Landslide Survival: How to Gear Up for It and Stay Safe

It’s an average Saturday morning.

You’re at home, sipping a cup of joe and admiring the view of the mountains from your window.

Suddenly, the trees start moving, and you seem to be hearing rocks falling.

Your world stops. It’s a landslide!

Would you know what to do if that happens? Don’t worry if you can’t answer the question right now. This article will teach you all about how to prepare for a landslide.

What to Do Before, During, and After a Landslide

A landslide starts when the soil’s lower layer can’t handle what’s lying on top of it. The pressure makes the earth collapse and slip. While sometimes they’re minor and affect only a few areas, there are other times when landslides reach several homes and buildings.

They can have devastating consequences. The USGS reports that landslides kill around 25-50 folks in the US every year. It’s even worse in different parts of the world, with thousands of lives lost yearly.

Another bad thing about landslides? It ain’t easy to predict when one will happen.

That’s why you need to start prepping ahead. Knowing what to do before, during, and after a landslide will lessen its impact on your property and your life. In the next sections, we’ll tell you exactly what you gotta do:

How to Prepare for a Landslide

Learn Your Risk Level

Landslides happen in all 50 states, but they tend to happen in hilly, mountainous, and coastal areas. Regions that have huge amounts of rainfall or snow are more prone to them.

So if you’re living in states like Hawaii, Alaska, or near the Rocky Mountains or the Mississippi River, then you better brace yourself for a landslide or two.

To know your risk level, the USGS has a map you can check out. Just enter your address in the search bar, and you’ll find out if landslides are likely to happen in your location. These are the factors that can trigger one:

  • Steep cliffs, hills, or mountains
  • Volcanic eruptions
  • Erosion
  • Excess rainfall or melted snow
  • Canals
  • Manmade activities (ex. mining or building roads and new developments)

Check Your Home and Toughen It Up

So, you’ve established that your area is landslide-prone. The next thing to do is have your home assessed by a geotechnical engineer. They can check the soil and rocks in your property and see if these might put your home at risk.

If they spot any hazards, these are some things they may recommend:

  • Installing flexible pipe fittings to prevent water and gas leaks
  • Using sandbags
  • Building retaining walls
  • Installing deflection walls in mudflow areas (but be warned: if the debris flow reaches your neighbor’s property, you can get in trouble)

You also want to observe if there is anything different with the topography. Over time, weather and erosion can alter the ground, which is why it’s smart to keep a close eye on your property after calamities like flooding, earthquakes, and hurricanes.

If you notice something odd with the way rainwater runs off or see any cracks in your home’s foundation, take care of those right away. Planting shrubs or trees where the water gathers and sealing wall cracks with epoxy can make a big difference. Don’t wait for another catastrophe to strike.

Educate Your Family

Your household should know the basics about landslides and debris flow. Make sure they understand their aftermath and how to deal with them. By discussing these with your family, they will be less likely to panic during the disaster.   

Make Plans

After you fill in your family members, it’s time to plan how you’ll deal with the disaster. Involve your partner and kids in the preparations. You should have a plan for:

  • Escape: If you’re at home, how will you make it out alive? Think about obstacles that might get in your way. Also, consider the possibility that you might be someplace else during a rock slide.  
  • Communication: How will you reunite if you get separated during all the chaos? Choose two contacts (one in your state and one outside) that you and your loved ones can update regarding your situation.

Prepping Your Survival Kit

an emergency kit checklist helps with prepping for a landslide

Call it a survival kit, an emergency kit, or a bug out bag—it doesn’t matter. What’s crucial is that you have survival supplies and tools ready in case.

These are the essentials you should have:

Keep these survival gear and supplies in your house, car, AND workplace. It might seem like overkill, but you gotta cover all your bases. Who knows where you’ll be when SHTF?

Watch Out for Red Flags

Like we said earlier, you can’t predict the exact time a landslide will hit. But there are warning signs. If you notice any of these, don’t ignore your gut. There’s a high chance one will happen soon: 

  • Leaning trees, fences, and telephone walls
  • Cracking concrete floors and foundations
  • Soil shifting away from foundations
  • Weird bulges in the ground, sidewalks, and pavements
  • Broken underground utilities like water lines
  • Saturated ground in places that are normally dry
  • Any changes in water levels
    • If it’s increasing fast (this can also bring increased soil content)
    • If it’s decreasing quickly, even if it’s raining or just rained
  • Any change in a stream or creek’s appearance (ex. clear water turning muddy) 
  • Anything that sounds like the ground is shifting, such as boulders hitting each other and trees cracking
  • A weak rumbling sound that gradually gets louder

How to Survive a Landslide

Keep Yourself Alert

Debris flow has killed many folks in their sleep. It’s a combination of loose soil, mud, and rocks that quickly barrels its way through everything it makes contact with. Debris flow can be triggered by strong rain, so check your TV or listen to the radio to find out if a major storm is in the cards. Keep your eyes and ears wide open if there is one. 

Be a Good Neighbor

When you feel that a landslide is inevitable, do your best to warn the people next door. If you have an elderly neighbor living on their own, help them retreat to safety. You may be their only chance for survival.  

Take Care of Your Pets

Your cats and dogs are also members of the family. Whether you’re hightailing it out to your bug out location (BOL) or staying where you are, don’t leave your animal pals vulnerable.  

If You Bug Out

Evacuating might be your best option when your area is at risk for debris flows. But be careful when you’re getting out of dodge. With fallen rocks, collapsed pavements, and mud, the roads will be difficult to navigate.  

Oh, and remember to grab your bug out bag before you leave. Stick to bringing only that. Your focus should be on getting to safety, not on saving your things.

If You Bug In or Shelter in Place

Maybe you can’t bug out because your family member got injured. Or maybe you can’t make a run for it in time and end up stuck in your workplace. These are terrifying scenarios to think of, yet they can be serious possibilities. 

Here’s what you need to do when bugging in:

  • Move to the highest level in the house or building BUT don’t stay in a place without windows. That means attics are a no-go. 
  • Assist folks who might struggle with climbing up.
  • Shield your head and neck with your arms and lie in a fetal position.   

What to Do After the Landslide

  • There may be more landslides after, so brace yourself. Give the slide area a wide berth. 
  • Keep an ear out for folks who might need help. They may have gotten trapped under the rubble or are nursing an injury. It’s great if you can get them out yourself. But if it’s too risky, lead the rescue teams to them. 
  • Continue listening to the news. Your best weapon is staying informed about the situation. Before you get back to your regular routine, be sure you won’t be subjected to flash floods and further landslides. 
  • Is there any flooding? Don’t attempt to pass through flooded areas. The water may not wipe you out, but it’s still full of iffy contaminants.
  • Steer clear of busted railways and roadways. 
  • Report any downed utility lines to the authorities to help avoid even more safety hazards. 
  • Downed utility lines can also mean a blackout, so prepare backups for light and cooking. Unplug your electronics, too.  
  • Once you’re given the okay to return home, look for damage. Watch out especially for cracks in your foundation and broken underground pipes. Also, check your land. Replanting your soil ASAP will make a big difference in minimizing future flash floods and debris flow.

Final Thoughts

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: prepping is one of the most effective ways to combat disasters of SHTF proportions. Landslides are no exception. Start making preparations now so you won’t be paralyzed with fear when the time comes.

Have other tips on how to survive a landslide? Share them down below!

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