You are here: Home / Destinations / Mexico / All documents - Mexico City / Mexico City - Environmental Emergencies

Mexico City - Environmental Emergencies

You need to determine whether the house you live in is in risk of flood, as is the case of some residential neighborhoods (some parts of La Herradura, for example).
To prevent floods before the rainy season, avoid clogging sewers with waste and trash.
Keep your most important documents in a plastic bag.
Always have available a flashlight, candles, a battery-operated radio -to keep informed- and batteries. Electrical outages are common during heavy storms.
Check that the roof is properly waterproofed.
Make a plan with your family and neighbors to face a flood: what are the streets most likely to be flooded? Which are the least likely? Which is the safest/driest area in the house in case of a flood? How will you keep contact in case heavy rain prevents any member of the family getting home? Carrying cellular phones is a very good idea.
If a flood alert is issued in your area (listen to the radio, watch TV), disconnect the electricity and gas.
During a storm with heavy rain, go to the safety areas previously agreed with your family.
Do not get close to electric cables or poles.
Do not walk through flooded areas, even if the water level is low. Electric shocks could occur, or water levels could rise rapidly.
If in need of evacuation, take only your important documents and warm clothes.
Personnel from your local Proteccion Civil (Civil Protection chapter) provide shelter for families that need it.
After the storm, and if advised by authorities that you may return, check your house to assess damage, if any. When in doubt about damage, request an expert to assess.

The Popocatepetl volcano is one of the largest volcanoes in North America. It is located in the middle of this country, between the states of Mexico, Puebla and Morelos, close to Mexico City.
Only those living next to the volcano need to have an emergency plan and be aware of the alerts issued by the Civil Protection Agency.

Inhabitants of Mexico City need to consider that:

  • In general, there is no risk of being affected by lava or incandescent material, due to the distance between El Popo and Mexico City.
  • Depending on the direction of the winds, some zones would be affected by falling cold ashes. This phenomenon could darken the sky and alarm many people, even if they live far away from El Popo.

If ashes were to fall in Mexico City, the recommendations are:

  • Protect eyes, nose and mouth in case you need to leave the house
  • Avoid exercising
  • Close doors and windows and seal cracks and clefts to prevent the ashes from entering buildings
  • Use dusters to clean furniture without scratching any surfaces
  • Cover water deposits, appliances and engines to prevent deterioration from ashes
  • Continually remove ashes from light roofs (aluminum sheets, canvas, and the like) to avoid their collapse
  • Place the removed ashes in plastic bags or sacks, to prevent sewers from clogging
  • Cover sewers and water outlets to prevent clogging
  • Use cars as little as possible; be patient and careful, as streets may become slippery and traffic would slow down

These links feature constant live monitoring of El Popo:

Air Pollution  
There are several factors contributing to air pollution in Mexico City, including its altitude, weather conditions, geographical situation, and topography. There are over 3.5 million motor vehicles in the Valley of Mexico.
The City and its metropolitan area, also known as the Valley of Mexico, is surrounded by mountains, which make it very difficult for fumes to disperse. Motor vehicle fumes, factory fumes, open air combustion fumes, all
build up. They remain concentrated within the Valley, and specific weather conditions worsen the situation, until air contaminants reach heightened levels.

The Mexico City government has a program named Environmental Contingency Program, to prevent and control  the emission of pollutants produced by industries, services, motor vehicles, which may compromise
the health of the population as well as the balance of ecosystems.

Programs and measures to control air pollution:
Cars are required to pass a test -every six months- to state a low emission of pollutants. Cars manufactured after 1991 usually pass the test with
no problems.
Depending on the last digit of your license plate, there is an assigned month in which you need to go to your nearest Vehicle Verification Center.
License plates ending in 5 or 6, should verify their cars during the January-February bimonthly, and then during July-August
License plates ending in 7 or 8, should verify their cars during the February-March bimonthly, and then during August-September
License plates ending in 3 or 4, should verify their cars during the March-April bimonthly, and then during September-October
License plates ending in 1 or 2, should verify their cars during the April-May bimonthly, and then during October-November
License plates ending in 9 or 0, should verify their cars during the May-June bimonthly, and then during November-December

This procedure costs $228 pesos (around $30 USD), and you get a 10% discount if you take your car to verification during the first 20 days of your assigned bimester.
A special sticker is issued as proof of having passed the emissions test. You must then affix this sticker in a visible place of your vehicle.
If you fail to present this proof, you may be stopped and fined by police authorities.
The verification is done at authorized centers named Verificentro. You may call and check for your closest Verificentro at LOCATEL 56-58-11-11, or access:
- Air pollutant levels are constantly monitored by a reference system named IMECA (Indice Metropoplitano de Calidad del Aire). Radio and TV stations periodically
broadcast a status of IMECAs.
When air pollution levels fall:
between 0-100 IMECAS, environmental conditions are considered safe.
Between 101-200 IMECAS, some discomfort can be felt in eyes, throat and nose. Population is recommended to increase their intake of fluids.
Between 201-300 IMECAS, it is recommended to avoid activities in open air. Some people could suffer from respiratory complications.
Above 300 IMECAS, respiratory problems could worsen among sensitive people, smokers or those who suffer chronic illnesses like asthma.

Mexico City is a seismic area. That is, at risk of being struck by earthquakes. However, the last great earthquake Mexico City suffered was in 1985, and it is not often that the population experiences a noticeable earthquake.
Many houses and apartment buildings in cluster areas are safe from suffering important damages caused by earthquakes, due to the characteristics of the ground they were built on and/or the materials they are made of. As in many countries, usually poor neighborhoods are at a higher risk of suffering from collapsing/seriously damaging buildings.
The riskier areas in case a strong earthquake hits, are usually downtown (Centro Historico), Colonia Condesa, Colonia Roma and neighboring areas, Tlatelolco and surrounding areas, just to mention a few.

What to do before, during, and after an earthquake.
At work and at school, pay attention during evacuation drills, which are commonplace in this city.
Identify the most solid/safest spots in the building, main exits and emergency exits.
Avoid placing heavy or breakable objects on small shelves. Make sure that shelves, pictures, mirrors and furniture are secured, as well as lamps and chandeliers.
Talk to your family and agree to meet in the garden or in one same room. Even if your home is not likely to suffer damages, children feel much better to wait the earthquake out with the family.

During an earthquake remain calm, and calm those around you.
Go to the safest spot previously identified. If at a  house or at ground level, leave the building and go to open space.
On your way out, cover your head with your hands.
Do not use elevators. Stay away from objects that could slide, fall or break.
Earthquakes usually last a few seconds. Chances are it will be over before you even get to exit the building.

After an earthquake, call for help if needed, and use the phone only for emergencies. Turn the radio on to get information and see whether any area in the city has been affected. Should you need to evacuate a building, do so calmly and in an orderly manner, following instructions from authorities.
It never hurts to check for any gas leaks.
After strong earthquakes, usually less intense earthshakes can be felt.
Stay away from damaged buildings and deteriorated areas.

To prevent as many human casualties as possible in the event of a great magnitude earthquake, the Mexico City government has designed an ingenious system called Sismic Alarm (Alarma Sismica). The objective is to put on alert the inhabitants of Mexico City, about 50 seconds before an earthquake strikes, by means of a special alarm signal broadcasted on radio and TV. How is this done? Special devices were set close to the coasts of Guerrero, which pick up any strong sismic signals originated there. They then send a radio signal to a receiving station in Mexico City, nearly one minute before the actual earthquake reaches the city. The alarm is then set off, giving the population about a minute to reach a safe spot.

Most frequent causes of fires in big cities are, in order of importance:
- Failures in electrical/gas installations
- Spontaneous combustion of waste products
- Inadequate handling of flammable liquids
- Deficient handling of gas containers
- Extreme risks (fireworks, gunpowder, etc.)

During a fire, stay calm: don't yell, run or push. Panic may cause more damage than the fire itself.
Locate the nearest extinguisher and try to put out the fire. Learn beforehand how to use the extinguisher.
If you don't know how to use it, look for someone that does. Many big buildings also place big containers with sand in several areas of the building. A shovel and other requisits necessary are near buy.Look for those containers, but do not use them as an ashtray or garbage bin.
If the fire was caused by electric failure, do NOT try to extinguish it with water.
Close windows and doors to prevent the fire from spreading, unless it is your only means of escape.
If your clothes catch fire, do not run: drop on the floor and roll slowly. If possible, cover yourself with a blanket to put out the fire.
Don't waste your time looking for personal objects.
Never use elevators during a fire.
When evacuating, follow the instructions of personnel in charge, if any.
If the door is the only way out, check that the doorknob is not hot before opening. If it is hot, chances are there is fire on the other side, so don't open it.
If smoke blocks the exits, don't panic; go to the safest possible spot and wait to be rescued.
When there is smoke, go close to the floor and crawl. If possible, cover mouth and nose with a wet piece of fabric.
Help children, handicapped and elderly out of the building.
After the fire, abandon the area, as fire may revive.
Do not interfere with the activities of firemen and rescuers.
(Source: National Center for Prevention of Disasters, Mexico)

It is unlikely that you will experience snow in Mexico City. It snowed last in 1968.
However, hail storms can be felt once in a while, making a chaos out of traffic, not to mention the dangers of driving on ice laden streets.
During a hail storm, don't come out to open space. You can be hit by hail just as if it were raining stones, descending very fast. Hail can easily make holes in an umbrella, and harm the person under it, depending on the size of the hail stones.
If you are driving during a hail storm, stop your car as soon and safely as possible and wait it out. Drive carefully when heading back home.

Gas leaks 
In Mexico City, stoves, ovens, water heaters, heaters and clothes driers use gas (liquid petroleum gas).
When you move into your new residency -house or apartment-, ask your gas supply company to send an expert to check that the gas installation, connections and tanks are safe and working properly. Most likely, your house will have a stationed gas tank. In the unlikely circumstance that the installation uses refillable tanks, Paguro recommends that you make the investment and have a stationed gas tank installed instead. They are much safer and represent much less hassle.
Make sure you know how to close the main gas supply in case of a gas leak.
If you smell gas, chances are there is a leak somewhere. Check immediately that all stove switches are turned off. Call your gas supplier immediately and have them check the installation right away. To be on the safe side, you might consider calling your local Fire Department.
In the meantime, close the main gas supply valve or at least the supply valve of the appliance that is leaking.
Open windows and doors to keep the air flowing. Do not light any kind of flame. Do not turn on/off any light switch to avoid an explosion.
In the case that a leak is burning with a flame, remain calm. Don't try to extinguish the flame, as you may cause it to ignite even further. Instead, close the main supply valve. The flame will become smaller and smaller as the gas supply decreases. Until this happens, try to maintain the metallic surroundings of the flame cool, with a steady and disperse stream of cold water. This will prevent the appliance, pipe or tank from heating up and eventually exploding.