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Hurricane Preparedness

August 11, 2009

As promised, the hurricane preparedness post!

August and September seem to be the magic months for my region- Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike all hit within the same time period. I was fortunate to not have experienced the wrath of Katrina; only in volunteering to help those victims that came to the Houston area. Rita was a different story: I was displaced for over a month (I didn’t live in Houston at the time), sweating bullets over school – I was in my graduating semester- and over my house. The house was fine except for the refrigerator, and all seniors were given the nod for having enough contact hours. Whew!

Ike was another monster. This time I feared for my daughter’s sake. We had very little damage, and power was resored in a reasonable period of time- only because we are in one of the suburbs and I guess the work was easier to get done. We had up to five ‘evacuees’ with us at one point! The worst part: I had the worst stomach and intesinal virus you could imagine. Think about hot, humid weather, no cool air- no electricity- and not being able to leave the bathroom for two days. Oh, and my mom had it, too.

So enough of the personal story: below is what Ready America recommends:

http://www.ready.gov/america/beinformed/hurricanes.html

Hurricanes

Hurricanes are severe tropical storms that form in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Scientists can now predict hurricanes, but people who live in coastal communities should plan what they will do if they are told to evacuate.

Step 1: Get A Kit / “To-Go Bag”

  • Get an Emergency Supply Kit,which includes items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries. You may want to prepare a portable kit and keep it in your car. This kit should include:
    • Copies of prescription medications and medical supplies;
    • Bedding and clothing, including sleeping bags and pillows;
    • Bottled water, a battery-operated radio and extra batteries, a first aid kit, a flashlight;
    • Copies of important documents: driver’s license, Social Security card, proof of residence, insurance policies, wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates, tax records, etc.
  • Make sure you have a “to-go bag” ready in case you need to evacuate, include:
    • Water and non-perishable food;
    • Battery operated radio and batteries so you can get important information from local officials;
    • First aid kit;
    • Flashlight;
    • Maps
    • Important documents such as proof residence, pictures of your family including pets, insurance policies, and tax records;
    • Comfortable clothing and blankets;
    • Unique family needs such as prescription medications, pet supplies, infant supplies or any other unique need your family may have;

Step 2: Make a Plan

Prepare your family

  • Make a Family Emergency Plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency
  • Plan places where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood.
  • It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
  • You may also want to inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work, daycare and school. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one.
  • Plan to Evacuate
    • Identify ahead of time where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood.
    • Identify several places you could go in an emergency, a friend’s home in another town, a motel or public shelter.
    • If you do not have a car, plan alternate means of evacuating.
    • If you have a car, keep a half tank of gas in it at all times in case you need to evacuate.
    • Take your Emergency Supply Kit.
    • Take your pets with you, but understand that only service animals may be permitted in public shelters. Plan how you will care for your pets in an emergency.
  • Take a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) class from your local Citizen Corps chapter. Keep your training current.

Step 3: Be Informed

Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a hurricane.

  • A hurricane watch means a hurricane is possible in your area. Be prepared to evacuate. Monitor local radio and television news outlets or listen to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest developments.
  • A hurricane warning is when a hurricane is expected in your area. If local authorities advise you to evacuate, leave immediately.
  • Hurricanes are classified into five categories based on their wind speed, central pressure, and damage potential. Category Three and higher hurricanes are considered major hurricanes, though Categories One and Two are still extremely dangerous and warrant your full attention.
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
Scale Number (Category) Sustained Winds (MPH) Damage Storm Surge
1 74-95 Minimal: Unanchored mobile homes, vegetation and signs. 4-5 feet
2 96-110 Moderate: All mobile homes, roofs, small crafts, flooding. 6-8 feet
3 111-130 Extensive: Small buildings, low-lying roads cut off. 9-12 feet
4 131-155 Extreme: Roofs destroyed, trees down, roads cut off, mobile homes destroyed. Beach homes flooded. 13-18 feet
5 More than 155 Catastrophic: Most buildings destroyed. Vegetation destroyed. Major roads cut off. Homes flooded. Greater than 18 feet
  • Hurricanes can produce widespread torrential rains. Floods are the deadly and destructive result. Slow moving storms and tropical storms moving into mountainous regions tend to produce especially heavy rain. Excessive rain can trigger landslides or mud slides, especially in mountainous regions. Flash flooding can occur due to intense rainfall. Flooding on rivers and streams may persist for several days or more after the storm. Learn more about preparing your home or business for a possible flood by reviewing the Floods page.

Prepare Your Home

  • Cover all of your home’s windows with pre-cut ply wood or hurricane shutters to protect your windows from high winds.
  • Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
  • Keep all trees and shrubs well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Secure your home by closing shutters, and securing outdoor objects or bringing them inside.
  • Turn off utilities as instructed. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.

Prepare Your Business

Plan to stay in business, talk to your employees, and protect your investment.

  • Carefully assess how your company functions, both internally and externally, to determine which staff, materials, procedures and equipment are absolutely necessary to keep the business operating.
  • Identify operations critical to survival and recovery.
  • Plan what you will do if your building, plant or store is not accessible.
    • Consider if you can run the business from a different location or from your home.
    • Develop relationships with other companies to use their facilities in case a disaster makes your location unusable.
  • Learn about programs, services, and resources at U.S. Small Business Administration.

Listen to Local Officials
Learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by your state and local government. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.

Federal and National Resources

Find additional information on how to plan and prepare for a hurricane by visiting the following resources:

I know it sounds like a lot, but when you think about it, you are preparing to lose everything you have. I would personally reccomend evacuating- it’s better to have your life and that of the ones you love intact and try to figure out the rest later. Evacuations are not as bad as they used to be since they implimented contraflow lanes on the highways- but you have to prepare for that, too.If there is a mandatory evacuation, GO! You don’t want to deal with a citation or arrest on top of a hurricane.

If you think you will be safe and decide to stay in your home be ready for that. Have plenty of water on hand- the usual recommendation is two gallons per person per day for drinking and flushing. Fill bathtubs and large containers to hold needed water- you don’t need to buy millions of plastic water bottles. Have plenty of canned goods, and remember that you will lose your fridge and freezer- be ready to grill stored meat as it unthaws!

Please remember to listen and stay informed, and don’t allow panic to set in.

Happy Hurricane Season!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 11, 2009 3:35 pm

    I like your hurricane tips – Very detailed and practical. One other eco-friendly hurricane/emergency prep item that would be good for families is a solar charger for cellphones and other small electronics. Sprint offers the Solio Solar Hybrid Charger on its website http://bit.ly/QdnHi and this device can be charged using the sun or AC adapter and is portable to use during an emergency – holding about 6 hours of charged power.

    Crystal Davis
    Sprint – Crisis Communications

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