Crisis Preparedness and Response

Please note: The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the entities or individuals whose names appear on the following lists. Inclusion on this list is in no way an endorsement by the Department or the U.S. government. Names are listed alphabetically, and the order in which they appear has no other significance. The information on the list is provided directly by the local service providers; the Department is not in a position to vouch for such information.

Emergency Preparedness for U.S. citizens in Portugal

Before an emergency occurs there are a number of things that you can do to prepare:

Stay informed!

Smartphone applications are available and can be extremely helpful in monitoring the weather, fires and seismic activities in Portugal or even help you in responding to an emergency or accident. See below the options available:

The Portuguese Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (IPMA – Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera) offers two free mobile applications:

  • Meteo (meteo@ipma) for IOS and Android: meteorological information and forecast
  • Sismo (sismo@ipma) for IOS and Android: seismic activities with emergency procedures in case of an earthquake

ProCiv Madeira for IOS and Android: Specific for the Madeira island, Civil Protection offers this free smartphone application with a list of procedures follow in case of earthquakes, fires and accidents. An easy dial function that connects to local emergency authorities with a GPS tracker is also available. The app is available in English or Portuguese.

PROCIV Azores for IOS and Android: To be used when in the Azores islands, this free smartphone application contains a list of procedures follow in case of earthquakes, fires and accidents. An easy dial function that connects to local emergency authorities with a GPS tracker is also available.

Establish Your Personal Network – Get to Know People Around You

Regardless of how long you might be living in Portugal, many times the best information comes from people in your network of local and expatriate friends, acquaintances and business contacts. This is especially important if you are unable to read and speak Portuguese. If you’re a tourist, your social network could be as simple as the front desk in your hotel or even the cashier at the local coffee shop!

Social Media Can Be a Supplemental Source of Useful Information

Social Media platforms like Twitter and Facebook can be useful platforms for timely updates. Visit the websites of the U.S Embassy in Portugal  to learn how to sign up for our official feeds. These can be helpful supplements to information sent through the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program – STEP.

Personal Preparedness Starts at Home

Once a disaster happens, it’s too late to prepare. Get your “Go Bag” together and work with your family to come up with a plan to communicate and find each other in the case of a crisis. Don’t forget about your pets when making plans! For ideas on how to stock your “Go Bag” or emergency kit, visit FEMA’s website. Tourists should visit the Department of State’s Traveler’s Checklist for ideas on how to have a safe trip.

Earthquake

Although not very active, Portugal is located in an earthquake zone and is at risk of tsunamis so all U.S. citizens living or travelling around Portugal are encouraged to become familiar with earthquake and tsunami response procedures and the tools available.

The consequences of an earthquake will vary greatly depending upon the time of day and year that the quake occurs, and no one can predict with any certainty what conditions will be like immediately following an intensive shock. In Portugal, the intensity of an earthquake is likely to be stronger in the South than in the North.

It is prudent that everyone be prepared to fend for themselves in the immediate aftermath of a big earthquake. Every family and company should develop its own emergency plan and make sure its personnel and their family members are familiar with earthquake emergency procedures and precautions for their safety. Companies and organizations should coordinate carefully with the Civil Protection’s office to ensure that they are familiar with Portuguese government plans for their area.

 

Tsunami

Tsunamis are large ocean waves generated by major earthquakes beneath the ocean floor or major landslides into the ocean. Rising to several feet or higher, they can strike the coast with devastating force. Please visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website to learn more about Tsunamis.

Be aware that due to the geological features of the Portuguese coast, a Tsunami may reach the beaches, estuaries and rivers within minutes after a severe earthquake – and the danger period can continue for many hours. It is highly encouraged that you go to high ground if near the coast right after an earthquake. Tsunamis can occur any time of year, day or night.

To escape a tsunami, go as high and as far as you can – ideally to a spot 100 feet above sea level or 2 miles away. Every foot inland or upward may make a difference! Watching a tsunami from the beach or cliffs could put you in grave danger. If you can see the wave, you are too close to escape it. For more information on how to respond to a Tsunami threat, click here.

If you feel a strong earthquake when you are on the coast:

  • Drop, cover, and hold on. You should first protect yourself from the earthquake.
  • When the shaking stops, gather your family members and evacuate quickly.
  • Leave everything else behind. A tsunami may be coming within minutes. Move quickly to higher ground away from the coast.
  • Be careful to avoid downed power lines and stay away from buildings and bridges from which heavy objects might fall during an aftershock.
  • Return home only after local officials tell you it is safe. A tsunami is a series of waves that may continue for hours. Do not assume that after one wave the danger is over. The next wave may be larger than the first one.
  • Monitor warnings and advisories issued by the Portuguese Meteorological Agency’s

Portugal has great weather most of the year, although the hot summers come with the risk of fires. Wildfires cause massive damage to rural areas, putting the life of the public and firefighters at risk. Whether you are living in a rural area or visiting, caravanning, camping, walking, cycling, etc., in a fire-prone area, make sure you are safe!

U.S. citizens, as well as others affected by the fires, will need to seek assistance from the Portuguese authorities (e.g., city police, civil protection, fire authorities).

U.S. citizens should monitor the U.S. Embassy website and carefully read distributed messages and alerts for additional guidance.

  • Call the national emergency number at 112
  • Call the Emergency response to forest fires at 117
  • Check ipma.pt for daily information
  • Check www.safecommunitiesportugal.com for information promoting safer communities, enhancing security awareness, and reducing the risk of becoming a victim of crime.

The Role of the Embassy

The Portuguese Government will be responsible for assisting foreigners immediately after a major earthquake. Telephone services will be severely overloaded and the Portuguese Government will restrict phone use to priority users. Nonetheless, the Embassy will quickly want to ascertain the welfare and whereabouts of U.S. Citizens.

To aid in this process, U.S. citizens should cooperate with Portuguese authorities at evacuation sites and clearly identify themselves as U.S. citizens. Those connected with larger organizations such as companies, schools or church groups should try to let these organizations know of their welfare and whereabouts, if this is practical.

The Embassy will be in touch with the Portuguese Government and with larger umbrella organizations to attempt to identify as many U.S. citizens as possible and determine their welfare. In the likely event that it is impossible to communicate by telephone or use motor vehicles, Embassy consular assistance teams are prepared to travel to major evacuation sites, international schools, hotels and so on and collect information about U.S. citizens. The Embassy will help you get information about the situation and communicate with Portuguese government officials if necessary in order to obtain proper food, shelter and medical attention.

We will pass as much information as possible about the welfare of individual U.S. citizens back to the Department of State in Washington, D.C. so that this information may be shared with your families, friends and employers.

Essential Emergency Supplies (Store enough for three to five days)

  • Water (four liters/one gallon per person per day. Change water every three to five months)
  • Food (canned or pre-cooked, requiring no heat or water. Consider special dietary needs, infants, the elderly, pets)
  • Flashlight with spare batteries and bulbs
  • Radio (battery operated with spare batteries)
  • Large plastic trash bags (for trash, waste, water protection, ground cloth, temporary blanket)
  • Hand soap and/or disinfecting hand cleaner gel that does not require water
  • Feminine hygiene supplies, infant supplies, toilet paper
  • Essential medications as required; glasses if you normally wear contacts
  • Paper plates, cups, plastic utensils, cooking foil and plastic wrap (wrapped around plates so that they were re-usable) and paper towels
  • First Aid kit with instructions
  • Euros in small bills (ATMs may not work after a disaster), with coins and phone cards for public phones.
  • Place emergency supplies and your telephone in places where they are less likely to be knocked over or buried by falling objects (on the floor under a strong table is a good choice).

Essential Home Preparations Before a Disaster

  • Secure water heaters, refrigerators and tall and heavy furniture to the walls to prevent falling.
  • Move heavy items to lower shelves, and install latches or other locking devices on cabinets.
  • Install flexible connections on gas appliances.
  • Remove or isolate flammable materials.
  • Move beds and children’s play areas away from heavy objects which may fall in an earthquake.
  • Sign up for the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to register online with the Embassy or the Consulates; the emergency contact information is on the Embassy’s website.

Essential Planning Before a Disaster

  • Draw a floor plan of your home showing the location of exit windows and doors, utility cut off points, emergency supplies, food, tools, etc. Share it with baby-sitters and guests.
  • Establish family meeting points with alternate sites inside and outside of your home for all members to gather in the event of an evacuation.
  • Establish reunion sites with alternate sites for when the family is not at home, e.g., local shelter, neighbor’s house, park, school.
  • Designate a person outside of your immediate area for separated family members to call to report their location and condition if separated.
  • Learn or establish disaster policy/planning at your children’s school.
  • Know your neighbors and make them aware of the number of people living in your home.
  • Learn where the nearest designated shelter for your neighborhood is.
  • Photocopy passports and other important documents. Store copies away from home (for example, at work).
  • Have in hand the Portuguese emergency assistance telephone number (similar to 911 in the United States): 112

Essential Steps Immediately After a Disaster

  • Check your immediate surroundings for fire, gas leaks, broken glass and other hazards.
  • Open doors and/or windows to avoid being locked in if there are after-shocks.
  • Contact one friend or relative in the U.S., and ask them to inform other parties of your situation.
  • Monitor local TV and radio for evacuation information
  • If phone lines and internet are not working, remember that SMS messages are usually available even when there’s an internet and telephone crash

Evacuations

Evacuations will likely occur after an earthquake when fires are spreading or buildings are in danger of being destroyed by landslides, etc. City police, Civil Protection and fire authorities will issue evacuation advice. U.S. citizens, as well as others affected by the disaster, will need to seek assistance from the Portuguese authorities.  U.S. citizens should monitor the U.S. Embassy website and carefully read distributed security messages and alerts for additional guidance.