Are you prepared for the next hurricane?
Hurricane season is upon us, and the threat of damage and devastation will continue through November 30th.
This is a good time to ask: How prepared are you for a hurricane? If you are not sure, now is the time to take stock in your hurricane preparedness.
The devastation that was brought on by the hurricanes of 2018. There are two hurricane names that I will never forget: Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, in particular, were among the most damaging and tragic in recent history.
After the hurricanes in 2018 affected so many residents along the Gulf Coast and in the Caribbean, more and more people began to utilize the various storm tracker tools to keep an eye on the path of any future storms.
Even with a hurricane tracker, you may never be completely prepared. When dealing with tropical weather, we often don’t know how severe the next big storm will be until the 11th hour.
However, if you live in areas that have a high tendency for such disasters like the Gulf Coast areas, you ought to have a safety plan in place at all times. This hurricane safety guide will give you a roadmap on how to be prepared for hurricane season.
Take time to prepare yourself and your family with an emergency kit, an evacuation plan, and a meetup plan, among other things that we will cover here.
Let’s start with education:
Know your risk
You can download a storm tracker app such as ‘MyRadar Weather Radar’ which is very widely used; or ‘Storm:Weather’ which is another app that is popular for its accuracy.
Compile all the important phone numbers for your area:
Many communities have text or email alerting systems for emergency notifications.
It’s also a good idea to have your local police non-emergency number handy, as they would likely be aware of all emergency alerts that are in effect.
For the most current and in-depth information and tools, you can go to the National Hurricane Center nhc.noaa.gov. There you will find loads of information about hurricane season and tips on how to stay safe during a tropical storm.
Prepare your Emergency Supply Kit early
Everyone should have an emergency kit in the home. One that is put together BEFORE a major storm hits.
The basics should include:
- Bottled water, and lots of it!
- Energy bars, granola bars, etc.
- Supply of prescription meds
- Toothpaste, toothbrushes
- Wet wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Bathroom tissue
- Batteries (all sizes)
- Multiple portable cell phone charges—fully charged
- Candles (a lighter or matches)
- Heavy-duty zip lock freezer bags and sandwich bags
- Fire extinguisher
- Prescription medications
- First-aid supplies.
- Paper plates, towels, cups, plastic utensils
- Weather radio – or at least a radio that runs on batteries
- Stuffed animals, coloring books, crossword puzzles, etc for children
- If applicable, baby diapers, food, and formula
Protect your property
- Cover your windows with 5/8-inch plywood boards.
- Bring in outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans, planters, and anything that is not tied down.
- If you have a sturdy backyard shed, this is a perfect place to store all of your outside furniture and equipment.
- Trim all of the trees and shrubs around your home to make them more wind-resistant.
- Clear any rain gutters or downspouts that may be clogged.
- Add a surge protector power strip to protect all your electrical appliances from getting damaged.
- Cover your air conditioning unit with a protective cover that can withstand severe weather.
- Make sure you know how to switch off your electricity and gas.
- Scan your home for foundation cracks. While this may seem less likely, it could potentially cause of flooding in your home.
- Check the sump pump in your basement to see if it is in proper working condition. Clear any debris that could clog the pump so your basement does not flood.
- Protect important documents. In the case of total storm devastation, these important documents will help to get your life back in order.
- Acquire a bank safety deposit box, or you can scan your documents and then email them to yourself, or load them onto a jump drive.
- Photograph the front and back of your credit cards, place all of your paper documents in sealed freezer bags.
- Consider purchasing a generator for your home. This could save you from having to leave the home due to power outages. Generators come in many sizes and capacities, depending on the size of your home and what appliances you want to keep running.
Protect your pets
If you get caught in a major hurricane, it’s possible to forget about your pets in all the confusion.
If you are evacuating, it’s a good idea to make provisions for your pets ahead of time. Consider boarding facilities or veterinarians who shelter pets during emergencies
It’s also a great idea to prepare a pet emergency supply kit when you prepare one for the family. Things to include are:
- Pet medications
- Pet first aid items
- Strong leash / collar / harness
- Papers that you may have on your pet(s)
- Pet carriers
- Photos of your pet in case he/she gets lost
- Drinking water
- Pet food, bowls and can opener
- Litter box, or something that can be used and sealed for transport
Know where to go
- Keep your gas tank full.
- Make sure everyone in your household has a printed copy of the ‘escape plan’ so that you can meet up regardless of where you are when the storm hits.
- Include everyone’s phone numbers on the escape plan. We tend to rely on our cell phones and therefore don’t memorize each other’s phone numbers.
- Get to know your neighbors. There’s safety in numbers!
- Decide on a safe familiar place where you can go for protection or to reunite. Know the hurricane evacuation routes ahead of time.
- If you have younger children, make sure they know your phone numbers in case you somehow get separated or if they’re at a sleepover when the storm hits.
- Hold drills to make sure the children know the plan and can repeat it back. Write out emergency numbers to place in their backpacks. Make sure your children understand how to call 911 (and when to call). Also, have your kids pack some of their favorite things in a backpack in case of a speedy departure.
- Consider locations that are accessible for household members with disabilities. Also, consider pet-friendly places.
Wait it out
If you have decided to wait it out, be prepared to be self-sufficient for a few days (5 to 7 days at the minimum). I recall several years ago, Hurricane Ike kept most Houstonians in the dark for many weeks.
However, if you suffer from a health condition that requires electricity, this is the time to make a backup plan of where you can relocate until power can be restored. Most communities have a designated special-needs shelter where residents with disabilities can register ahead of time.
- Designate a safe room If you can remain in the home, (in the interior of the house away from windows) where you will be able to ride out the storm.
- If you are in very severe hurricane winds, cover yourself and your family with a mattress, or blockade yourselves using a heavy dining room table, to avoid flying debris,
- Make sure you have plenty of food and water to sustain you for an extended period. Try to stick to canned or glass jar foods and other non-perishable food items.
- When shopping for these items, check the dates to make sure the expiration dates are at least 2 years away, if possible.
- If applicable, be sure to have kid-friendly foods such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Don’t forget to purchase extra pet food.
- Try to shop for foods that do not require additional ingredients to keep things simple and convenient, such as peanut butter and jelly.
- If there are over the counter medicines that you like to keep on hand, add that to your shopping list.
- Fill your bathtub with lots of water so that you can use it to flush the toilet in the event your utilities are compromised for an extended period.
- Fill your freezer with as much ice that it can hold. That could extend the life of your perishable food items for a while. Of course, you should plan to eat the perishable food first, just in case.
- Place all of the ice in double-bagged or heavy-duty sealed freezer bags so it can retain the temperature a bit longer.
Check your insurance coverage
- Please make sure your home is fully insured, and that your coverage includes wind damage, flood, and disaster damage, which is sometimes a separate policy coverage.
- Renter’s insurance is just as important, as it will give you a level of protection for your belongings, albeit not as much as homeowners. Talk to your insurance agent about the details.
- Your regular homeowner’s insurance policy may not cover flood disaster so check your policy right away. In many states, FEMA requires homeowners to have a separate flood policy.
- Take a thorough inventory of the contents of your home, which will be very helpful when your insurance claim is being processed. The most efficient way to do this is to videotape your inventory walk-thru using your cell phone. Email the recording to yourself or place it on cloud storage in case of phone damage.
- When a storm is already in progress, all evacuation routes are usually bottlenecked. So don’t wait until the last minute to decide to evacuate. Plan with decisive measures.
What to do after the storm
- First, take a deep breath and remember that things can be replaced. If you and your loved ones are safe, that is the most important factor.
- If you have damage to your property, take lots of pictures to assist with your insurance claim.
- Be sure to look out for any reptiles or perhaps deceased rodents or animals that may have been washed into your home by the flood
- Don’t try to ignite anything, whether gas or electric appliances in case there is a leak that needs to be taken care of.
- Do not drink water from the tap until it has been confirmed that the tap water is not contaminated.
Granted there are many different details involved in hurricane preparation, and this guide is quite a lot for anyone to digest.
However, pick the items that work for you and incorporate other safety measures that did not appear in this article.
Hopefully, this hurricane safety guide will simply be good information that you can read and share with others, and you will not have to utilize these tips at all!
Important Phone Numbers
Transportation Assistance: 866-283-9662
American Red Cross: 800-733-2767
FEMA- Federal Emergency Management Agency: 800-621-3362
United Way: 866-283-9622
Poison Control Center: 800-222-1222