While current weather technology can predict the track of a hurricane and when and where it will make landfall, you can never truly be sure what will happen with such a dangerous storm. Hurricane preparedness
is essential for anyone living in a hurricane-prone area as storms can blow off track and make landfall in areas not predicted by modern technology. Storms can also stall out over areas, causing much more damage and devastation than originally predicted.
To truly be ready to face life before, during, and after a hurricane, you need to be prepared now, and this hurricane preparedness guide will help. Pre-planning and stocking up on necessary hurricane emergency supplies will be the only measure of comfort you have during such a chaotic, frightening time.
The Pre-Planning Phase
Before there are hurricane watches or warnings, you need to get your household prepared for what may come. Storms can be fast-moving when the conditions are right, leaving you little time to prepare. The pre-planning phase of hurricane preparedness is the most important part of hurricane preparation. The pre-planning phase involves:
Collection of Information
Replace out if you are located in a mandatory evacuation area, usually in areas along the coastline hardest hit by hurricane winds and rain. FEMA offers risk assessment tools
to better understand your risks during a hurricane. Be sure you know how high rain amounts affect your neighborhood and whether or not your house is located in a flood zone. Your local government should be able to provide emergency information you’ll need in the event of a hurricane. Keep this information with your hurricane emergency supplies so you can reference it when you need it most.
Other information you need to have on hand includes the locations and contacts for evacuation shelters, local hospitals, your insurance company, law enforcement offices, utility companies, and emergency assistance services like the Red Cross.
Institute Your Plan
There are a lot of ‘what if’s’ when it comes to a hurricane. No one can accurately predict the amount of devastation coming but today’s technology does provide some insight into the approaching wind speeds and timelines for occurrence. It is important to plan for anything. Your emergency plan needs to include:
Location of the safe zone within your home – designate the highest part of your home as a safe zone. Instruct all family members to meet in this area before the storm. Be sure to account for your pets to ensure they stay out of flood waters.
Meeting location – in the event of an emergency evacuation where family members get separated, designate an official meeting location, whether it be another family member’s home or an emergency shelter. Always remember the importance of leaving the area as soon as possible if you plan to evacuate. If a mandatory evacuation order is issued, be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
List of contacts – keep a handwritten list of people you need to contact, including emergency responders and family members, in the event you don’t have access to your cell phone. This will ensure you can get in touch with people you need for help and to give you the peace of mind others you know are safe.
Safety to-do list – while a lot of pre-preparation can be done well before a storm has even formed, some tasks can’t be done until the last minute. Make a list of things that need to be done around the house and who is responsible for ensuring they are completed. For instance, attaching plywood on the windows of your home realistically should be done in the hours leading up to the storm. Designate which family member is responsible for bringing pets to the safe zone. This to-do list can prevent confusion and chaos when the storm is getting close, ensuring your home and its members know what needs to be done and who is responsible.
Stockpile Emergency Supplies
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Make sure you keep your pantry full and emergency food storage stocked with food you know your family will eat.[/caption]
It is never too early to start stockpiling emergency food, flashlights, batteries, and other necessities in preparation for hurricane season. In fact, to have an adequate supply of food and other basics, you should start gathering goods incrementally. This can make your emergency supply shopping more budget-friendly and more effective as you have more time to gather supplies. Your hurricane emergency supplies
inventory should include:
- Non-perishable foods and snacks (account for at least three nutritious meals a day, plus snacks)
- Can openers/utensils/paper plates and towels
- Clean, bottled water (allocate at least one gallon per day for each member of the household)
- Generator/extra fuel
- Extra batteries
- Weather radio
- Rain gear/boots
- Change of clothing
- Sturdy backpack (one for each family member to carry essentials during an evacuation)
- Anti-bacterial wipes/hand sanitizer
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications
- Other medical equipment
- Additional supplies for young children and the elderly (diapers, bottles, wheelchairs)
- Entertainment (non-electronic activities like playing cards, board games, books, and other distractions to help pass the time)
- Important papers (mortgage papers, ID cards, insurance documents)
- Phone chargers
Always keep an adequate supply of cash on hand whether you need to evacuate or not. During a storm, power lines are knocked down and ATMs and credit card machines will not be working. Make sure all of your family vehicles are filled with gasoline in the event of an evacuation. Gas often becomes hard to Replace when everyone else is also trying to get out of the area.
During the Storm Phase
As the storm approaches, make the decision to leave or to ride out the storm at home. If you’re planning to stay, clean up the surrounding property of all loose objects. Store flower pots, play yard equipment, and furniture in a garage or other sound structure. High winds may cause these items to act as projectiles, flying around and damaging your home and property. These flying objects may also cause injury or death to people in the area. Install plywood over windows and doors or close hurricane shutters to protect your home and prevent glass from shattering. Park vehicles, boats, and other equipment in a safe location until the storm passes. The good folks at Fixr
have put together a helpful infographic (see image below) detailing various ways you can prepare your home for the oncoming hurricane.
Unplug all unnecessary electrical plugs and turn off lights or appliances you don’t need during the storm. Turn up the temperature on your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting. In the event of power loss, your items will stay colder longer. Refrain from opening the refrigerator doors by having coolers with ice on hand to store food and drinks family members can easily access.
When the hurricane-force winds and rain are upon you, stay sheltered in your home and away from the windows. If the storm causes damage to your roof, you may need to move your family to a lower level, carefully watching for flood waters. Tornadoes are often spawned during a hurricane so be alert. It is also important to watch for downed power lines and avoid them completely. Contact your local authorities to report the downed line if phone communication is still possible. Do not travel through flood waters due to water contamination and possible electrocution. Wildlife can also be found in flood waters, including alligators and venomous snakes.
As the eye of the storm passes over your area, things will calm down and the sun will shine. However, the eye only signals half of the storm is over. Stay in your shelter and continue listening to your weather radio for emergency updates and information. Try to conserve your mobile phone battery throughout the storm and use it only for emergency purposes. Keep your phone charging while the power is still on. If you lose power, conserve battery power in your lanterns and flashlights as much as possible. The covered windows and doorways will make it considerably darker inside but power loss may be long-term and you may need your lighting resources for days to come.
After the Storm Phase
While the hurricane itself can be incredibly dangerous, the aftermath of a hurricane can be just as deadly. It is important to remember the many dangers during cleanup.
Avoid flooded areas – don’t drive or walk through the streets until flood waters subside. According to the National Weather Service, it only takes 18 inches of water for a car to be carried away in moving flood waters. Walking through flood waters can result in dangerous animal bites, the possibility of electrocution from downed power lines, and contact with contaminated waters which cause diseases and serious illness. Young children, the sick, and the elderly are especially at risk of contracting deadly diseases from contaminated waters due to underdeveloped or compromised immune systems.
Tree dangers – after the storm has passed and flood waters have receded, cleaning up around your property can be dangerous. Downed trees can fall further, causing serious injury or death. It is important to clear trees carefully, paying attention to their positioning and their proximity to power lines, your home, and vehicle. A heavy-duty chainsaw should be used to remove branches and tree trunks from areas surrounding your home or blocking roadways. Allow professionals to tackle trees which have fallen on your home to prevent additional damage or injuries.
Home dangers - living areas contaminated by flood waters need to be gutted. Contaminated carpeting, furniture, and drywall need to be removed from the home and disposed of properly. Your local authorities should provide information on pickup times for trash and debris disposal. Anything you wish to save must be thoroughly cleaned with a bleach solution and allowed to dry completely.
Food/water dangers - Clean out the refrigerator and freezer if power loss leads to your frozen and cold foods thawing out or going warm. Contaminated food is a common cause of illness after a major disaster. Continue eating only your non-perishable canned foods protected from flood waters. Do not drink water from the tap without first boiling it or treating it with iodine tablets. Use only bottled water for drinking and preparing food. The CDC offers recommendations for ensuring food and water safety after a disaster.
If you have evacuated your home before the hurricane, stay in touch with local neighbors and authorities about the feasibility of returning home. During storm cleanup, roadways are often closed and destruction makes it dangerous to travel to the area. Stay where you are safe for as long as possible until the all-clear is given to return home for cleanup.
Once you can safely exit your home and assess the damage, contact your insurance company as soon as possible for further instruction before cleaning up. It is also wise to prepare a disaster cleanup kit ahead of time to ensure you are ready to tackle the many facets of damage cleanup after a hurricane. Local stores will likely be closed for an extended period of time and you’ll need basic supplies to help begin cleanup efforts. This kit should include:
- Face mask/respirator/personal protective gear
- Rubber gloves
- Chainsaw/extra fuel
- Garbage bags
- Cleaning supplies (bleach, paper towels, sponges)
- Sturdy boots
- Camera (for insurance purposes)
- Sledgehammer/carpet tools (for removing drywall and carpeting)
- Headlamps (useful for cleanup efforts outdoors after dark or indoors during a loss of power)
- Contact information for utility companies and other authorities to report damage or dangerous situations
Cleanup efforts may take days or weeks until life is restored to normal, such as having access to power, plumbing, and Internet services. If you have lost your home or it is uninhabitable due to structural damage caused by the storm, organizations like the American Red Cross
can help you locate a safe area to stay until your insurance company can move forward.