Hurricanes and Disaster Preparedness

As spring melts its way into the brilliant hues of summer, America sheds its clothes like snake skin and heads outdoors to enjoy all the bounty of Mother Nature. There will be plenty of bikini-wearing sunbathers, thousands of gardeners, and millions of children across the country soaking up the sun’s rays and hiding inside when the rains hit.

With summer comes some of the nastiest natural disasters. No matter what part of the States you live in, you’ve got something to be concerned about. Southerners are prepared for the next big hurricane (and even Taco Bell, reportedly, is paying $11 an hour because of perceived danger and lack of housing from the last big hurricane), the Bread Belt lays in wait of tornadoes, and the West Coast keeps all sensors ready for earthquakes. There’s also the random nasty flood, sudden swarm of locusts, and hail so large it causes millions in damage in a single city.

Preparing for the next quake, twister, or hurricane is something that many Americans are learning to do as par-for-course. A distaster preparedness kit looks different in Nebraska than it does in Louisiana, but the fact that people are putting emergency kits together says a lot about our ability to survive. We’re going to find ways to weather any disaster, because that’s just the kind of hardy people we are.

Hurricane Preparedness

Hurricanes are a nasty concoction of violent winds, incredible waves, torrential rains, and floods that all began with a simple storm that hit the right amount of moisture and low wind. While most of the tropical storms that develop each year never hit the Southern coastline, roughly 5 hurricanes do in an average 3-year period and, on average, kill 50 to 100 people. Of the 5 hurricanes that average a 3-year period, 2 are usually a category 3 or higher.

The most important thing you can do to be safe from hurricanes is to keep informed and be prepared. If you are asked to evacuate, you should do so immediately. It’s seriously unlikely that emergency managers will ask you to evacuate unless you live in a coastal, low-lying, or frequently flooded area – which makes it all the more important to do as you’re asked if it does happen. It also means that if you don’t live in one of these areas, it’s even more important for you and your family to have a plan that keeps you prepared.

Good hurricane disaster prevention includes modifying your home for strength as well as having supplies on hand to make it through the storm.

1. Develop a Family Plan

  • Locate a safe room, or the safest areas in your home. Make sure to discuss this with the rest of your family.

  • Determine escape routes from your home and places for your family to meet outside the home. These safe zones for meeting should be about 10 miles from your home.

  • Post emergency telephone numbers by your phones, and work with your children on the use of 911.

  • Stock non-perishable supplies and create a Disaster Preparedness Kit.

  • Take first aid, CPR, and disaster preparedness classes.

2. Create a Hurricane Preparedness Kit

  • Foods – enough to last for 3 to 7 days:

– non-perishable packaged and canned food
– snack foods
– non-electric can opener
– non-electric cooking tools and fuel
– paper plates and plastic utensils

  • Water – at least 1 gallon per person, per day, for 3 to 7 days (for one person, 3-7 gallons of water)

  • Several thick blankets and pillows

  • Sturdy clothing and rain gear

  • First Aid Kit containing the standard band-aids and peroxide, as well as specific prescription drugs

  • Flashlight and extra batteries

  • Cash box containing small bills – banks may not be open for extended periods – and important documents in a watertight, resealable plastic bag (insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, social security cards, etc.)

  • Spare keys


Family Hurricane Preparedness Planning

You should have a family hurricane preparedness plan that your whole family is aware of and comfortable with long before any storm threatens you. A few of these things have been mentioned before, but they are worth repeating:

  • If asked to evacuate, do not wait or delay your departure.

  • If possible, leave before an evacuation is ordered for your area. You will avoid traffic problems and can get out safely and quickly.

  • Evacuation destinations should be near your home so that every family member can meet there without problems.

  • If possible, arrange to stay with a friend or relative who lives close to your home but won’t be forced to evacuate. Discuss with them the details of your planning before the hurricane season hits.

  • If all else fails and you must evacuate to a shelter, remember that most shelters will not accept pets – and bring your Hurricane Preparedness Kit with you to the shelter.

Sites for Hurricane Preparedness Planning Information

Because hurricanes have the potential – and have been proven to often result in – major disaster, there are several websites dedicated to helping you become prepared. Here are some of the most informative and useful, listed in no particular order:

Hurricane Preparedness – http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/intro.shtml (version en espanol – http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/espanol/intro_espanol.shtml) – This site features hurricane basics and history, information about storm surges, high winds and tornadoes, offers forecasts, and gives detailed lists to get you prepared.

Captain Tropic’s Hurricane Kit – http://www.stormsurvival.homestead.com/Hurricanekit.html – This site is all about survival. The link will offer up a very detailed list for a hurricane kit, but there are dozens of links that give information on food supplies, disinfecting water, preventing looters, storing storm shutters, and much more.

American Red Cross – http://www.redcross.org/services/prepare/0,1082,0_253_,00.html (version en espanol – http://www.redcross.org/spanish/services/ds/hurrspn.html) – Created in the style of a booklet, you could easily print this out to share with your family and friends. It covers all the basics like “What a Watch or Warning Means”, “Assemble a Disaster Preparedness Kit”, and “What to do After the Hurricane is Over”. There are also links for other forms of disaster including drought, earthquakes, fires, floods, terrorism, tornadoes, volcanoes, and winter storms.

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