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Natural Disasters & The Fifth Element

In 1997, there was a movie released titled The Fifth Element starring Bruce Willis. Bruce’s character helped the Fifth Element (played by Milla Jovovich)? keep Evil from destroying the planet. In classical thought, the four states of matter (earth, water, air and fire) describe matter, and the fifth element describes that which is beyond the material world. It’s no doubt an interesting topic and the movie, The Fifth Element, was a success.

Throughout history, the four elements (earth, water, air and fire) have been the cause of many natural disasters. Unfortunately, natural disasters are a part of living on this earth and they are difficult to predict and impossible to stop. However, we can take appropriate action to limit damage and loss of life if they occur.


Earthquake: caused by movements of the earth. It is the result of a sudden release of energy in the earth’s crust.? An earthquake is a sudden lateral or vertical movement of rock along a rupture (break) surface is known as a faulting. There are three main types of faults, all of which may cause an earthquake: normal, reverse (thrust) and strike-slip.

Mudslide: a rapid movement from a large mass of mud formed from loose dirt and water. Heavy rainfall, snowmelt, or high levels of ground water flowing through cracked bedrock may trigger a movement of soil or sediments.


Flood: an overflow of water that submerges land.

Tsunamis: a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, generally an ocean or large lake. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, underwater explosions, landslides, glacier calvings, meteorite impacts and other disturbances above or below water all have the potential to generate a tsunami.

Hurricane: cyclone, tropical cyclone, and typhoon are different names for the same phenomenon a cyclonic storm that forms over the oceans.


Tornado: a rotating column of air ranging in width from a few yards to more than a mile and whirling at destructive high speeds, usually accompanied by a funnel-shaped downward extension of a cumulonimbus cloud; winds are 40-300+ mph.


Wildfire: an uncontrolled fire in an are of combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside or a wilderness area.

Volcano: an opening, or rupture, in the surface or crust of the earth which allows hot lava, volcanic ash and gases to escape from the magma chamber below the surface of the earth.

The Fifth Element ? Prevention

For the sake of this blog post, we?ll call the fifth element the human element of prevention. Although natural disasters are out of our control, there are some things we can do to limit damage to our homes and protect our families.


Mudslides and Your Home:

  • Try to direct debris flows away from structures by using materials such as sandbags, sand or lumber.
  • Mudslides are most likely on slopes or at the base of hills and slopes. Consider this when shopping for? a new home.
  • Look for mudslide danger signs and study the drainage near your home during and after rainstorms.
  • Landscape Wisely: Proper landscaping and hardscaping can help minimize the danger of mudslide damage.


Flooding and Your Home:

  • Determine how water flows around your house:?it’s best if the home was built so that water drains away from the building.
  • Safeguard in-home electrical and climate systems: raise switches, sockets, circuit breakers and wiring at least a foot above the expected flood level in your area, the IBHS website advises.
  • Anchor and raise outdoor equipment: fuel tanks, air-conditioning units and generators should be anchored and raised above your flood level.
  • Modify water valves: A flooded sewer system can cause sewage to back up into your home. So that you won’t find yourself knee-deep in you-know-what, install an interior or exterior backflow valve.
  • As waters rise: clear gutters, drains and downspouts. Move furniture, rugs, electronics and other belongings to upper floor or raise off a ground floor. Shut off electricity at the breaker panel. Elevate major appliances onto concrete blocks.


Tornado and Your Home:

  • Strong structure: walls of reinforced concrete and well-anchored to the foundation.
  • Solid roof: secured with a strap anchors over the rafters.
  • Storm cellar: separate from house, located near the southwest corner of the building and not too close to the house walls. Doors should be open inward in case debris blocks the exit.


Wildfires and Your Home:

  • Create a 30-to 100-foot safety zone around your home: rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs. Clear all flammable vegetation.
  • Regularly clean roof and gutters.
  • Keep handy household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, axe, handsaw or chain saw, bucket and shovel.
  • Consider installing protective shutters or heavy fire-resistant drapes.
  • Identify and maintain an adequate outside water source such as a small pond, cistern, well, swimming pool, or hydrant.


For a more complete list of natural disaster types and how to protect your family if one should occur in your area, go to ReadyGov.