McHenry County Department of Health - Emergency Preparedness & Response
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Natural Disasters

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Natural disasters are the most frequent type of disaster, affecting millions of people every year. They can result in significant disruption of everyday life. If a natural disaster happens, first responders may not be able to reach everyone immediately. You should know what your risks are and be prepared. Knowing the types of potential natural disasters where you live, work, and vacation is the first step in being prepared. 

Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling a supply kit and developing a family emergency plan, are the same for all types of disasters. However each emergency is unique and knowing the actions to take for each threat will impact the specific decisions and preparations you make.

Receiving Emergency Alerts  will help you to recognize an impending disaster. Knowing what to do to protect yourself and your family will help you take effective steps to prepare beforehand and aid recovery after the event.

Traveling and Natural Disasters

Since you cannot predict where you will be when a disaster strikes, it is important to have plans and supplies for the locations you and your family go to regularly. Not only should this include home, work and schools, but also consider where you might travel for business or vacation. Some locations may be affected by natural disasters that are different from what you are accustomed; think about what types of natural disasters are common in your intended destination. Learn the signs that will help you recognize these disasters before it is too late.  View this video to help you prepare for disasters that might occur when you are traveling.  Keep photocopies of your passport or other documents in multiple bags, learn the area and evacuation routes, and sign up for local emergency alerts. To find out about natural disasters not discussed below, please follow this link.


Earthquake NewEarthquake

An earthquake is the abrupt trembling of the ground, brought about by the shifting and breaking of rock underneath the earth’s surface.  They can cause buildings and bridges to fail, power lines to fall and result in fires and explosions.  While uncommon in northern Illinois, McHenry County is at risk for a major earthquake due to the New Madrid Fault Line.  Be prepared before, during, and after an earthquake.


EmergingEmerging Infectious Diseases

Infectious diseases are among the leading causes of death in the U.S.  Emerging infectious diseases refers to those contagious diseases whose occurrence in humans has  increased or threatens to increase in the future.


heatExtreme Heat

Extreme heat and high humidity are dangerous to people because the body must work harder to sustain a normal temperature.  Normally the body creates perspiration that evaporates to cool off; severe heat conditions slow this process.  Although everyone must be mindful not to overexpose or overexert themselves, the young, old, ill, overweight, and animals are at a higher risk. During an extreme heat wave call 2-1-1 for information about local cooling centers.  Be prepared for an extreme heat emergency.



Flooding is a common disaster in the United States and McHenry County, especially in the spring time. Floods can develop quickly or gradually. Being prepared for different types of floods is crucial.  Learn what to do before, during and after a flood.




The feature that characterizes a thunderstorm is lightning.  Because lightning creates thunder, when a storm produces lightning it is called a thunderstorm.  Although all thunderstorms generate lightning, they may also have associated tornadoes, high winds, hail and flash flooding. While thunderstorms are common, it is important to remember that every thunderstorm is dangerous. Lightning strikes can occur during, before, and after a thunderstorm.  Find out how to be prepared for and what to do during a thunderstorm.



Tornadoes are violently, spinning columns of air that extend down to the ground.  A tornado can hit rapidly with little warning and can cause damage, injuries and fatalities.  Tornado season is usually in the spring and summer. It is important to know where the best place to go during a tornado is in your home, your work, and other places you frequent. Make sure you have a way to receive weather alertsLearn how to prepare for a tornado.



BlizzardWinter Weather

An entire region can be paralyzed by severe temperatures and major snow or ice storms.  Potential difficulties can include blocked streets, closed roads, downed utility lines, burst pipes,  and hypothermia.  By planning ahead for these risks, you can protect yourself and your family.  Learn what to do before and during a winter storm.


For more information on natural disasters, please visit the following links: