Summer is a good time to reassess the general safety in our daily lives. This may be in the form of home safety, as it is a time when young people are out of school and spending more time around the house and yard. And for those who reside in Florida, the Gulf Coast and along the Eastern United States, summertime is Hurricane Season. The official Hurricane Season runs from June 1-November 30 each year, with the majority of activity occurring in the first half of September. Thus, it is fitting that summer is when we should review our own personal Hurricane Preparedness Plan.
Hurricanes are one of the few natural disasters that we can actually closely monitor and predict well in advance of their arrival. It’s vital that those in affected areas take advantage of storm tracking and home preparedness. The three phases of preparation include before, during and after the storm.
Before the arrival of a storm, we are able to track it by staying tuned to local weather forecasts and utilizing the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center (www.nhc.noaa.gov). This resource allows us to monitor the path and changing nature of the storm. Effective May 2010, improvements to the site include increases in lead time reporting to threatened communities with regard to watches and warnings. This allows for better preparation in advance of the arrival of a storm. You can also monitor local conditions online through the National Doppler Radar Site (https://radar.weather.gov).
It is also essential to determine if you will stay in your own home or choose another secure location for the duration of the storm. If there is doubt to the structural integrity of your primary home, strongly consider relocating to a safer environment, be it a friend’s home or an official shelter. If you have any doubts, you may wish to leave the area; this decision should be made well in advance, with enough time to safely travel. If you choose to stay at home throughout the storm, preparation is essential. It is important to have basic items that you will need, such as:
1) A working cell phone with a home and car charger. Place important phone numbers into your cell phone directory for ease of use.
2) Any prescription medications; you should have at least a months’ worth of refills.
3) Copies of key documents such as a recent bank statement and home survey.
4) A secure property. Gathering advice from the myriad of sources available through websites, news stations, local government bulletins and newspapers.
5) Access to an automobile with a full tank of gas.
6) Cash for later needs.
During the storm, personal physical safety takes precedence. Under no circumstances should you venture outside. Storms usually pass relatively quickly, but the short-lived intensity can be surprisingly destructive. One major caution is that no one should venture outside in the “eye” of the storm. This is the big hollow center seen on satellite images. Although the storm may suddenly halt, the highest winds are on the walls of the eye. A hurricane can go from calm to hundreds of miles per hour in velocity in an instant.
After the storm has passed, there may be many lingering hazards–standing water and downed electrical lines being high on that list. Before leaving your home, it’s important to find out about local conditions. If you are able, contact your power and phone companies to electronically register your service outage. This helps them gain a picture of areas in greatest need. To stay in contact with others, it’s good to have a serviceable phone landline, as they are often the first to return to normalcy. Cellular phone lines are typically disrupted the longest; yet sometimes calls can be placed to areas outside the path of the storm. A cellular charger for use in the car is an indispensable tool, because it can be powered by the car battery even if your house is powerless. It’s also a smart idea to avoid driving around too early after the storm passes. It is not only dangerous, due to road conditions, but you will also have to wait in long lines for your next gas refill.
Simple planning and preparation can be extremely helpful in weathering a storm, as well as keeping us safe from everyday hazards. For more information specific to your personal lifestyle, visit www.redcross.org and your local news and television channels.