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    National Preparedness Month: Here are the counties with the highest risk
    • October 21, 2023

    October is National Preparedness Month, so we look at where natural hazards are most likely to occur in the nation and offer a few tips on getting yourself ready.

    The map is from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and shows each county’s rating for disaster potential. Most of California’s counties are in the highest ranking mostly due to high fire, earthquake, severe storm and flood risk.

    Natural hazards are defined as environmental phenomena that have the potential to impact societies and the human environment. These should not be confused with other types of hazards, such as human-caused hazards. For example, a flood resulting from changes in river flows is a natural hazard, whereas flooding due to a dam failure is considered a human-caused disaster and therefore excluded from the National Risk Index.

    Calculating the risk index

    Risk index scores are calculated using an equation that combines scores for expected annual loss due to natural hazards, social vulnerability and community resilience.

    Risk index scores are presented as a composite score for all 18 hazard types, as well as individual scores for each hazard type.

    The 18 natural hazards included in the National Risk Index are:


    Coastal flooding

    Cold wave






    Ice storm



    Riverine flooding

    Strong wind



    Volcanic activity


    Winter weather

    Natural hazards and natural disasters are related but are not the same. A natural hazard is the threat of an event that will likely have a negative impact. A natural disaster is the negative impact following an actual occurrence of a natural hazard in the event that it significantly harms a community.

    California is prone to various disasters, most notably those from excessive rain (flooding and other storm damage), fires, and earthquakes.


    A few skills to learn

    Learn to use a fire extinguisher.

    Know how to shut off utilities.

    Gas: If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and get everyone out quickly. Turn off the gas, using the outside main valve, if you can, and call the gas company from a neighbor’s home.

    Caution: If you turn off the gas for any reason, a qualified professional must turn it back on. NEVER attempt to turn the gas back on yourself.

    Water: Water quickly becomes a precious resource following many disasters. It is vital that all household members learn how to shut off the water at the main house valve.

    Electricity: Locate your electrical circuit box. For your safety, always shut off all the individual circuits before shutting off the main circuit.


    Learn more at

    Sources: ReadyOC, FEMA,

    Compiled by former Focus page editor Charles Apple and Kurt Snibbe, SCNG

    ​ Orange County Register