Hurricanes are destructive and potentially deadly storms that can cause a tremendous amount of property damage and, occasionally, people’s lives. Longtime residents of coastal Florida, the Carolinas, Texas, Mississippi,Alabama and Louisiana are familiar with the drill – but there are always new people and always procrastinators every year. Hurricane preparedness takes time! Don’t leave it to the last minute. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Hurricane season is normally June through November. But that doesn’t mean the occasional storm can’t come early or late. Don’t get complacent.
- Maintain situational awareness. Keep an eye and ear on national and local media, and monitor developing weather systems.
- Track the projected path of storms, using websites like National Hurricane Center(www.nhc.noaa.gov).
- Do a risk assessment for your home. Assess vulnerability to storm surge, wind damage, and flooding. A Category 5 hurricane could result in storm surge of 30 feet above ground level in some areas. You can find a storm surge risk map at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/surge/risk/.
- Plan on at least a three day wait before substantial government assistance is in place. FEMA can’t put its trucks and trailers in the direct path of the storm. It takes at least three days for state and FEMA resources to be put in place.
- Cut down any large trees overhanging your house and garage. The tree could fall, taking out part of your house.
- Expect a run on hurricane supplies in the last 48 hours before the storm. Buy your batteries, bottled water, fuel cans, generators and other supplies before you need them.
- Invest in hardened windows, shutters and doors.
- Failing that, buy your plywood well ahead of time, along with a drill and screws to board up your windows.
- Obey evacuation orders. If you receive an evacuation order, you are getting it because the authorities know they will not be able to reach you in an emergency. Many people in coastal communities are killed by hurricanes – or vanish forever – when they ignore orders to evacuate.
- Keep your homeowners or renters coverage updated with the current replacement value of your home and belongings.
- Inventory your belongings. You can use sites like: Lockboxer.com, Knowyourstuff.org (a creation of the Insurance Information Institute) and Stuffsafe.com. These resources are free or very low cost, and will facilitate compensation from your insurance company if your home is damaged or destroyed by a weather event.
- Keep fuel in your car. Many times, gas stations run out of fuel in the day or so before a storm. If you can’t fuel your vehicle, you can’t evacuate. And you may not be able to function.
- Get a functional battery-operated radio. Don’t count on cell phones working for a number of days after a storm.
- You may be without power for as long as two weeks and sometimes longer. Keep nonperishables, batteries and flashlights.
- Keep your generator outdoors. Every year, people die from carbon monoxide poisoning because they moved their generator indoors to protect it from theft.
- Understand your generator’s capacity. Generators have a limited load. This is especially important to know when you start up electrical items connected to the generator, because startups cause a spike in electrical demand.
- Know your neighbors. Your neighbors may have a harder time preparing or evacuating from storms than you do, because of frailty, disability, young children, poverty or lack of reliable transportation.
- Look out for family members of emergency responders. Police, fire department, National Guard members and medical personnel often have to concentrate on preparing for the mission, and have less time to attend to their own homes and families.
- Know your community emergency management contacts. You can find an online listing at http://www.ready.gov/community-state-info
- Don’t underestimate tropical storms. Just because it’s not a hurricane doesn’t mean it can’t do a lot of damage locally. Tropical storms can dump as much rain as a hurricane.
By understanding these guidelines, you can be an asset to your community in the event of a hurricane, instead of a drain on emergency resources. You will also have an easier time getting reimbursed by your insurance company for any damage done, and be doing your part to keep overall hurricane insurance premiums down.