Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Emergency Management


Hazards can come in many forms. Natural hazards, like floods or winter storms, can affect your family's access to food and electricity. Hazardous materials emergencies, like the release of a dangerous chemical into our community, can result in health problems and property damage. Read the information below for details about how to prepare for and respond to potential hazards in Dane County.

Natural Hazards

From winter storms to heat waves, Dane County is susceptible to a variety of natural hazards. These varying emergencies call for varying responses — responses you should be familiar with. Becoming knowledgeable of disasters now can protect you from them in the future. Browse our quick tips for more information.


The occurrence and impact of flooding are issues of increasing concern to Dane County residents. Severe flood damages over the past couple decades (notably in 1996, 2000, and 2018) have cost local governments and property owners tens of millions of dollars. Smaller scale, localized flooding occurs on an annual basis. The potential exists for future damages to the County's farmland, crops, homes, shorelines, and roads.

There are many actions that communities and individuals can take to reduce their risks of suffering flood damage. Here are some tips on how to reduce flood damage to property, how to stay safe during flooding, and how to recover when floods occur.

  • Buy flood insurance to protect your property and belongings.
  • Prepare a disaster supplies kit.
  • During a flood, do not drive around a barricade. Barricades are there for your protection.
  • When there is potential for flooding, Listen to the radio or television for information.
  • After a flood, report broken utility lines to the proper authorities.

Detailed information on the flood hazard in Dane County is available in the Flood Risk Assessment section of the County's Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan. Additional information on flooding facts and initiatives in Dane County is available from Dane County Land and Water Resources Department

Below are additional resources:

Winter Storms

The winter season is a magical time, but winter storms can kill. Each year, thousands are killed or injured by automobile accidents, home fires, over-exertion, exposure, carbon monoxide poisoning, falls, and electrocution from downed wires. View the tips below to see how you can protect yourself and your family.

  • Stay indoors during storms. Avoid over-exertion or exposure if you must go out, especially if shoveling snow.
  • Have an emergency supply of food, which requires no cooking or refrigeration in case of power failure.
  • Make sure your household smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.
  • Avoid travel during a storm if possible. If you must travel, do so during daylight hours and try not to travel alone. Stay on main roads, and keep others informed of your schedule and route. Checking current road conditions before you leave is important. You can do this by calling the Winter Road Conditions at 1-800-762-3947 / Traveler information: Call 511 or (866) 511-9472.
  • If a blizzard traps you in your car, pull off the road, set hazard lights to flashing, and hang a distress flag from the radio aerial or window. Remain in your vehicle and conserve fuel/battery life.

Heat Waves

For as cold as Wisconsin can get in the winter, it can certainly heat back up in the summer — sometimes to a dangerous level.

  • During an extreme heat warning, find air conditioning, avoid strenuous activities, check on family members and neighbors, drink plenty of fluids, and never leave people or pets in a closed car.
  • Prepare for a heat wave by finding places in your community where you can go to get cool.
  • Keep your home cool by covering windows with drapes or shades, adding insulation to keep the heat out, using attic fans to clear hot air, and installing and insulating around window air conditioners.
  • For using fans when temperatures are above 95°F:
    • Fans still provide a significant cooling effect by promoting sweat evaporation, even in very high temperatures.
    • Use fans along with other strategies, like drinking plenty of water, wetting the skin, and using damp clothing.
    • Remember, fans help with cooling but do not replace the need for adequate hydration and rest in a cool environment.
    • Air conditioning is better at keeping you cool than just using a fan; if you can't stay cool enough with a fan, try to find a public, air conditioned space like a local library, community center, or shopping mall.
    • Certain groups - including adults 65 and older, people with chronic diseases, people on certain medications, infants and children, pregnant people, people who are unhoused, and outdoor workers - are more vulnerable to heat and should use multiple strategies to control their heat exposure, and fans might not be enough.
  • Find more heat wave information here.


Lightning, winds, rain, hail, and tornados are all hazards that can come along with a thunderstorm. Staying informed about current weather conditions and preparing your family and home for adverse weather are the best ways to prevent a thunderstorm-related tragedy. Here are some additional tips:

  • When a thunderstorm threatens, get inside a home or large building, or inside an all-metal (not convertible) vehicle.
  • If outdoors, avoid water, metal objects (electric wires, golf clubs, railroad tracks, etc.), and isolated trees.
  • If lightning is striking nearby you should avoid direct contact with other people, get into a ditch or a shallow depression, remove all metal objects, and crouch down (feet together and hands on your knees).

  • If you're hopelessly isolated in a level field or prairie and you feel your hair stand on end indicating lightning is about to strike, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground. Do not lie flat on the ground.
  • If a nearby person is injured by lightning, give first-aid procedures if you are qualified to do so. An injured person does not carry an electrical charge and can be safely handled.


Wisconsin's tornado season runs from April through September. The greatest numbers of tornadoes have occurred in May, June, and July. Wisconsin averages almost 20 tornadoes per year. Most tornado damage is caused by violent winds. Many injuries and deaths result from flying debris. When a tornado threatens, immediate action can save your life. These tips will also help:

  • Be aware of the outdoor tornado siren signal system and know the difference between a tornado watch and warning.
  • In homes and small buildings go to the basement or to an interior part on the lowest level - closets, bathrooms or interior halls. Get under something sturdy. Do not leave the building until the storm has passed.
  • In schools, nursing homes, hospitals, factories, and shopping centers, go to pre-designated shelter areas. interior hallways on the lowest floor are usually best. Avoid auditoriums, gymnasiums, or other structures with wide, freespan roofs.
  • In high-rise buildings, go to interior small rooms or hallways.
  • In vehicles or mobile homes, leave them and go to a substantial structure. if there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch, ravine, or culvert with your hands shielding your head.

Hazardous Materials

Dane County Emergency Management (DCEM), in cooperation with state and local agencies, identify the potential for hazardous materials emergencies in Dane County and develop policies and procedures for responding to and recovering from hazardous materials emergencies if they were to occur. This planning is paramount to protect the community from a potentially harmful and life-threatening release of a hazardous material.

The Dane County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) develops policies, procedures, and emergency plans for the prevention, response to, and recovery from hazardous materials incidents in compliance with the requirements of the Federal Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA—Title III).

Further information is available regarding chemical emergency preparedness by contacting the Dane County Emergency Management Hazardous Materials Planner at (608) 266-9051.

How Do I Dispose My Hazardous Materials?

The Dane County Clean Sweep Facility is located at the Dane County Landfill Site and operates year round. The facility accepts hazardous chemicals from Dane County residents, farms, and some businesses.  Clean Sweep also offers an electronics recycling program for Dane County residents. The program lowers the environmental risks associated with improper disposal of hazardous materials.