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Talking About Disaster:
Guide for Standard Messages (2004)

Since early 2002, the National Disaster Education Coalition has worked
on reviewing and updating its "Talking About Disaster: Guide for
Standard Messages." The review process included extensive participation
by more than 450 professionals, scientists, and researchers who
contributed to the material. Representatives from NDEC participating
agencies have spent numerous hours to refine and resolve content issues
and questions, to ensure accuracy, consistency, and appropriateness of

This Guide is in the public domain and may be freely downloaded and
republished without written permission. Acknowledgement to the National
Disaster Education Coalition, Washington, DC, is requested (
see "Introduction and Purpose" for specifics).

Download Entire Guide or Individual Chapters
The content on this page is available as a zipped file or as individual PDF files.  The zipped file contains the entire Guide, and may be unzipped using standard "unzip" software usually packaged with most new computers or available as shareware on the Internet.  The individual files are in Adobe PDF format.  To open these files you will need Adobe Reader.  If not already installed, it is available as a free download from Adobe's website (clack on "Get Adobe Reader" below.)

NOTE ON UPDATES: Each chapter of the Guide listed below indicates a date of the latest version of the chapter. You can opt-in to be notified when there are any updates to any chapter of the Guide. Use the Notification Form on this web site to ask for notifications.

The chapters of the Guide listed below are complete as PDF files.  Within those files, you will find links to other chapters or the Appendix of this Guide. You may download and print out the cover, Table of Contents, Introduction, and chapter(s) you wish to use, as well as the Appendix.  All of the content is accurate and up-to-date.

We just recently added a new section to our guide about pressure cookers. With pressure cookers being in the news recently for the wrong reasons, we felt it was necessary to address their safety and overall public perception. We interviewed Elizabeth from Pressure Cooker Pros to complete to the section. Please leave feedback on the new section and let us know your thoughts about pressure cooker safety.

If you think you spot an error on any page of the Guide, please let us know by sending an email to: ndec@disastereducation.org.  Please describe what you think is an error, the chapter name, page number, and any other information which can help us identify it for review and correction, if required.  Thank you for your help!

Entire Guide

Separate PDF Files (Updated 9/15/04) for electronic version of Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard Messages. NOTE: This .ZIP archive contains separate PDF files for each chapter and section. Download.

One PDF File (Updated 8/13/04) for electronic version of Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard Messages. NOTE: This PDF file contains all chapters and sections. Download.



Cover (Updated 8/11/04) for electronic version of Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard Messages. Download.


Table of Contents

Table of Contents (Updated 8/11/04) for electronic version of Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard Messages. Download.



Introduction (Updated 7/2/04) for electronic version of Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard Messages. Download.


List of Chapters
Chemical Emergencies (Updated 7/16/04)
Chemicals are a natural and important part of our environment. We use chemicals every day. They are found in our kitchens, medicine cabinets, basements, garages, and gardens. Chemicals help us keep our food fresh and our bodies clean. They help plants grow and fuel our cars. And chemicals help us to live longer, healthier lives.
Learn more.
Disaster Supplies Kit (Updated 8/13/04)
A Disaster Supplies Kit is a collection of basic items that members of a household would probably need in the event of a disaster. The items are stored in a portable container(s) near, or as close as possible to, the exit door. Every household should assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit and keep it up to date. The number of people in a household and their ages and abilities will determine how many containers will be required to carry the kit items. Learn more.
Drought (Updated 7/16/04)
Droughts have wide-ranging adverse economic, environmental, and social impacts as rivers, reservoirs, groundwater levels, and soil moisture all drop. Lack of rain for an extended period can cause losses to crops, timber, livestock, and fisheries. Water shortages for home use and industry may result, affecting personal and environmental sanitation. Environmental losses from water shortages may occur due to an increase in the number of fires and the amount of dust and concentrated water pollution. Learn more.
Earthquakes (Updated 7/16/04)
Earthquakes strike suddenly, without warning. Earthquakes can occur at any time of the year and at any time of the day or night. On a yearly basis, 70 to 75 damaging earthquakes occur throughout the world. Estimates of losses from a future earthquake in the United States approach $200 billion. Learn more.
Evacuation, Sheltering, and Post-Disaster Safety (Updated 7/16/04)
At any time of the year, at any time of the day or night, a disaster or threat of a disaster could force people to leave their homes, offices, and schools or even the community in which they live. People evacuate a dangerous place to go to a safer place, and they usually need to act in a hurry.  The safer place that they may go to is a shelter.  The shelter may be inside their own home, in case of a chemical or other emergency outside, or a public shelter set up by the American Red Cross or other organization that provides a safe place to stay if evacuation has been advised.  Also, after a disaster, people can reduce the chances of injury and death by knowing how to handle water of questionable purity, portable generators, and more. Learn More.
Family Disaster Plan (Updated 8/02/04)
Disaster can strike quickly and without warning. It can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services, such as water, gas, electricity, or telephones, were cut off? Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone right away. Learn more.
Fires, Residential (Updated 7/7/04)
Fire was the sixth leading cause of unintentional death due to injury in the United States in 2002. Fires and burns also rank as the third leading cause of unintentional home injury for children under the age of 15.
Learn more.
Fires, Wildland (Updated 7/16/04)
More and more people are making their homes in woodland settings in or near forests, rural areas, or remote mountain sites. There, residents enjoy the beauty of the environment but face the very real danger of wildland fire. Wildland fires often begin unnoticed. They spread quickly, igniting brush, trees, and homes. Learn more.
Floods & Flash Floods (Updated 7/16/04)
Floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters in terms of human hardship and economic loss. As much as 90 percent of the damage related to all natural disasters (excluding drought) is caused by floods and associated debris flows. From 1992 to 2001, floods cost the nation, on average, more than $4.1 billion annually. Between 1972 and 2001, on average, 127 people a year were killed by floods—mostly by flash floods. Learn more.
Hazardous Materials Incidents (Updated 7/16/04)
From industrial chemicals and toxic waste to household detergents and air fresheners, hazardous materials are part of our everyday lives. Affecting urban, suburban, and rural areas, hazardous materials incidents can range from a chemical spill on a highway to the contamination of groundwater by naturally occurring methane gas. Learn more.
Heat (Heat Wave) (Updated 7/16/04)
In recent years, excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events, including floods. The American Meteorological Society reports that on average heat kills more than 1,000 people each year. During the July 1995 heat wave in Chicago, more than 700 people died as a result of excessive heat. Learn more.
Hurricanes and Tropical Storms (Updated 7/16/04)
There are no other storms like hurricanes on earth. Each year, on average, 10 tropical storms (of which six become hurricanes) develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico. Many of these storms remain over the ocean. However, on average, five hurricanes strike the United States coastline every three years. Of these five, two are major hurricanes, category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Major hurricanes have sustained winds above 110 miles (177 kilometers) per hour.
Learn more.
Landslides (Updated 7/16/04)
Landslides are a serious geologic hazard that occurs in almost all 50 states. Every year in the United States, they cause significant damages and 25 to 50 deaths. Globally, landslides cause billions of dollars in damages and thousands of deaths and injuries each year.
Learn more.
Nuclear Power Plant Incidents (Updated 8/13/04)
Nuclear power plants operate in most states in the country and produce about 20 percent of the nation’s power. Nearly three million Americans live within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of an operating nuclear power plant.
Learn more.
Terrorism (Updated 8/09/04)
In addition to the natural and technological hazards described elsewhere in this guide, people face threats of terrorism posed by extremist groups, individuals, and hostile governments .Terrorists can be domestic or foreign, and their threats to people, communities, and the nation range from isolated acts of terrorism to acts of wa r..
Learn more.
Thunderstorms, Severe (Updated 7/16/04)
Despite their small size, all thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes and hurricanes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can lead to flash flooding. Strong winds, hail, and tornadoes are also dangers associated with some thunderstorms. High winds from thunderstorms can cause damage to homes, overturn vehicles, and blow down trees and utility poles, causing widespread power outages.
Learn more.
Tornadoes (Updated 7/16/04)
Tornadoes have been reported in every state. They generally occur during spring and summer, although they can happen in every season. Tornadoes can strike at any time of the day or night but are most likely between 3:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. No areas are immune to tornadoes; they have been reported in mountains and valleys, over deserts and swamps, from the Gulf Coast into Canada, in Hawaii, and even in Alaska. Regardless of the location or time of year, if conditions are right, a tornado can develop. More than 1,000 tornadoes are reported annually nationwide, and as our tornado detection systems improve, fewer tornadoes go undetected. Even so, tornadoes sometimes develop in areas in which no tornado watch or warning has been issued.
Learn more.
Tsunamis (Updated 7/16/04)
All tsunamis are potentially, if rarely, dangerous. Twenty-four tsunamis have caused damage in the United States and its territories in the past 200 years. Since 1946, six tsunamis have killed more than 350 people and caused significant property damage in Hawaii, Alaska, and along the West Coast. Tsunamis have also occurred in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. When a tsunami comes ashore, it can cause great loss of life and property damage. Tsunamis can travel upstream in coastal estuaries and rivers, with damaging waves extending farther inland than the immediate coast. A tsunami can occur during any season of the year and at any time, day or night.
Learn more.
Volcanoes (Updated 7/27/04)
Volcanoes produce a wide variety of hazards that can kill people and destroy property. Volcanic eruptions fall into two broad types: (1) explosive and (2) quiet. Hazards from large explosive eruptions include widespread ashfall (fine glass particles), pyroclastic flows (mixtures of hot gases and pumice blocks), and massive lahars (volcanic mud or debris flows) that can endanger people and property nearby as well as tens to hundreds of miles away. Eruptions can even affect global climate. Hazards from quiet lava flows include igniting fires and producing chlorine-rich gas clouds where lava pours into the sea. Since 1980, as many as five volcanoes have erupted each year in the United States. Eruptions are most likely to occur in Hawaii and Alaska. In the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington, Oregon, and northern California, volcanoes erupt on the average of one to two or more each century. Learn more.

Winter Storm (Updated 7/16/04)
Each year, exposure to cold, vehicle accidents caused by wintry roads, and fires caused by the improper use of heaters injure and kill hundreds of people in the United States. Add these to other winter weather hazards and you have a significant threat to the health and safety of Americans. Learn more.



Appendix (Updated 9/15/04) for electronic version of Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard Messages. Download.


Index (Updated 8/11/04) for electronic version of Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard Messages. Download.


The National Disaster Education Coalition
This page was updated: 9/21/04 Sponsored by HomelandPLANS.com Site by eScapes