It’s only May, and the southeastern United States has
already experienced two named storms.
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
Hurricane season is normally June through November. But that
doesn’t mean the occasional storm can’t come early or late. Don’t get
- 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 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.
- Fill your gas tank. 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 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
- 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
- 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.