Aside from strong winds, heavy rainfall and flooding, hurricanes are also synonymous with wide-spread property damage, injuries and fatalities. Keeping an eye out for the storm before it comes and knowing how to deal with it when it arrives and after it leaves will keep you from being a part of the casualty list.
With the increasing population along the U.S. coastline most affected by this weather, (stretching from Maine to Texas), the number of people at risk from the devastation brought by Atlantic hurricanes is higher than ever. However, not only the people living along the coast are at risk– many fatalities from hurricanes happen outside of landfall areas because of inland flooding, tornados and other effects.
Prepare for the Worst
It’s estimated that only half of the U.S. population has an emergency water supply and even less have a prepared emergency evacuation kit. When it comes to preparations, always prepare for the worst—it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Stock up on food and water
Going out in bad weather can be risky; going out during a hurricane is out of the question. Stores will also likely be closed and finding a place to deliver food to your place will be difficult, if not impossible.
Canned and other food items that don’t require the use of heat, water or electricity are ideal for this situation.
Water supplies and utilities can also get interrupted, so it’s a good idea to store water that’s enough to last for at least ten days. The normal rule of thumb is to store one gallon of potable water per person per day, but can be more, depending on your environment and individual needs. And, don’t forget water for your pets!
Check your prescription medication supplies
Like restaurants and eateries, your local drugstore or pharmacist will also likely be closed during a hurricane, leaving you without the means to refill your medicine supply. Check the expiration dates of items in your medical cabinet, and replenish meds as required.
Look for alternate sources of power
Keep fresh batteries for important devices like flashlights and radios in the house. Crank- and solar-powered radios and lights are also handy. For that all-important smartphone, invest in a high-capacity power bank. Phones typically require 2,500-3,000 mAh, so get a power bank with at least 5,000 mAh capacity to ensure multiple charges or juice up other phones or gadgets. Many crank-powered multi-band and weather radios offer the ability to charge small devices, like phones, too.
Secure your home
If your property has trees around it or nearby, it’s time to give it the surrounding foliage a trim. Strong winds can easily rip branches off, and possibly send them hurtling at your roof, windows or walls. Brace your roof, clear the gutters and fit your windows with hurricane shutters or plywood, or at least reinforce the glass panes with tape. If you’re living in a low-lying area, you may be at risk of flooding—sandbag the perimeter of your home to minimize the amount of water coming into your house.
Fill up the tank
You may be asked, or it may be necessary for you, to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Make sure your car is in good running condition and ready to go. Don’t forget to keep essentials such as food, water and blankets in your car.
Make a disaster plan
If things worsen, a disaster plan will keep you from panicking and provide a guide towards your survival. Practice your disaster plan with your family so everyone’s on the same page when the need comes.
Once the hurricane makes landfall and hits your area, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
Keep an ear on the radio or other information channels for the latest news and other advisories about the storm.
Turn off the gas
Strong hurricanes can cause damage to gas lines and pose a fire hazard.
Stay inside your home until the storm has passed or you’re asked to evacuate. Flying debris, floods and other risks can endanger you outside. Don’t be fooled by a sudden lull in the storm—this could mean that your area is under the “eye” of the storm, and the strong winds and heavy rain can start again without any warning once the eye moves forward.
Stay away from the windows
Even if you’ve reinforced them, it’s still a good idea to keep away from your windows in your home.
Be prepared to get out of Dodge when the authorities say so or when the present conditions call for it! Watch out for the latest announcements and assess the situation carefully, while keeping your bug-out bag, important documents and keys within reach. If it gets too bad, you may have to leave for a safer place. Make sure you’re prepared for when this happens.
Pick up the pieces
After the storm has passed, you will have some work ahead of you, and there are still some risks that you should be aware of during this time.
Ensure your safety
Make sure it’s safe to go out (or go back). Wait for the go signal from the appropriate authorities.
Be careful of debris
Downed trees, broken glass and other items may litter your home or the surrounding areas. Floodwater may still be present, so take precautions to protect yourself from bacteria and hazards that will be hard to see in murky water and may cause injury. If you see broken power lines, do not attempt to clear them yourself— get away from them then contact your power company or the authorities who are better equipped and qualified to do this.
Pump out the water
If you have a flooded basement, you’ll need to drain it. You can do this yourself with a sump pump and a wet-dry vacuum. If you don’t have a pump, you can ask local services or the fire department and they may be able to do it for you. In the worst case, you may need to bail it out and get dry air circulating to remove moisture. The key is to get the basement dry as quickly as possible to prevent more damage to your home as well as the growth of mold and mildew.
Avoid the water
Hurricanes can contaminate local water supplies with bacteria. It can take some time for the authorities to confirm the safety of your water, so until then, use bottled water or proven purification techniques.
Assess the damage
If your home or property suffered any damage from the hurricane, you will have to document it with photos (it will also help if you have documentation of the state of your property before the hurricane to make the investigation faster) for insurance claims.
Nowadays, satellites and weather radar enable us to track hurricanes well before they make landfall. However, forewarned isn’t necessarily fore-armed unless you actually do something to protect yourself and your home. As with any disaster, ample planning and preparation mean the difference between simply “weathering it” or becoming a FEMA statistic.