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How to Survive a Landslide

By Edited Jul 16, 2015 0 0

Understanding Landslides

A landslide is when earth, rocks, and/or debris slide down a slope like a hill, mountainside, etc. Some landslides are very slow moving, giving people in its path time to move to a safe location. However, landslides can also occur suddenly, quickly burying or destroying anything in their path.

Landslides can be caused by a variety of things: heavy rain, fires that destroy vegetation, earthquakes, and human modifications to land. Often there is a combination of contributing factors. For example, a large wildfire can destroy the vegetation that holds the earth on a slope causing an area of risk. If the fire is followed by a period of heavy rain or snow runoff, there is a high possibility of a dangerous landslide occurring.

Large landslides can travel rapidly for miles, growing and picking up debris, trees, and other hazards. Almost like an avalanche of mud and rock.


There is little you can do to prevent landslides from happening, but you can do your best to stay out of their way. Living on the top of steep slope may offer you a nice view, but it can also leave you vulnerable to a landslide.

Avoid building near steep slopes, near drainage paths, natural erosion valleys, and mountain sides. Have a ground assessment of your property to look for any potential issues that only a professional may be able to detect. Be sure to consult a qualified professional for advice on how to correct any problems.

Even if your home isn't destroyed when a landslide occurs, a significant shift in the earth can cause severe damage to the home's structure, gas lines, and water lines. Installing flexible fittings on gas and water lines can help prevent breaks and leaks in the lines; such fittings should be professionally installed.

Have a 72-hour kit prepared for each member of your household so you have some essential supplies as you wait for help to arrive or help others.

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Warning Signs

Often little can be done to prevent a landslide, but you can take precautions to help keep you and your family safe. If you see a landslide, or suspect that one is imminent, the best thing you can do is to get out of its path. The first and most important thing is to be aware of your surroundings and the geological structures around where you live and frequently visit. If you live on or near a slope, be aware of any changes that begin to occur in or around your home. Some things to be aware of include,

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  • Doors and windows that begin to stick. If the earth is shifting, it could cause the walls of your home to shift and twist as well.
  • New cracks that appear in walls, foundations, brick, tile, plaster, etc.
  • Landscape changes such as water flowing or pooling in new locations.
  • Bulges that appear at the base of a slope.
  • Stationary objects like trees, fence posts, and utility poles tilting or moving.
  • The ground beginning to slope downward, possibly shifting beneath you.
  • The sound of trees cracking or of boulders falling or knocking together.
  • Small slides or trickles of mud falling down a slope; these may be an indication of a larger slide to come.
  • A rumbling sound that grows louder as the slide approaches.
  • Collapsed pavement, fallen rocks, or mud seen while driving. This can indicate a possible debris flow.

Stay alert if you begin to see any of these signs. Do not fall asleep if it is nighttime; you are more likely to be injured or killed in a landslide if you are asleep.

During a Landslide

Move quickly and calmly out of the path of the landslide or debris flow. If you are not able to escape, curl into ball and protect your head; if possible, take cover under a sturdy object like a table.

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After a Landslide

Stay away from the slide area, as more slides may occur. Check for trapped and injured individuals near the slide without entering the slide area, and direct rescuers to their locations.

Stay alert for damaged utility lines. Do not go near any downed power lines. Do not step in any water that has a downed power line touching it whether the line appears damaged or not. Also, avoid any areas where you hear hissing or smell natural gas.

As the area recovers, follow advice on whether your home is habitable and when you can re-enter the structure. Replant vegetation on the slope as soon as possible to help prevent future slides.



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  1. "Landslide & Mudslide Survival." Wilderness Survival. 26/03/2014 <Web >

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