Preparing for Disasters

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Disasters, man-made and natural pose risks to our community at any given time. It's vital to learn how to prepare yourself and your loved ones to be ready to respond-- from nuclear threats, to tornadoes, to extreme weather, to power outages, the Denver Office of Emergency Management is committed to helping the citizens of Denver to actively grow their knowledge and ability to respond to events, and ultimately, increase the basic level of preparedness across our community. 

Below are some tips about how to prepare for specific disasters. If you would like more information on how to get prepared, or if you'd like to sign up for one of our Community Preparedness Trainings, click here!


Preparing for Different Disasters


Wildfires are unplanned fires that burn in natural areas like forests and open space areas. Fires can spread quickly and can devastate not only wildlife and natural areas, but also residential communities as we saw with the Marshall Fire in Boulder. In Denver's most recently published Hazard Mitigation Plan from 2017, wildfire risk was identified as a low risk due to, in large part Denver being vastly urbanized. While wildfire is currently not considered a high risk to Denver, it's important to acknowledge that we live in a dry climate and experience forceful winds seasonally therefore it's important to be prepared. 

Below are some actions you can take to ensure you're ready if you're in immediate wildfire danger: 

  • Sign up for Reverse Emergency alerts and ensure your Wireless Alerts are ON and WORKING. To learn more, visit our alerts page at
  • Make an emergency plan. Ensure family members know where to go and what to do if you need to evacuate. Establish an evacuation zone 30 feet from your home and ensure it's free of debris, leaves or flammable material should your household need to evacuate quickly. 
  • Create a Go-Kit and pack important documents including insurance policies and personal documents like ID cards, birth certificates, social security cards, several changes of clothes and jacket or blanket, medicine, pet supplies and cash in small bills.  
  • Strengthen your home. Use fire-resistant materials to build, renovate or make repairs. 
  • Find an outdoor water hose long enough to reach any area of your property. 

Nuclear Threats

Sheltering in Denver

In the 1960’s and 70’s, the City and County of Denver maintained a list of fallout shelters around Denver. These shelters were generally basements of civic buildings, schools, and churches and were maintained by a variety of organizations. They were identified as shelters because they were underground and offered greater protection from nuclear blast and fallout.

As the risk of nuclear war lessened after the 1980's, so to did the the recommended protective actions. As a result, the Denver Office of Emergency Management shifted it's focus and instead of maintaining shelters that may not be accessible 24/7, or may be full and risk persons being caught outdoors trying to find a shelter, we are choosing to better educate the public on how to protect themselves in their homes, workplaces, and schools.

Preparing for a Nuclear Detonation Event

The following are things you can do before a nuclear bomb detonation to protect yourself, your family, and your property:

  • Make an Emergency Plan and Emergency Supply Kit. Visit for more information on how to create each.
  • If your home is not suitable, make a list of potential shelters near your home, workplace, and school. Potential shelters might include basements, tunnels, or the windowless center area of high-rise building.
  • Tape duct tape around your basement windows or openings to seal off any cracks to prevent radiation from entering your space.
  • During periods of heightened threat, ensure your home, workplace, or school's emergency supplies are stocked to last at least 48-72 hours, including non-perishable foods and water.

During a Nuclear Detonation Event

The following are things you can do during a nuclear bomb detonation to protect yourself, your family, and your property:

  • Taking shelter during a nuclear detonation is absolutely necessary. A fallout shelter is a protected space with thick walls and roof to protect against and absorb radiation. Any protection is better than none at all; however, the more time, distance and shielding you can take advantage of, the better outcomes you will have.
  • Do not look at the flash or fireball-- it will damage your vision and may cause blindness.
  • If an attack warning is issued, you will receive an alert on your phone or via media. If this happens, you should take cover as quickly as you can.
  • If possible, take cover below ground in a basement and stay there until you're instructed otherwise.
  • Find the nearest building, preferably brick or concrete and stay inside to avoid radiation exposure.
  • If you can find better shelter, such as a multi-story building or basement within minutes, go there immediately.
  • Staying underground or in the center of a tall building during the highest levels of radiation (at least 48 hours after a blast) is going to help provide the best outcomes.

Being Caught in a Nuclear Detonation

If you are unable to shelter during a detonation, the below guidelines are to help improve your outcomes:

  • Do not look at the flash or fireball as it will damage your vision and may cause blindness.
  • Take cover behind anything that might offer protection.
  • Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it will take approx. 30 seconds to reach you.
  • If you survive, take shelter as soon as you can and remove all your clothing and seal in a plastic bag and dispose of the bag away from other people and animals.
  • Take a soapy shower as soon possible. Scrub rigorously but do not scratch the skin. Do not use conditioner as it can bind radioactive material to your hair, preventing it from rinsing out easily.
  • Gently blow your nose and wipe your eyelids, eyelashes and ears with a wet wash cloth.
  • If you cannot shower, use a wipe or clear wet cloth to wipe your skin that was not covered by clothing.

After a Nuclear Detonation Event

If you survive a nuclear detonation event and you're allowed to return home, remember the following:

  • Keep listening to the local radio and television news and follow authorities on social media for instruction on what to do, where to go, and what and where to avoid.
  • Stay away from damaged areas. Stay away from areas marked "radiation hazard" or "HAZMAT".






Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air that extend from a thunderstorm to the ground. They can destroy buildings, flip cars, and create deadly debris. They can happen anytime and anywhere and can bring winds with up gusts up to 200 miles per hour. When they form, the funnel may start small, but as the tornado travels, it increases in size and speed. 

If you are under a tornado or severe weather warning:


  • Go to NOAA Weather Radio and your local news or official social media accounts for updated emergency information. Follow the instructions of state, local and tribal officials. 
  • Go to a safe shelter immediately, such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar or a small interior room on the lowest level of a sturdy building.
  • Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls.
  • Do not go under an overpass or bridge. You’re safer in a low, flat location.
  • Watch out for flying debris that can cause injury or death.
  • Use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  • If you can’t stay at home, make plans to go to a public shelter.


Severe Winter Weather

Winter storms pose a high risk of increased car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion. Winter storms can last from hours to days and can impact heat, power, and communication services. Extreme winter storms post significant risks to our elderly population, children, sick individuals and pets. 

Preparing for Winter Weather 

  • Prepare your home to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking and weather stripping. This will help keep your pipes from freezing. If you are unable to afford your heating costs, weatherization or energy-related home repairs, consider applying for the Denver Office of Human Services LEAP program.
  • Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups.
  • Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power.
  • Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication.
  • Remember the needs of your pets and never leave them outside during a winter storm.
  • Have extra batteries for radios and flashlights.

Stay In the Know 

  • Pay attention to local news weather reports and warnings of freezing weather and winter storms.Follow local news weather stations for your latest information and keep connected to them through social media.
  • Listen for emergency information and alerts that may come through on your cell phone.  
  • Follow Denver OEM on twitter @DenverOEM and on facebook /DenverOEM for helpful tips and important announcements during winter storms. 

Stay Safe While Staying Warm 

  • Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven. If your power goes out, do not sit in your idling vehicle while turned on in your garage. 
  • Stay off roads if at all possible. If trapped in your car, then stay inside.
  • Limit your time outside. If you need to go outside, then wear layers of warm clothing. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Reduce the risk of a heart attack by avoiding overexertion when shoveling snow and walking in the snow.

Signs of Frostbite and Hypothermia 

Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers and toes.

  • Signs: Numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, firm or waxy skin.
  • Actions: Go to a warm room. Soak in warm water. Use body heat to warm. Do not massage or use a heating pad.

Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature. A temperature below 95 degrees is an emergency.

  • Signs: Shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech or drowsiness.
  • Actions: Go to a warm room. Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head and groin. Keep dry and wrapped up in warm blankets, including the head and neck.

Power Outages

Extended power outages may impact the whole community and the economy. A power outage is when the electrical power goes out unexpectedly. Power outages may disrupt communications, water and transportation. It can also cause businesses, grocery stores, gas stations, ATMs, banks and other services to close. 

Preparing for a Power Outage

  • Take an inventory of the items you need that rely on electricity.
  • Plan for batteries and other alternative power sources to meet your needs when the power goes out, such as a portable charger or power bank.
  • Have flashlights for every household member.
  • Determine whether your home phone will work in a power outage and how long battery backup will last.

During a Power Outage 

  • Keep freezers and refrigerators closed.
  • Use a generator, but ONLY outdoors and away from windows.
  • Do not use a gas stove or oven to heat your home.
  • Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges.
  • Have alternate plans for refrigerating medicines or using power-dependent medical devices.
  • Check with local officials about heating and cooling locations open near you.

After a Power Outage 

  • Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40 degrees or higher for two hours or more, or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. When in doubt, throw it out! Don't taste-test food to determine if it's still edible. 
  • If the power is out for more than a day, discard any medication that should be refrigerated, unless the drug’s label says otherwise. Consult your doctor or pharmacist immediately for a new supply.