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Threats To Tennessee

In order to prepare appropriately for potential disasters and emergencies that might occur within your community, you need to have an accurate understanding of what kinds of hazards your community might be subjected to.

This page provides you with information about what types of hazards people living in Tennessee can expect to encounter, and to what extent they might affect you. You will find information developed both by the state of Tennessee and by other agencies such as the EPA, FEMA, etc.


Severe storm (thunderstorms, lightning, straight-line wind); tornado; flood; severe winter storm (ice, sleet, hail); extreme temperature

Tennessee weather presents the majority of potential threats to its communities in every month of the year. Not only is the state the possessor of the ignominious title, number one in the nation for tornado deaths, its periodic floods cause much pain and suffering and their own share of deaths.

Hazardous Materials

Transportation; fixed facility (factories and business); pipeline

Tennessee excels in chemical corporations that help the economy and produce useful products, for example, Dupont, Union Carbide, Eastman Chemical, Monsanto, Pro-Serve, First US Chemical, Pfizer, John Deere Fertilizer, Drexel, etc., but the presence of large quantities of chemical products, by-products or waste may often create the potential for unsuspected hazards. Petroleum products, especially fuels or liquid propane, are hazardous by their nature and through their presence may make a particular community more subject to accidents. Moving any hazardous material increases the chance for accident.

Learn how to prepare for Hazardous Materials Threats.


Forest, urban, and wildfire

Forest fires occur frequently in East Tennessee especially in the mountainous areas experiencing a shortfall of rain. This is especially a recurring theme in the Appalachian area where there are many campers and other visitors. Although improved fire services and emergency management have decreased urban fires, this scourge once changed the landscape of Tennessee cities. In 1905 the city of Nashville was swept by fire burning over 700 buildings before it burned out. Another urban fire in Nashville in 1965 swept the Tennessee State Fair burning 5-6 large buildings before being put out. Wildfires may occur frequently during drought conditions, sometimes sweeping across hundreds of acres of forest and meadows before stopping. In 1952, several thousand acres burned overwhelming the available emergency response teams.

Learn how to prepare for Fire Threats.


Aircraft, rail, river, and truck (non-hazardous materials)

Tennessee is well-positioned in the center of the United States to be a transportation hub of the nation, complete with rail, air and interstate or other highway corridors to and from the state. This is not only a strength, but it opens the state to accidents that may occur along these corridors. Economic activity often has unexpected hazards as side effects.

Learn how to prepare for Transportation Threats.

Energy Failure

Power outage

When power goes out, most persons are just inconvenienced. The lack of power in a hospital, clinic, nursing home, assisted living community, school and other special needs locations may cost a life, but is almost always worse during temperature extremes.

Geologic Hazard

Sinkholes, landslides, karst topography

Geology hazards include anything that is caused by shifting of earth. Although earthquakes are geologic events, they are so disruptive they are considered as an entirely different threat (of larger proportion). Volcanoes could also be considered a geological hazard, but they are unlikely in Tennessee. Karst topography weakens dams built on limestone formations when erosion begins to create caverns, tunnels and sinkholes, often leading or showing up below the dam. Erosion is not a good thing, especially near a dam.

Learn how to prepare for Geologic Threats.

Communications Failure

Cell phones, landline telephone, e-mail and internet services

Communications failure may be concurrent with power failure or may be due to some other reason. Many of the threats are inter-linked, cascading events or sub-sets of another threat. The lack of communications in our society could even lead to an economic, financial or political crisis due to our increased dependence on communications for survival, business and recreation.

Terrorism and Crime

Cyber, physical security, CBRE (chemical, biological, radiological, explosives)

The threat of people who are unhappy with the current political or economic situation trying to change or acquire things by force continues to be a problem for our society. These threats will continue to be likely until some means of preventing violence is found.


Earthquake, dam or levee failure, drought, biological (human or animal), civil disturbance, enemy attack or war

Many other incidents are possible, but have not occurred in enough frequency to be considered a PROBABLE event. Earthquakes are occurring every year in Tennessee, but none of them have been large enough to cause any damage. This does not mean they could not happen since they have occurred in the past. Drought may be more likely in the changing environmental conditions we are experiencing on the planet. The occurrence of viruses which return periodically may change the biological threat to a PROBABLE if they continue to return to the populace every year. TEMA must review each threat based upon the evidence of occurrence to determine if they are expected and then make plans to deal with that eventuality. Advising the public on what to prepare for must be based upon reasonable evidence.