How to Prepare for a Hurricane: 5 Considerations to Stay Safe Before, During and After a Storm
Studies by the NOAA suggest that hurricanes are increasing in frequency and intensity. The past two years has taught us that ill prepared communities suffer the greatest. Lack of water, electricity, displacement of people, and the collapse of most infrastructure are real concerns. Many times, these lacks in resources result in the loss of life long after the storm has past. Preparation is key and being prepared before, during and after hurricanes can greatly reduce the number deaths these storms cause.
The following preparation recommendations will increase the likelihood of surviving a major storm.
Follow official evacuation orders when issued.
Refusing to evacuate is always a major problem for citizens and rescue teams. Most of the time rescue teams are unable assist victims until well after a storm is over. Not evacuating puts undue risk for everyone involved and is the root cause most loss of life. You are the safest when you evacuate, evacuate early if possible.
However, evacuation is not always an option for everyone. Whether you can or cannot evacuate, here are some steps you can take to depending on your situation.
If you are unable to evacuate:
· Seek shelter and keep in mind that your own home may not always be the safest place. Consider if you are in a low-lying area and what impact rising flood waters will have. Work with neighbors and local officials to determine a safe location for riding out the storm.
· Consider the location of large trees around your home when determining a safe place within the home.
· Stock plenty of food and water. Consider that you may not have gas or electricity to cook food with for several days. Be sure to stock non-perishable foods that can be eaten without cooking. A good rule is that you will need one gallon of water per day per person. Prepare for 7 to 10 days before a resupply of water might be available.
· Have emergency items on-hand. Things like a first aid kit, batteries, flashlights, and a battery powered radio are good thing to have. You might consider having a small took kit containing an adjustable wrench, a saw, pliers, and a knife.
· Sanitation products like toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, garbage bags, and other supplies will help too.
· Fully charge your mobile devices in order to make emergency calls if service is still available.
· Refrigerators can be used as coolers. Place your refrigerator on the coldest setting the day before the storm arrives in order to preserve available food for as long as possible.
· Fill up any containers you have with water. Containers such as jugs, buckets, and bathtubs can be used.
If you do evacuate:
· Evacuate as early as you can. Waiting till the last minute to evacuate is a bad idea and may result in being unable to evacuate at all.
· Fill your vehicle full of fuel at the earliest opportunity and put extra fuel in approved storage jugs if possible.
· Make considerations for pets and be sure that pets are will be allowed to the evacuation facility you will be using.
· Turn off your gas and electricity if possible. Unplug all appliances.
· Determine the highest point in your home and put anything valuable in those areas. Things most susceptible to water damage should be moved to higher locations.
Prepare Your Home for the Storm:
· Shutter windows. If your home does not have storm shutters, then boards screwed tightly over windows will provide good protection. Most damage to homes occurs when debris and rain enter a home through broken windows. Additionally, flying glass becomes a major hazard during hurricanes that could result in serious injury.
· Protect important documents by putting them in a safe dry place. Utilizing weather and fire proof safes are a good idea to store documents.
· Take pictures of all valuables and the inside the rooms of all your homes. The images will be helpful for insurance claims.
· Be sure your home owner’s insurance is current and start communication with your agent or insurance company before the storm. They can provide useful information and steps to take.
Prepare Yourself and Your Family
· Be sure that local authorities such as fire and rescue, and the police know if you’ll be evacuating or not. If you are not evacuating, let them know the number of people with you and where in the house you will be taking shelter.
· Indicate whether you have evacuated by spray painting it on shuttered window board. If you must stay, indicate the number of people that are in the home.
· Every family member should have identification in case the family is separated for any reason. You can get custom made identification cards for every family member that includes emergency data. ID cards should have phone number, address, full names, any emergency medical information like blood type and allergies, and any other important information you feel necessary.
· Keep a battery powered radio on and monitor it during the storm for important information.
· Be sure to have an adequate supply of important medications.
Things You Should Never During the Hurricane
· Never handle electrical equipment, shut off all power to all appliances and the main circuit breaker should be turned off in the home.
· If you are using a generator, never use the generator inside a shelter. Generators exhaust contains carbon monoxide, an odorless gas that is poisonous and can kill you.
· Never attempt to drive or walk through high-water areas. High water can be deceiving and what you think is only a few inches deep can be several feet deep. Usually water is running fast during storms and you could be swept away and taken down stream. Drowning is a major reason for loss of life during hurricanes.
This list is in no way completely inclusive. Use sound judgement when making plans before a storm. The effort you put into preparation will greatly reduce the overall risk during and after a hurricane. Your best resource is your local authorities and taking their warnings and orders seriously should always be your first consideration. Evacuating early is the best way to stay safe. If you have to stay home and ride out the storm then reach out to all your available rescue services before the storm and seek out any local shelters that may be available.