Landslides strike suddenly, which make them a frightening thought for many. But there are actually plenty of ways to prepare for a landslide, and you've come to exactly the right place! Below, we'll tell you exactly what to do if you notice the warning signs of a landslide; plus, we'll list landslides' warning signs, too. Then, we'll walk you through what experts suggest you do in order to stay safe after a landslide, too. In short, if you want to be as prepared as possible to safely weather a landslide, read our complete guide below.

Method 1
Method 1 of 5:

Staying Safe During a Landslide

  1. Landslides can occur quite suddenly, so you need to be ready to take action at a moment’s notice. Many landslide-related deaths occur while people are asleep.[1]
    • If you are with other people, work together to keep one another awake.
    • Watch and listen for warning signs of a nearby landslide, including sounds of falling debris or changes in water clarity or flow. It is imperative that you familiarize yourself with landslide warning signs, especially if you live in an at-risk area. Keep reading to learn more about landslide warning signs in detail.
  2. Using a battery-powered radio or television, listen to your local news station for updates about the weather. Be alert to warnings about intense rainfall, which can trigger landslides.[2]
  3. Sometimes, your local law enforcement will order an evacuation, but other times, they may not be aware of a landslide until it is too late. If you think a landslide is imminent and it is safe to leave, evacuate immediately. Contact your neighbors and your local police or fire department to warn them of danger.[3]
    • Be sure to bring your animals with you.
    • Don't forget to bring your emergency kit, which contains essential items like food, water, and medication. You'll learn how to make one in a later section.
  4. If you need to drive to leave a dangerous area, proceed with caution. Beware of flooded roads, collapsed pavement, fallen debris, and washed-out bridges. DO NOT cross flooded streams--instead, turn around and try to find an alternative route.[4]
  5. If it isn’t safe to leave the building, but you believe a landslide is imminent, move to the building’s second story, if possible.[5]
  6. Landslides move very quickly--much faster than you can run or walk. Trying to outrun a landslide is futile. Instead, remove yourself as fast as you can from the path of the landslide.[6]
    • Before crossing any bridges, always look upstream to see if a landslide is approaching. If this is the case, do not cross the bridge and move out of the path of the landslide.
  7. These areas are especially dangerous when landslides are imminent, so stay away.[7]
  8. In some cases, you may not be able to escape. If you are trapped in the path of a landslide, curl up into a tight ball and protect your head.[8]
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Method 2
Method 2 of 5:

Staying Safe After a Landslide

  1. Your local community should have a designated public shelter. Go to the shelter if your home is unsafe or the authorities have called for an evacuation.[9]
    • To find the shelter closest to you, text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA). For example, if your zip code is 56789, you would text SHELTER 56789.
  2. Landslides may recur in the same location. Avoid this area and seek shelter.[10]
  3. You should not enter the area where the landslide occurred. However, if you can see people who are trapped or injured in the area, notify the authorities immediately.[11]
  4. Infants, the disabled, and the elderly may experience extra difficulty in emergency situations. If it is safe to do so, help your neighbors with special needs. Remember that neighbors with large families may require additional assistance as well.[12]
  5. Report any damaged utility lines, roadways, and railways to the authorities. If you are in a building, examine its foundation, chimney and surrounding land to determine if the structure is stable. If the area appears unsafe, leave immediately.[13]
  6. Landslides often destroy vegetation. Without vegetation, the area is more susceptible to erosion and flash flooding, which can lead to another landslide. Replanting the affected area helps prevent future landslides.[14]
  7. If your property was damaged in the landslide, consider talking to a geotechnical expert to reduce landslide risk. The expert can evaluate your property and determine what modifications, if any, should be made to ensure your safety.[15]
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Method 3
Method 3 of 5:

Knowing the Warning Signs

  1. If you see springs or puddles in areas of the ground that are usually dry, this could be a sign of an imminent landslide.[16]
  2. Take note if your deck, patio, or concrete floors are tilting, pulling away from the building, or cracking. Sticking doors and windows could also indicate warping that precedes a landslide.[17]
    • Broken water lines or other utilities may also be a warning sign.
  3. Sunken roadbeds and leaning fences, telephone poles, and trees can signal an imminent landslide.[18]
  4. A faint rumbling sound that gets louder and louder could indicate an approaching landslide. Sounds like cracking trees or scraping rocks may signal moving debris from a landslide.[19]
  5. A sudden increase in creek water levels is a warning sign, as is a sudden decrease in water levels despite recent rain.[20]
    • If you live near a waterway, check the water’s clarity. A change from clear to muddy could mean a landslide is imminent.
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Method 4
Method 4 of 5:

Preparing your Home

  1. Proper land use-procedures dictate that you should not build near mountain edges, steep slopes, or natural erosion valleys. These areas are prone to landslides.[21]
  2. Landslides tend to happen in the same area where they have occurred before. Talk to local officials about landslides in your area. If you are in an at-risk area, consider getting a site analysis of your property. This will help you determine any necessary corrective measures.[22]
    • You should be especially attuned to landslide warning signs if you live in an at-risk area.
  3. Retaining walls, channels, and deflection walls can shield your property from landslide debris and divert debris flow. If you live in an area that is vulnerable to landslides, consult a professional to see what should be done.[23]
    • Beware—if your channels or deflection walls cause debris to flow into a neighbor’s property, you may have to pay for damages.
    • If you build a wall, putting drainage behind the wall is extremely important. This will prevent the wall from tipping over and sliding down the hill if any pressure buildup or water accumulates in front of it.
  4. If your area is vulnerable to landslides, talk to an insurance agent to see if your insurance covers landslide-related damage. Although landslide insurance is not usually available, some flood insurance policies cover damage from landslide flows.[24]
  5. An emergency kit contains the essentials that your household will need during an emergency. Make your kit in advance so it is ready at a moment’s notice. Your kit should contain enough food and water to last for at least 72 hours, as well as supplies like medications, flashlights, batteries, cell phones, copies of personal documents, and cash.[25]
    • Remember that landslides can cut off services like electricity, sewage treatment, gas, water, and telephones. Pack supplies in your kit that will allow you to deal with these outages.
    • Choose food that is non-perishable and can be prepared during power outages.
    • Pack any important items that would be difficult or impossible to replace.
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Method 5
Method 5 of 5:

Making an Emergency Plan

  1. Talk to your family about the appropriate actions to take in order to stay safe during a landslide, especially if you live in a vulnerable area. Be sure to discuss evacuation procedures, as well as safe locations and areas to avoid.[26]
  2. Make sure everyone knows how to get emergency alerts from local officials, whether it be via phone, television, or radio. Talk to your local emergency management agency to see how alerts are delivered in your area.[27]
    • Don’t forget to emphasize the importance of listening to the local news station for emergency updates in the event of a landslide!
  3. Write down each family member’s phone number, email, social media, medical facilities, and school or workplace. Having this information on hand will make it easier for family members to get in touch in the event of the landslide or other emergencies.
  4. In the event of a landslide or other emergency, choose a place where the family will meet to reunite. Select a location in your neighborhood and your town. Make sure everyone is aware of the location.[28]
    • Choose a location that is accessible for everyone in your family, particularly for members with disabilities.
    • If you have pets, pick a pet-friendly area.
    • You might choose to meet at a neighbor’s house or your mailbox for your neighborhood location, and at a community center or a place of worship for your town location.
  5. Compile contact information, landslide safety protocol, and your emergency meeting places on a single document. This is your emergency plan. Give every family member a copy and make sure they carry it with them at all times.[29]
    • Put a copy somewhere central in your home, like on the fridge.
    • You may also want to make an emergency plan for your business.
  6. Meet with your household periodically to review your plan and practice landslide safety protocol. This is important if you live in an area where landslides are common.[30]
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Community Q&A

  • Question
    What happens if I get trapped under mud?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    If you are trapped under mud, the chances of surviving are very low, about 5%. Most people die of mudslides because of suffocation. Attempt swimming motions, if at all possible, aiming above all to keep your head above the mud and try to grab something higher, such as a tree branch or pole. If the mud is fast moving or continuing to topple down on you, the chances of survival are slim but your survival instincts will give you some energy if you're still conscious. Remain as calm as you can.
  • Question
    If an earthquake strikes, then how do you know whether a landslide will occur?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    Earthquakes can trigger landslides, so it is a good idea to be alert after an earthquake. Look for the warning signs described in the article, and stay tuned in to your local news. If you believe a landslide is imminent, evacuate or seek shelter immediately.
  • Question
    After a landslide has passed, how long should you stay in the car or building before going out?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    You should remain in a safe place until authorities have announced it is safe to leave. Listen to the radio for emergency updates. When you decide to go out, stay alert for flooding, debris, and damage to roads, utilities, and power lines.


  • Landslides are extremely dangerous, so it is far better to evacuate immediately if you suspect imminent danger than to wait.

About This Article

Oz Tzalalihin
Co-authored by:
Project Manager, Vitoli Builders
This article was co-authored by Oz Tzalalihin. Oz Tzalalihin is a Project Manager for Vitoli Builders, based in Calabasas, California. He has a passion for working with sloped terrains and has shared his expertise through contributions to local publications. Oz holds a PMP (Project Management Professional) degree from Cornell University and specializes in building pools and structures on hillside properties. With his education and experience, he is a valuable asset to Vitoli Builders and is dedicated to delivering quality results and smooth construction. This article has been viewed 270,246 times.
2 votes - 60%
Co-authors: 65
Updated: July 21, 2023
Views: 270,246
Article SummaryX

Landslides happen when large amounts of wet debris, like rocks, earth, and trees, slide down a slope. If you notice your home warping, roads sinking, or hear a faint rumbling sound getting louder, one may be approaching and you should get to safety immediately. If it’s safe, leave your house and bring emergency supplies with you, like food, water, and a first aid kit. Just be sure to avoid dangerous areas like flooded streams and collapsed pavement. If it’s not safe to leave, get to the top story of your house. Curl up into a ball and protect your head with your hands. Once the landslide has passed, listen to a radio for instructions from the authorities. Likely, there will be a designated public shelter you can take refuge in. If possible, try to get help for any neighbors that may be hurt or stranded. To learn how to prepare your home for a landslide, read on.

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