Preparing for an Emergency Disaster: Hurricane Prep 101

Whoever said history does not repeat itself was wrong. History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster. On the heels of Hurricane Preparedness Week (May 21-27, 2006) I can honestly say that I am have completed my hurricane safety checklist. Have you?

Growing up in Miami, FL you learn a couple things about Hurricane Season. Expect the worse and hope for the best. After surviving Hurricane Andrew in ’92, I learned first hand the strength and wrath of nature. In a city like Miami, and having a Cuban heritage (where legends of hurricanes are an integral part of oral tradition) you learn to respect and prepare for summer. After last Hurricane Season (2005), it was demonstrated that Florida should not be the only state cautiously monitoring the Atlantic.

In order to prepare for Hurricane Season there a few steps that all Eastern cities should follow to ensure the optimal safety of themselves and their families.

1. Familiarize yourself with hurricane tracking. Buying a map and plotting the movements of tropical systems aids in awareness. Not being aware of the possible situations that may arise is the first step in hurricane preparedness. Also it helps in developing your knowledge of weather systems, therefore enforcing the gravity of the situation.

2. Buy shutters or plywood before hand. Don’t wait till last minute. The longer you wait the higher you pay. If you buy these materials in off season, you will pay hundreds less. Also if you do not have the time and are truly caught off guard, you can tape up windows with duct tape. Although, this dose not provide protection for the impact of a medium to large object, it can hold small cracks together by small objects rather than breaking on impact. Let me emphasize, this is no substitution for shutters.

3. Buy flood insurance. Every hurricane is different, each having their own unique characteristics. Rain is a part of the natural environment, and very probably a dynamic of a hurricane system. Also, if you are in a low lying area, sandbag your property to protect the most possible for any flooding.

4. Familiarize yourself with your local cities emergency procedures for natural disasters. If your local city has none, lobby for a Hurricane Task Group to develop one. Follow and adhere to any evacuation warnings, and become familiar with evacuation centers in your area. Being proactive in natural disasters is the best remedy them.

5. Have your own family strategy ready for a hurricane. You should locate a safe room in a house. Somewhere that has no windows, and that hold the most structural integrity within the building (ie-bathrooms, stair wells in condos). In case of an emergency, a matters can often be used to block doors and as protection in tight spaces if a window breaks or part of your building is compromised. Do not count on emergency response systems to be available to help you in a time of danger. They are often immobilized. Determine escape routes from your home and places to meet. Have an out-of-state friend as a family contact, so all your family members have a single point of contact.

6. Buy necessary materials needed for extended periods of time without electricity before hand. Have a hurricane food stash, not to be touched and saved in a safe place. Battery powered equipment such as TVs and radios are essential. Also canned food, and non perishable items are crucial. Medications should also be bought for at least a two month supply in advance (this is timetable is generally applicable to all supplies). Stock up on such items far before any thereat is imminent. And when any storm threatens buy additional food that can be easily prepared and eaten within the week. Ice is often hard to come by after storms so don’t expect it with out long lines. If you can afford a generator, it is a worthwhile investment. Again be proactive, and buy before season to avoid any possible price gouging.

7. If you have to evacuate, be prepared to bring materials for up to a couple days (at least four). If you are an evacuee, you most likely will be the last individuals to return to your evacuation zone. Also if you decided to evacuate to a hotel, make reservations before hand.

8. If you have pets, you should be mindful of their needs. If you need to evacuate, become familiar with your local pet friendly evacuation center. In Miami-Dade County, this is the Tamiami Park Center (pre registration is required). If one is not available in your area, evacuate to a pet friendly hotel out of the projected path. Remember, hurricanes are very unpredictable, so make sure you are well out of any possible danger by traveling to a location that will definitely be out of its way. Also, if a pet friendly shelter is unavailable, lobby to local policy makers to enact one.

9. Make special preparations for the elderly, and any populations who are in need of special care. If their living facilities are un appropriate for a hurricane, it is imperative to prepare a action plan for the threat of one. Often you make plans with hospitals and medical insurance in advance arrangements can be made to ensure the protection of elders. Do not just rely on elder care facilities to provide the security of your loved ones. Although elder care facilities do have their best interest in mind, you should be mindful that most facilities are ill prepared for natural disasters. If you are pregnant or have a serious medical condition, check yourself into the hospital.

10. Fill up on gas as soon as possible, and secure other containers with gas in a safe place. Gas may be hard to come by after the storm, and lines and prices are INSANE.

These are just some the most common and basic steps that are a part of culture living in Florida. It is important for all cities that are a few hundred miles away from the Atlantic should integrate into their culture, and understand that summer is not just fun and sun. For a complete list of information from NOAA on their Hurricane Preparedness Campaign visit: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/intro.shtml.

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