Hurricane season is just upon us and if the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that hurricanes can cause serious damage if you are not prepared for them. The best way to prevent serious damage to your home or loss of life or danger to your family is to take the necessary precautions to ensure the safest, securest environment possible prior to a hurricane’s arrival.
The American Red Cross posted a checklist of things to do and collect in preparation for a hurricane. Among the items listed is a reminder to take care of all things loose: doors, windows, shutters, and items on the lawn (like tools, bikes, toys, etc).
It is also important to stock up on things like canned goods, bottled water, and gasoline. The Red Cross also suggests turning the fridge and freezer to the highest settings to keep food cold longer in the event that the power goes out.
One of the most important ways your family can be prepared for an emergency such as a hurricane is to sit down and write up a plan or strategy for evacuation. Make sure each member of the family or house clearly understands the plan and practices acting it out. Locate the safest room in the house and keep a supply of new batteries and at least one flashlight in the room along with a battery powered radio.
Keeping an emergency kit stocked and located in an easy-to-reach location is one preparation that is often overlooked. Along with the basic first-aid components, you will want to include spare batteries, a multipurpose tool, hand sanitizer, extra house and car keys, bug spray, a map of the immediate area, disposable camera (in case of photographing damage), and a list of emergency contact numbers.
For stocking food and water, keep at least three days’ worth in a safe location. There should be a minimum of one gallon of water per person for each day and the food should be easy to prepare (minimal or no cooking needed) and non-perishable. Canned soups and stews are a great commodity and can be used for both lunch and dinner.
In the case of any impending emergency, always tune into the radio for updates and warnings on the status of an incoming storm or risk of any other natural disaster. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is the highest rated weather service in terms of accuracy and timely updates. They offer weather updates online, via podcasts, and on the radio at seven different frequencies via the NOAA Weather Radio (NWR).
When listening to weather updates and warnings, it’s important to note the difference between a “hurricane watch” and a “hurricane warning.” A watch means that conditions will be threatening within 48 hours. When you hear this update, begin your preparation plans immediately and stay tuned to the radio for more information regarding the storm.
A hurricane warning is issued when the conditions are expected within 36 hours. If evacuations are being called for in your area, this is the point in which you will want to leave. Otherwise, finish up your preparations and retreat to the safe zone in the house. Keep the radio with you to stay posted on further storm conditions.
Supposing you evacuate your house out of necessity and return to find the area ravaged by the storm, you will want to contact a hurricane relief center as soon as possible to report the damage. But first, check with your insurance company to see how much they cover. Since many insurance policies exclude flood damage, that might be something with which FEMA or another disaster relief group could assist. For a full list of relief groups, check out disastercenter.com.
If you have evacuated the area and intend to return, there are a couple things you should be aware of before you travel. For one thing, check the route back home for flooding or damage. Planning detours in advance can save a lot of drive time and gas. Pay close attention to bridges or low areas as these are the most common areas for flooding.
Power lines and trees are notoriously found on the road following severe storms so use caution and drive slower where visibility is limited. Upon returning to your house, check for leaking gas pipes and structural damage before entering. Take photos of any damage for insurance and relief purposes.