The DomiDocs Guide to Landslide Preparedness

In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” 

– Theodore Roosevelt

As a homeowner, it’s your responsibility to protect your home, yourself, and your family from natural disasters such as a landslide by planning and being prepared.

Are you ready for this?


“An average of 25–50 people are killed by landslides each year the in the United States. Most landslide fatalities are from rock falls, debris flows, or volcanic debris flows.”

The US Geological Survey (USGS) defines a landslide as: “the movement of a mass of rock, debris, or earth down a slope. Landslides are a type of “mass wasting,” which denotes any down-slope movement of soil and rock under the direct influence of gravity.” Landslides are generally triggered by multiple causes such as earthquakes, rainfall, stream erosion, and/or volcanic activity where the forces acting down-slope, primarily due to gravity, surpass the strength of the soil mass that composes the slope. Humans can also cause landslides as a result of bad engineering practices, deforestation, mining, altering irrigation patterns, and even disturbing sites of previous landslides.

Landslide stats.

According to the USGS, it’s estimated that landslides across the country caused over $1 billion in damages every year. Climate change, including more frequent wildfires, rising sea levels, and extreme rains, are contributing factors leading to an overall increase in landslide occurrences. In 2020, Penn State engineers started working on a prediction tool for rainfall-induced landslides that utilizes AI and Google. While landslides happen throughout the US, they most likely occur in:

  • Alaska
  • Appalachian Mountains
  • Hawaii
  • Pacific Coastal Ranges
  • Rocky Mountains


“The largest landslide in Earth’s recorded history was connected with the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens volcano in Washington state. It had a volume of 0.67 cubic miles of material and the landslide traveled about 14 miles down the North Fork Toutle River. Average landside depth was 150 feet with a maximum depth of 600 feet. The landslide velocity was 70-150 miles per hour.”

Any geographical area that’s composed of fractured or weak materials set upon a steep slope is likely to experience landslides; the same applies to somewhat barren areas that have already experienced the wrath of a wildfire.

Landslide categories defined.

The Varnes’ Classification of Slope Movements differentiates landslides by materials (rock, debris, and Earth, or a complex combination of two or more of these) as follows:

Type of Movement USGS Definitions
Falls are abrupt movements of masses of geologic materials, such as rocks and boulders, that become detached from steep slopes or cliffs (fig. 3D). Separation occurs along discontinuities such as fractures, joints, and bedding planes, and movement occurs by free-fall, bouncing, and rolling. Falls are strongly influenced by gravity, mechanical weathering, and the presence of interstitial water. Toppling failures are distinguished by the forward rotation of a unit or units about some pivotal point, below or low in the unit, under the actions of gravity and forces exerted by adjacent units or by fluids in cracks.
Toppling failures are distinguished by the forward rotation of a unit or units about some pivotal point, below or low in the unit, under the actions of gravity and forces exerted by adjacent units or by fluids in cracks.
Rotational Slides
This is a slide in which the surface of rupture is curved concavely upward and the slide movement is roughly rotational about an axis that is parallel to the ground surface and transverse across the slide.
Translational Slides
In this type of slide, the landslide mass moves along a roughly planar surface with little rotation or backward tilting. A block slide is a translational slide in which the moving mass consists of a single unit or a few closely related units that move downslope as a relatively coherent mass.
Lateral Spreads
Lateral spreads are distinctive because they usually occur on very gentle slopes or flat terrain.

There are five basic categories of flows:

  1. A debris flow is a form of rapid mass movement in which a combination of loose soil, rock, organic matter, air, and water mobilize as a slurry that flows downslope
  2. This is a variety of very rapid to extremely rapid debris flow.
  3. Earthflows have a characteristic "hourglass" shape. The slope material liquefies and runs out, forming a bowl or depression at the head.
  4. A mudflow is an earthflow consisting of material that is wet enough to flow rapidly and that contains at least 50 percent sand-, silt-, and clay-sized particles.
  5. Creep is the imperceptibly slow, steady, downward movement of slope-forming soil or rock.

Is there a landslide season in the US?

According to, “Most landslides occur between the months of November and March.” Why? Because as snow melt and rainfall increases throughout the winter, the possibility of unstable soil means landslides also increase.


How DomiDocs can help you navigate through a storm.

The keys to helping you weather any natural disaster are always going to be the same: knowledge and organization. It basically comes down to homeowner responsibility and doing your due diligence to protect both your family and your home before a disaster strikes. Use the secure, award-winning DomiDocs homeowner platform to:

  • upload a detailed home inventory list itemizing your home’s contents including receipts, photos, and videos of your home’s current condition
  • store and catalog your proprietary household paperwork using the Insurance Document Bundle feature where your insurance policies are listed to show the company, coverage, cost, and start- and end-date of each, displayed with a calendar timeline for quick reference when needed. Besides for your own use, you can share with your insurance agent at the touch of a button if need to file an insurance claim
  • work your way through our comprehensive DomiDocs New Homeowner Guide offering best use instructions to help prevent homeowner claims


The basics of landslide preparedness.

In short, the USGS,, and the American Red Cross suggest taking the following precautions:

Before a landslide, take the time to:
Determine your personal landslide risk.
Do you know if you live in a landslide-prone zone? Besides checking available resources from your local government offices including the department of natural resources, local university departments of geology also provide great resources in many cases. The USGS maintains interactive US Landslide Data Maps providing users with geographic information systems (GIS) data for susceptible landslide locations.
Be a cautious builder.

Obtain a ground assessment of your property before building. Don’t build near mountain edges, steep slopes, natural erosion valleys, or drainage ways. Pay attention to the developing patterns around your home that correlate with storms and subsequent water drainage; these are areas that should be avoided during a storm scenario. Hire a geotechnical expert to evaluate and develop a landslide mitigation plan.

Know the difference between an advisory, a watch, and a warning.

The USGS explains the following terms.

Landslide Advisory: a general statement about the possibility of landslide activity in a specific area developed in relation to predicted rainfall

Landslide Watch: advises that landslides are possible, but are not imminent

Landslide Warning: indicates that landslide activity is presently occurring and extreme caution should be taken

Know the signs of an impending landslide.

According to the USGS, any number of landslide warning signs can occur:

  • ancillary structures like patios and decks can begin moving or tilting in relation to the main house; this also applies to leaning trees, retaining walls, utility poles, and/or offset fences, as well as to the tilting or cracking of concrete foundations and floors
  • broken water and underground utility lines
  • doors and windows in your home start to stick, signifying they’re out of plumb
  • a faint rumbling sound that increases as a landslide gets closer; can include boulders knocking together or trees cracking
  • new cracks/bulges in the pavement, sidewalk, ground areas, or in your foundation, drywall, or tiles
  • springs, seeps, or saturated ground in areas that are normally dry
  • soil and/or walkways/stairs moving away from the foundation
  • sunken road beds
  • a rapid increase in creek water levels, which may include turbidity (soil content); or a rapid decrease in creek water levels even though rain has just occurred
  • trickles of mud

Bear in mind that landslides can be slow-moving or can move up to 150 mph as with Mount St. Helens

Develop an evacuation plan.

Every member of your family needs to know what your homeowner evacuation plan is. Where will you go? How will you get there? What optional evacuation routes will you have if your initial choice is blocked? Where will you stay? Knowing these basics in advance can help stem panic during an actual natural disaster situation. Have a to-go bag in place with all the supplies you’ll need, including items for your pets. If you’ll need assistance in traveling, you’ll need to confirm with someone in advance. And be sure to follow any evacuation orders that have been issued. As a family, discuss how you can help your neighbors during a natural disaster by checking in or helping them evacuate as well. Download the free American Red Cross Emergency App to help your family stay safe.

Assemble disaster supplies for your family members and your pets.

The American Red Cross recommends gathering 2 emergency supply kits:

  1. A Go-Kit: with a 3-day supply of items you can carry with you, including chargers for your devices (cell phone, wheelchair, CPAP, etc.) and backup batteries; as well as non-perishable food, water, and medications. Cash is also important to have on hand as ATMs may not be working/accessible. 
  2. A Stay-at-Home Kit: with a 2-week supply of the above items.

NOAA recommends adding the following to round out your emergency disaster supply kits, where applicable:

  • masks, disinfecting wipes, and hand sanitizer
  • non-prescription medicine such as antacids, anti-diarrhea, and pain relievers
  • contact lens solution/prescription eyeglasses
  • baby bottles, formula, wipes, diapers, and diaper rash cream
  • feminine hygiene supplies
  • sleeping bags/blankets
  • a change of clothing for each family member, including sensible footwear
  • fire extinguisher
  • matches in a fireproof container
  • mess kit with plates, utensils, cups, and paper towels
  • activities for kids like puzzles, games, or books
Review/update your homeowner insurance policy.

It’s estimated that 40% of Americans can’t find an important household document when needed, so the first step is to upload your vital household documents to our user-friendly digital platform, so there’s easy access 24/7/365. Secondly, reassess your homeowner policy to ensure you have the best coverage to fit your needs. Compare the cost and coverage that you have in place, to what else is available from your current insurer and other companies. If there have been any major additions to your home and/or contents in the last year, it’s time to review your homeowner insurance policy to ensure it’ll cover your new additions.

The bad news? Homeowner insurance doesn’t typically cover landslides, as they’re considered to be ‘movements of the Earth’. The better news? You may be able to purchase a difference in coverage policy (DIC), also known as gap coverage, as it will fill in the gaps that regular homeowner insurance policies don’t cover. Debris flow damage can also be covered through flood insurance policies obtained from the National Flood Insurance Program.

Make your home disaster-resistant.

Depending on where you live across America, insurance companies may reward your efforts in making your home disaster-resistant by offering discounted homeowner insurance premiums. Think storm shutters, reinforced roofing with hurricane clips/materials, and sump pumps. Upgraded plumbing systems can lessen the risk of water damage.

The USGS suggests these tips to help minimize home hazards:

  • if you’re prone to mudflows, build a channel or deflection wall to direct the flow around your buildings, however, keep in mind that if you direct debris flow onto a neighbor’s land, you’ll probably be liable for any damages that could occur
  • plant ground cover on building retaining walls and slopes
  • have flexible pipe fittings installed to avoid water or gas leaks, as they’re more resistant to movement/breakage
Have supplies on hand to make emergency repairs.
Such supplies can include plastic sheeting, tarps, sandbags, and/or plywood, plus the necessary tools to apply these to your home like a staple gun and/or duct tape.
Complete a written disaster plan.
Now that you’ve got everything in place, there’s no better way to solidify it than by making a written plan, which should include regularly practicing your escape route, and maintaining your disaster prep plan supplies by replacing expired items. Ensure your plan includes a contact list, with at least one contact who lives outside the impacted area; share your disaster plan with family and friends.
Take the time to emergency life-saving skills.
The American Red Cross recommends that adults and kids around the age of nine learn first aid and CPR skills.
When an impending landslide is heading your way:
Stay awake and alert, as many landslide fatalities occur when home occupants are sleeping.
Monitor local news reports and emergency alerts.
Double-check your emergency supplies including bottled water, plus battery-operated flashlights and a radio.
If it’s safe to do so, consider evacuating your home while understanding that driving can be hazardous as culverts could be overtopped and bridges washed out. Watch for mud and moving debris fields, along with collapsed pavement that can be hidden under flooding.
Turn Around, Don’t Drown® The National Weather Service advises to remember their campaign designed to warn people about the drowning potential when driving or walking through flood waters.
If you’ve been told to evacuate your home, text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the closest shelter in your neighborhood.
If you suspect an impending landslide, inform your neighbors/public works/fire or police department.
If you stay at home, move to a higher floor if possible. Curl into a tight ball and protect your head with a pillow or blankets.
Avoid low-lying areas and river valleys; move uphill as quickly as possible.
If you’re not in your home, don’t return until officials say it’s safe to do so.

After a slide:

  • stay clear of the slide area as additional slides and/or flooding could be imminent.
  • From a safe visual point of view, check for trapped or injured persons near the slide, without entering the slide area itself, and report/direct rescuers to their locations.
  • Report any broken utility lines and road damage to your local authorities.
  • Visually inspect your home for damage to the chimney, foundation, and surrounding land, then call a professional to conduct any necessary repairs

The Problem with Insurance Companies

Never accept an insurance company’s first settlement offer: McKenna himself was initially offered a $13,500 settlement offer for damages sustained to his home’s roof by a sudden, unexpected microburst. By providing his documentation already stored in the DomiDocs Homeowner Platform, McKenna’s settlement was increased to $201,000, proving true the immeasurable value of DomiDocs.

When you’re in the midst of a dealing with a natural disaster, there’s no doubt you’ll also be dealing with your insurance company. DomiDocs CEO and Founder, William McKenna, advises to never accept your insurance company’s first settlement offer as chances are it’ll be a low-ball offer they’re just hoping you’ll take without question. Many attorneys agree that the initial offer by an insurance company should immediately be rejected. What should you do? Access your personal profile on the DomiDocs home management platform, and submit your documented receipts, photos, and videos to your insurance adjuster with just one click. Take the time to factor in missed wages, medical bills (current and future), vehicle repairs, and any other losses that occurred before accepting any settlement offers.

DomiDocs has your back! Whether it’s wildfire preparedness, How To File an Insurance Claim, or mental health tips in The DomiDocs Guide: What to Do After a Hurricane Hits, we’re here for every step of your homeowner journey.

DomiDocs HomeLock™ can provide you with an extra layer of protection by digitally locking your home against virtually all homeowner fraud, including title & deed theft. Why? Because property fraud is the fastest growing crime in America! Visit HomeLock™ today to watch our introduction video, and when you sign up, you’ll receive your comprehensive 7-year home history report and scan free of charge.