickly move out of the path of the landslide or debris flow. Moving away from the path of the flow to a stable area will reduce your risk. 
  • If escape is not possible, curl into a tight ball and protect your head. A tight ball will provide the best protection for your body.
What to do After a Landslide
  • Stay away from the slide area. There may be danger of additional slides. 

  • Check for injured or trapped people near the slide, without entering the slide area. Direct rescuers to their location. 

  • Help a neighbor who may require special assistance--infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities. Elderly people and people with disabilities may require additional assistance. People who care for the elderly or who have large families may need additional assistance in emergency situations. 

  • Listen to local radio or television stations for the latest emergency information. 

  • Watch for flooding, which may occur after a landslide or debris flow. Floods sometimes follow landslides and debris flows because they may both be started by the same event.

  • Look for and report broken utility lines to appropriate authorities. Reporting potential hazards will get the utilities turned off as quickly as possible, preventing further hazard and injury. 

  • Check the building foundation, chimney, and surrounding land for damage. Damage to foundations, chimneys, or surrounding land may help you assess the safety of the area.

  • Replant damaged ground as soon as possible, as erosion caused by loss of ground cover can lead to flash flooding.

  • Seek the advice of a geotechnical expert for evaluating landslide hazards or designing corrective techniques to reduce landslide risk. A professional will be able to advise you of the best ways to prevent or reduce landslide risk, without creating further hazard.
Information was obtained from American Red Cross

Sandbag Locations Minimize

The Aptos/La Selva FPD distributes free sand and sandbags at our Station 1 location (6934 Soquel Drive) during the rainy season, with a limit of 10 bags per household. Supplies are limited in many locations, so calling in advance is highly recommended.  Personal use only - no commercial/contractor use or resale.:

Free Sandbags/Sand Available:

Boulder Creek Fire
13230 CA-9, Boulder Creek
Branciforte Fire Station (sand only)
2711 Branciforte Drive, Santa Cruz
CalFire Station - Corralitos
120 Eureka Canyon Road, Watsonville
Central Fire Protection District
4747 Soquel Drive, Soquel
Felton FD (bags only)
131 Kirby Street, Felton
Pajaro Valley Fire Station
563 Casserly Road, Watsonville
Scotts Valley FD
7 Erba Lane, Scotts Valley
Valley Churches United (bring own shovel)
9400 Hwy 9 (parking lot), Ben Lomond

Sandbag/Sand Vendors (prices may vary):

Aptos Landscape Supply
(aka Cabrillo Sand and Gravel)
5025 Freedom Boulevard
Aptos, Ca 95003

Central Home Supply
808 River Street
Santa Cruz, Ca 95060

Granite Rock
303 Coral Street
Santa Cruz, Ca 95060

Home Depot - Soquel
2600 41st Avenue
Soquel, CA 95073

Home Depot - Watsonville
355 S Green Valley Rd
Watsonville, CA 95076

Olive Spring Quarry
1399 Olive Springs Road
Soquel, Ca 95073


Sandbag Placement Minimize

Filling Sandbags:

Filling sandbags is usually a two-person operation.  One person places the empty bag between or slightly in front of widespread feet, with arms extended. The throat of the bag is folded to form a collar and held, with hands in position. The other person carefull empties a shovel full of sand into the open end. The person holding the sack should be standing with knees slightly flexed, and head and face as far away from the shovel action as practical.  Use of safety goggles/gloves is recommended.

Fill each bag only halfway up, to allow room for folding at the top.

Placing Sandbags:

Remove any debris from the area where bags are to be placed, to prevent gaps/punctures. Place half-filled bags lengthwise and parallel to the direction of water flow. If tied bags are used, flatten them and flare the tied end.  If bags are untied, fold the open end to form a triangle. Place succeeding bags on the folded or flared portion of the previous bag and stamp into place to eliminate gaps and form a seal. Stagger joint connections when multiple layers are necessary (see graphics for guidelines).

Photos Minimize

This landslide occurred during the '89 Earthquake, at New Brighton Beach.  Other common causes of landslide are excessive flooding and soil erosion.

Is your house prepared for the possibility of flooding in your neighborhood? Many ocean front properties, like the Rio Beach buildings shown here (damaged by waves in 1983), are particularly susceptible to water damage.

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