Emergencies & Natural Disasters

Wildfires, flooding, hurricanes and other natural events can create unhealthy air, especially for people with lung disease.

These resources help you respond to unexpected events that can threaten the air quality in your community and your home. If you are impacted by an emergency or natural disaster listen to the information and directions from your local Emergency Management Agency.

Preparing for Threats

  • Preparation is key. Weather warnings offer a better chance now to protect your family from tornadoes.
  • Remember, you can and should start to prepare before tornado season starts, especially if you live where these storms are likely. Ready.gov, an initiative of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies, has information on preparing for tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding and other disasters.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has preparation advice.
  • Environmental Protection Agency and the National Weather Service also have preparation advice.

After the Disaster

  • Returning Home has a list of helpful tips to protect your lung health when you return home after a disaster
  • More detailed information about common concerns in tornado cleanup can be found in Indoor Air Pollutants and Health
  • If you or a family member live with asthma, COPD or another chronic lung disease, you can learn self-management strategies now that will help you keep your lung disease under control during a disaster 

Lung Disease and Natural Disasters

Make sure you have a backup tank and backup power source. Check with the instructions or product manufacturer to make sure the backup power source will work for your device. Let your power company and emergency responders know you are using a medical device that needs power.

If it that requires electricity, have a back-up plan in the event of a power outage.  Many newer nebulizer models can be battery powered or used with a car adaptor. You could also ask your healthcare provider if there is a similar medication that you can use when your nebulizer does not work.

Create an Asthma or COPD Travel Pack to ensure you have all of the medicines and instructions you need in one easily accessible place. When creating your Travel Pack consider including:

  • Copies of your Asthma Action Plan or COPD Action Plan
  • An extra written prescription in case medication is lost or destroyed
  • Insurance card and healthcare provider contact information
  • Both quick-relief and controller medications (make sure there is enough to get you through your stay, and extra in case you get held over unexpectedly)
  • A spacer
  • A Peak Flow Meter, if prescribed by your healthcare provider
  • Allergy medication

Store your Travel Pack and medicines at the correct temperature. Medicines may be exposed to extreme temperatures.

Speak with your doctor in advance about changes in treatment or need for additional protective steps that the storm might bring. Find out how to reach them and access treatment during the emergency. Find out who to call if you have an adverse reaction to a medication or treatment and you can’t get to your normal care provider.

You will likely have to travel or be around crowds. Wash your hands frequently. Remind people not to smoke around you.

These resources help you respond to unexpected events that can threaten the air quality in your community and your home. If you are impacted by an emergency or natural disaster listen to the information and direction from your local Emergency Management Agency.


Forest fires and other wildfires are an ongoing concern where there is dry, hot weather.
Learn More

Floods & Water Damage

Flood waters and water damage pose special problems for people whose homes and communities are disrupted.
Read More

Tornadoes, Hurricanes & Earthquakes

Natural Disasters may threaten your family or your home.
Read More

Volcanic Ash

Volcanoes can spew ash, a type of air pollution, into the air for miles downwind of the eruption.
Stay Safe


Volcanic gases can react with oxygen and moisture to form this dangerous kind of air pollution.
Learn More

Winter Weather

Extreme cold, major snowstorms or other winter weather events can be dangerous for those living with lung disease.
Be Prepared

Power Outages

While power outages can happen unexpectedly, preparation is key. A power outage could last a few hours to a few days, or longer.
Learn More

Chemical Releases

Sometimes harmful chemicals escape into the air when buildings catch fire and can spread into nearby communities.
Stay Safe

Returning Home

There is so much to do when you first return home after a disaster, it can be overwhelming.
Make a Plan

Climate Change

In many areas, the changing climate is leading to more frequent and more severe storms, like hurricanes. Learn more about why addressing climate change is important for lung health.
What you can do

More Resources:

  • See a chemical or oil spill? Call the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802 (24 hours a day every day). Chemicals can give off toxic air pollution, so report them as quickly as possible.
  • More information at Ready.gov can help you prepare for or respond to hurricanes,tornadoes, preparing for snowstorms and extreme cold. Ready.gov also has several options for getting alerts in emergencies, including weather emergencies.
  • Need help recovering?DisasterAssistance.gov  helps you to receive disaster assistance. 
  • What to do with disaster debris? Don't burn it. This lists ways that work to get rid of debris without adding to the burden to your health. More information is also available in this guide to mold cleanup after disasters.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advice on preparing and staying safe during winter weather.
  • More recovery advice is available from the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a guide on how to prepare for a winter storm.  
  • The American Red Cross provides guidance to help members of your family connect during and after a disaster.
  • USA.Gov can provide steps to finding family and friends, temporary housing, emergency food, tips to let people know you are safe and steps to replace important vital documents after a natural disaster.

Page last updated: March 6, 2023

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