Landslides/Mass Movements – Mitigation (Actions Before, During, After)


Do you live in a landslide risk area or do you in an area where landslide has occurred? The following actions are some important recommendations that you can follow through each stage of a Landslide or Mass Movement emergency:[1] [2]

Actions Before: Determine Risk, Increase Knowledge, Safeguard, Plan

General All-Hazard Actions:

  • Determine the disaster risks in your locale and the hazards that accompany them.
  • Increase your knowledge about the emergency warning signals and alert notifications used in your community.
  • Instruct family members how to shut off water, gas and electricity to your house.
  • Make the necessary property preparations to reduce the damage from the hazard.
  • Acquire a backup generator in case of a prolonged power failure.
  • Check into insurance (property, health, life, and hazard type).
  • Make the necessary financial arrangements in case of a sudden evacuation and power outage that shuts down local ATMs and banks.
  • Organize important documents and records and store them in a portable lock box or safe-deposit box.
  • Perform home inventory video taping and store tape in a portable lock box or safe-deposit box.
  • Develop an Emergency Communication Plan with evacuation plan and ask an out-of-state person to serve as the "family contact".
  • Assemble a shelter-in-place Emergency Supplies Kit.
  • Assemble a mobile Emergency Supplies Kit that can serve as a “grab and go” bag?
  • Get a family member trained in first aid and CPR.
  • Make the necessary preparations and arrangements for pets, seniors, and the disabled.
  • Familiarize yourself with the emergency plans of your family member's employment building, school, day care center, or nursing home.

Hazard Specific Actions:

  • Do not build near steep slopes, close to mountain edges, near drainage ways, or natural erosion valleys.
  • Get a ground assessment of your property.
  • Contact local officials, state geological surveys or departments of natural resources, and university departments of geology. Landslides occur where they have before, and in identifiable hazard locations. Ask for information on landslides in your area, specific information on areas vulnerable to landslides, and request a professional referral for a very detailed site analysis of your property, and corrective measures you can take, if necessary.
  • Watch the patterns of storm-water drainage near your home, and note the places where runoff water converges, increasing flow in channels. These are areas to avoid during a storm.
  • Minimize home hazards (plant ground cover on slopes, build retaining walls, and in mudflow areas, build channels or deflection walls to direct flow around buildings).
  • Minimize home hazards:
    • Have flexible pipe fittings installed to avoid gas or water leaks, as flexible fittings are more resistant to breakage (only the gas company or professionals should install gas fittings).
    • Plant ground cover on slopes and build retaining walls.
    • In mudflow areas, build channels or deflection walls to direct the flow around buildings. Remember: If you build walls to divert debris flow and the flow lands on a neighbor's property, you may be liable for damages

Recognize landslide early warning signs:

  • Springs, seeps, or saturated ground in areas that have not typically been wet before.
  • New cracks or unusual bulges in the ground, street pavements or sidewalks.
  • Soil moving away from foundations.
  • Ancillary structures such as decks and patios tilting and/or moving relative to the main house.
  • Tilting or cracking of concrete floors and foundations.
  • Broken water lines and other underground utilities.
  • Leaning telephone poles, trees, retaining walls or fences.
  • Offset fence lines.
  • Sunken or down-dropped road beds.
  • Rapid increase in creek water levels, possibly accompanied by increased turbidity (soil content).
  • Sudden decrease in creek water levels though rain is still falling or just recently stopped.
  • Sticking doors and windows, and visible open spaces indicating jambs and frames out of plumb.
  • A faint rumbling sound that increases in volume is noticeable as the landslide nears.
  • Unusual sounds, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together, might indicate moving debris.

Actions During: Safety Basics, Evacuation, Shelter in Place

If indoors:

  • Stay inside and get cover under a sturdy piece of furniture.

If outdoors:

  • Try to get out of path of mudflow.
  • Run to nearest high ground in a direction away from path.
  • If rocks and other debris are approaching, run for nearest shelter such as a group of trees or a building.
  • If escape is not possible, curl into a tight ball and protect your head.

Be cautious of sinkholes:

  • Sinkholes occur when groundwater dissolves a vulnerable land surface such as limestone, causing the land surface to collapse from lack of support.

Actions After: Get Disaster Relief, Clean-up, Salvage

  • Stay away from slide area.
  • Check for injured and trapped persons and give first aid where needed.
  • Listen to battery-operated radios for emergency information.
  • Remember flooding may occur after a mudflow or landslide.
  • Check for damaged utility lines and report damage to the utility company.
  • Check the building foundation, chimney, and surrounding land for damage.
  • Replant damaged ground as soon as possible since erosion caused by loss of ground cover can lead to flash flooding.
  • Seek advice from a geotechnical expert for evaluating landslide hazards or designing corrective techniques to reduce landslide risk. A professional will be able to advise you of the best ways to prevent or reduce landslide risk, without creating further hazard.