Mudslides: Preparation and Survival

NATURAL DISASTERS - mudslide Photo Credit: Bette Jane Camp

Mudslides: Preparation and Survival

After a heavy rain or rapid snowmelt, mudslides can occur. Also known as debris flows, they are a common type of fast-moving landslide that tends to flow in channels.

According to the CDC, mudslides are more likely in the following areas:

  • Where wildfires or human modification of the land have destroyed vegetation;
  • Where landslides have occurred before;
  • Steep slopes and areas at the bottom of slopes or canyons;
  • Slopes that have been altered for construction of buildings and roads;
  • Channels along a stream or river; and
  • Areas where surface runoff is directed.

WHN TIP – Know Your Risk: Contact local authorities, a county geologist or the county planning department, state geological surveys or departments of natural resources, or university departments of geology to find out if your area is at risk for mudslides. If you live in an area vulnerable to landslides, consider leaving it.

Here’s what to know and do if your area is under a threat of a mudslide:

  1. Contact local authorities about emergency and evacuation plans.
  2. Listen to your local media for flood watches, warnings and other travel advisories. Evacuate of ordered.
  3. Prepare a home evacuation plan.
  4. Develop emergency and evacuation plans for your family and business.
  5. Develop an emergency communication plan in case family members are separated. (Read our 2 Tips for Contacting Others After a Disaster or Trauma article.)

WHN TIP – Get the FEMA App: Download the free FEMA Alert App to get severe weather alerts, maps of disaster resources and other helpful information in case of natural disasters. Information is in English and Spanish and available for Apple, Android, and Blackberry mobile devices.

WHN TIP – Evacuate! Need to go? has tips on its Evacuation page.

Here’s what to do after a mudslide

  1. If a mudslide does occur, stay away from direct slide area when helping injured or trapped people.
  2. Report broken utility lines to the appropriate authorities.
  3. Consult a geotechnical expert (a registered professional engineer with soils engineering expertise) for advice on reducing additional landslide problems and risks. Local authorities should be able to tell you how to contact a geotechnical expert.

WHN Expert TIP – Water Damage Clean-Up Tips: Greg Kistler, a ServPro cleanup and restoration specialist from South Washington County in Minnesota, provides water damage cleanup advice in this podcast.

WHN TIP – Be Ready: Download the free Red Cross first aid mobile app and all-inclusive emergency app – just in case!

For More Information Landslides & Debris Flow
Information about what to before, during and after a mudslide.

CDC’s Landslides and Mudslides
The page provides recommendations on what to do in the event of a mudslide

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The site has information on landslide hazards and characteristics, and up-to-date information on recent and past landslide events. The fact sheet has information on landslides and mudflows in the United States, as well as recommendations on how to prepare and behave during and after a landslide.

Red Cross Landslide Safety
The site has information on landslides and mudslides.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Geophysical Data Center
The site has slides and pictures about landslides.

University of Colorado’s Natural Hazards Center
The site provides a resources page of landslide-related websites.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Prevent Soil Erosion on Your Property pdf
The pdf offers common NRCS practices that can be implemented to protect your property and prevent mudslides.

Photo Credit: Bette Jane Camp

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