The Ultimate Mudslide Safety Guide

If you’re asking yourself: “Why do I need a mudslide safety guide?” you’ve come to the right place.

You need to know your risk and prepare so you can protect yourself. Although they aren’t the most highly publicized natural disaster in the United States, mudslides still do a lot of damage. Did you know landslides and mudslides cause approximately $1-2 billion in damage and kill an average of 25 people each year in the U.S.?

Throughout this mudslide safety guide, we’ll share expert tips that can protect your business, home, and loved ones from becoming a mudslide statistic. Keep reading to gauge your risk and increase safety before, during, and after a mudslide.

What Is A Mudslide & How Do They Happen?

First let’s go over what a mudslide actually is and how they happen. Please feel free to skip this section if you’re a geological expert. Otherwise, these next few paragraphs could really help you understand mudslides better, which will help you prepare.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mudslides are a common type of fast-moving landslide that tends to flow in channels. Also known as mud flows and debris flows, mudslides are made up of masses of rock, earth, and/or debris. These masses move quickly down a slope when the natural stability of the slope is compromised.

But how do slopes become compromised in the first place? There are a few different weather-related events that can cause mudslides. The most common causes include:

  • Heavy Rains
  • Droughts
  • Wildfires
  • Earthquakes
  • Volcanic Eruptions


Humans can also cause mudslides, or at least create environments where they are more likely to happen. When people destroy vegetation they destroy the roots that hold soil on slopes in place. Landslides and mines go hand in hand, so all mining operations should invest in weather alerting tools.

Mudslides can travel miles from the source, picking up trees, rocks, and even buildings on the way. For this reason, they can be very dangerous.

Mudslide Safety Guide

We broke our mudslide safety guide up into three parts to help you before, during, and after this type of natural disaster. We hope you’ll only ever need the “before” section, which focuses on preparation tips.

With any type of severe weather or natural disaster, your first line of defense is always preparedness. Let’s dive in and get smart about mudslide safety.

Safety Before A Mudslide

When it comes to mudslide safety, you need to have a plan beforehand so you know what to do in case of an emergency. Here are the steps you should follow before a mudslide occurs to give you, your business, and your family the best chance of surviving.

  • Know your area’s mudslide history. Much like lightning, mudslides often strike the same place twice. Research past events in your area to calculate your risk.
  • Learn about local emergency response and evacuation plans. If you are told to evacuate it is good to know your route ahead of time to minimize panic..
  • Get your plans and kits together. Talk to everyone in your household or at your business about what they should do if a mudslide occurs. Create and practice an emergency plan and know where your evacuation route is. Put together an emergency kit.
  • Get insurance. While landslide insurance isn’t typically available, you can get what is known as “debris flow damage” coverage. Check with your insurance provider.


Safety During A Mudslide

Now that you know what to do to prepare for a possible mudslide it’s important that you know what to do during one. Here’s what you should do if a mudslide occurs or if you know one is likely to occur.

  • Evacuate immediately. Inform affected neighbors and businesses if you can. Take any pets or livestock with you if possible.
  • Contact your police or fire department or your local public works to inform them as well.
  • Listen for unusual sounds. These are sounds that may indicate moving debris, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together. Mudslides make a rumbling sound so listen for that too!
  • If you are near a stream or channel, be alert for any sudden increase or decrease in water flow. Muddy water is another sign that debris could be moving from upstream. Be prepared to move quickly.
  • Look for tilted trees, telephones poles, fences, or walls as well as new holes or bare spots on hillsides.
  • Stay awake. If you live in an area prone to mudslides make sure you stay awake during severe storms and when wildfires are affecting your area.
  • Be alert when driving as well. Roads may become blocked by debris.


Safety After A Mudslide

If you’ve safely evacuated you could come home to a lot of damage. Here’s what you should do after a mudslide occurs at your home or business.

  • Stay away from the site until local officials tell you it’s safe. Flooding or addition landslides could still occur so it’s best to wait for the official “OK.”
  • Listen to the radio or TV for updates on weather conditions, mudslides, and evacuation orders.
  • Check for injured or trapped people and animals near the slide without entering the slide area.
  • Help people who need special assistance first like infants, the elderly, and those with disabilities.
  • Look for and report broken utility lines. If you smell gas or suspect a leak call 911.
  • Check your home and/or business’ foundation, chimney, and surrounding land for any cracks or damage.
  • Replant damaged ground as soon as possible to prevent more mudslides from occurring. Lack of ground cover can also cause flash flooding.
  • Be alert to potential health conditions. Rashes, trench foot, wound infections, and GI illnesses are all common after mudslides and cleanup. Go to the doctor immediately if you think you are suffering from a disaster-related illness.


 Areas Most at Risk for Mudslides  

Now that you’ve got the whole mudslide safety guide, let’s see how vulnerable your area is for mudslides. Some areas are more likely than others to experience landslides. As we briefly mentioned before, areas where mudslides have occurred before are a big warning that they will happen again. Another risky area includes places where wildfires or human modification of the land has destroyed vegetation.

One risk factor we haven’t talked about yet are slopes themselves. Both natural slopes like canyons and hills as well as man-made slopes built for roads and buildings are susceptible to mudslides. Other risky areas include places near channels or rivers as well as areas where surface runoff is directed.

Safety Starts With Preparedness

And preparedness starts with you.

Remember, the safest way to prepare for any severe weather event or natural disaster is with preparedness. This mudslide safety guide would be incomplete without giving you some of the tools you need to prepare. Below, you’ll find information on weather safety tools and emergency kits to help you prevent damages and injuries from mudslides.

Weather Safety Tools

You can’t control the weather and stop mudslides from happening, but you can get advanced warnings with the right tools. When it comes to mudslides and landslides, alerts for heavy rains, severe thunderstorms, droughts, and wildfires can help you prepare. It’s best to use data from your own weather station or a station in your town, so hyperlocal weather networks are the best providers of warnings.

We also recommend using an alerting platform that works best for you. If your workplace is in a mudslide-prone area and you use the computer all day, email alerts are a great bet. However, if you’re on-the-go all day for work you would be better off with text alerts. Having a weather map that can do it all will help you prepare and protect what matters to you most.


Emergency Preparedness Kit

Every business and home should have an emergency preparedness kit for whatever natural disasters or severe weather events are likely in their area. Emergency preparedness kits should be brought with you if you’re forced to evacuate and should include the following:

  • Flashlight
  • First Aid Kit
  • A 3-day supply of water for each person. 1 day supply = 1 gallon
  • A 3-day supply of nonperishable, easy-to-prepare food
  • A 7-day supple of medications
  • Multi-purpose tool/Utility knife
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items: Think hand sanitizer, feminine hygiene supplies, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc.
  • Cell phones and chargers
  • Copies of important documents
  • Emergency contact information
  • Whistle
  • Local maps
  • Dust masks for everyone in your group