Disaster Preparedness: Hurricanes

Hurricanes can be defined as the “Get Out of Dodge” type of disaster. After securing your house and belongings, it’s often wiser to just leave the area until the storm is over. Hurricane winds flow in a circular motion with winds that exceed 75 miles per hour, but can exceed 155 miles per hour. Forming over tropical waters, they often move toward land, causing catatrosphic damage to islands and coastal areas the most. Damage from hurricanes comes from the storm surge, heavy rainfall, flooding and flash floods, rip currents, high winds, tornadoes and microbursts.

Hurricanes are tracked and their course can usually be predicted with some accuracy, giving you ample time to secure your home and get out of Dodge. Some people choose to stay in their homes during a hurricane, but this is often ill-advised and if there is an evacuation order, you must go.

What do do before a hurricane

  • Make sure your bug out kit is stocked and ready to go and make a family communication plan
  • Be aware of your surroundings and know your escape routes. This is especially important if you are on vacation or in unfamiliar territory.
  • Know what your elevation level is where ever you are. If at home, this information will help to determine if your property is prone to flooding.
  • Be especially aware of the hazards if you are staying or live close to levees or a dam.
  • Know the hurricane evacuation routes for your area and know where to go to reach higher ground. Plan out your route in advance should you need to evacuate.

Make plans to secure your property

  • Installing straps or additional clips to secure your roof to the frame of your house will reduce damage to your roof.
  • Make sure that your shrubs and trees around your house are trimmed. This will make them more resistant to snapping and breaking during high winds.
  • Make sure your downspouts and rain gutters are clear of debris
  • High winds can cause very expensive damage to the structure of your house. Make sure your garage doors are reinforced and if you don’t have built in storm shutters, board up your windows with 5/8” marine plywood. Get it cut to fit your windows for easy installation.
  • Bring in everything that is not tied or bolted down, like your garbage cans and outdoor furniture and decorations.
  • If you have a boat, you’ll need information on how and where to secure your boat.
  • Having an emergency backup generator for emergencies will make life more comfortable if you have a power outage for an extended period of time.
  • If you live in a high-rise building, you’ll want to take shelter on or below the tenth floor, even if that means that you’ll need to leave that building to get to a safer area.
  • Ideally, if you have the space and means, you might want to consider building a safe room.

If you live in an area that is prone to hurricanes, you should protect yourself financially with flood insurance.

What to do during a hurricane

  • Tune into your TV or radio for information. It’s a good idea to have a battery powered radio and extra batteries in case of power outage.
  • Close all of your interior doors and secure all of your external doors. Stay inside and keep away from glass doors and windows.
  • If you are instructed to do so, turn off your utilities. Turn off propane tanks. To help preserve fresh food during a power outage, turn the thermostat of your refrigerator to it’s coldest setting and keep the door closed if you aren’t instructed to turn off the utilities.
  • Keep your blinds and curtains closed. If there is a lull in the winds, it could be the eye of the storm and winds will pick up again.
  • Go to the lowest level and stay in an interior room, closet or hallway. Take refuge under a table if possible. Avoid elevators.
  • Unless it’s an emergency, avoid using the phone to keep lines free for emergency communications.
  • Make sure you have a well stocked emergency preparedness kit with food and water and medical supplies. Fill large containers and your bathtub with water.

Should you evacuate?

Keep informed and know if local authorities have ordered an evacuation. Follow their instructions if they have ordered an evacuation.

Mobile homes or temporary structures are unsafe during a hurricane, even when they are fastened to the ground. Hurricane winds are more intense at higher elevations. If you live in a high rise building or a mobile home, evacuate. You should also evacuate if you live on the coast or near a body of water such as a river or floodplain or on an island waterway.

What do do after a hurricane

  • Keep updated on the conditions in your areas by listening to NOAA Weather Radio or your local news station. Have a battery powered radio and extra batteries available in case of a power outage.
  • Be aware that due to heavy rainfall, there’s still danger from floods after the hurricane has ended.
  • Have a communications plan for all family members. If you become separated from family, contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS/1-800-733-2767 or visit the American Red Cross Safe and Well site: www.safeandwell.org
  • The American Red Cross also maintains a database to help you find family. Contact the local American Red Cross chapter where you are staying for information. Do not contact the chapter in the disaster area.
  • If you left the area during the hurricane, follow instructions from your local authorities for returning to the area after the storm.
  • If you cannot return home and have immediate housing needs. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  • For those who have longer-term housing needs, FEMA offers several types of assistance, including services and grants to help people repair their homes and find replacement housing. Apply for assistance or search for information about housing rental resources
  • Limit your driving to necessary driving only and stay away from flooded areas and damaged bridges. Stay indoors if possible. The streets may have downed electrical wires, damaged building structures, fallen objects, and damaged bridges, roads and sidewalks.
  • Stay away from loose or downed power lines and report them to your power company immediately.
  • Check outside of your house for downed power lines, damage to the structure of your house, and gas leaks before you enter. If you there are still floodwaters around the house, or if you smell gas or if your house has been damaged by fire, stay out until authorities or a qualified building inspector or structural engineer inspects and tells you it is safe.
  • Take photographs of any damage you find for insurance purposes.
  • In case of power outage, do not use candles until you’re certain there’s no gas leak risk. Use a flashlight, but turn it on outside of the house before entering. Batteries can create a spark that could ignite gas if it is present.
  • Don’t let your pets out. Keep them close and under your control. Be careful when clearing out debris. Use a stick to poke around debris and watch out for poisonous snakes or wild animals.
  • Make sure you have well stocked disaster preparedness supplies. Listen to the news for information on the water source and don’t drink tap water or cook with it until you’re sure it’s not contaminated.
  • Throw out spoiled food from the refrigerator.
  • When cleaning up debris, wear protective clothing and rubber gloves.
  • Don’t tie up the telephone with phone calls except for emergencies.
  • A backup emergency generator is a very handy piece of equipment to have during an extended power outage, but never operate one inside your home or garage or other enclosed places. Carbon monoxide can build up and remain in the area for hours, even after you’ve turned the generator off.

You can download the Tropical Storm Preparedness Guide here.

Tags: ,