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Hurricane Preparedness and Response

Hurricane preparedness for your property, pets, and person and informed respose are important for your safety.Hurricane

If you live in certain areas of the country, it is inevitable.  Here comes yet another hurricane.  You may have been through many such storms in the past but now you live alone.  Or perhaps those family members or friends that helped you prepare previously have moved.  Then again, maybe you recently moved to the sunshine state to live out your golden years.  Whatever the reason, even as a senior you can learn about hurricane preparedness and know just what to do.

There are a number of activities needed to prepare for a hurricane.  From a top level perspective, gather information, plan and take action, and recovery.

Gather Information

First, know if you live in an evacuation area. Find out the meaning of National Weather Service (NWS) watches and warnings at http://www.erh.noaa.gov/lwx/Defined/.

Keep a list of contact information for reference

Plan & Take Action
In order to be prepared, generate a plan or family plan, as applicable.  This may include survival at home and an evacuation plan.  If you own a pet, have a plan if you have to evacuation to a shelter.  Ensure your plan takes into account the potential loss of power and gas and lack of clean water and phone service.  Ensure you have an evacuation route planned and allow enough time for the traffic jams you are likely to face.  Have an emergency survival kit on hand and fully stocked.  Do not use electrical devices during the storm.  Only go outside if you absolutely have to. Winds are strong enough to make debris become deadly projectiles.

  • Consider your options before deciding whether to stay or evacuate, if not specifically ordered to do so.  Plan routes to local shelters and register family members with special medical needs in the event you need to leave home.  Keep on hand contact information for family or friend in a safe region of the state or out of state for potential evacuation.   If you go to a shelter, bring valuables, like critical documentation, jewelry, photographs, or electronics.
  • Pet owners should have plans to care for their animals.  Do not leave your pets behind.   Do not wait until the last minute to evacuate. Rescue officials may not allow you to take your pets if you need to be rescued.
  • In most cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not allow evacuation shelters to accept the entrance pets.  Some service pets may be allowed but there is no certainty.
  • Securely fasten a current identification tag to your pet’s collar and carry a photograph of your pet.
  • Transport pets in secure pet carriers and keep pets on leashes or harnesses.
  • Call hotels in a safe/host location and ask if you can bring your pets. Ask the manager if a no-pet policy can be lifted during the disaster.
  • Call friends, family members, veterinarians or boarding kennels in a safe location to arrange for care if you and your pets cannot stay together.
  • Pack a week’s supply of food, water and other provisions, such as medication or cat litter.  Pets need a gallon of water as well, but this will last about two days for them.

Quick guide to preparation

  • Surroundings: Bring in any loose items, such as garbage cans and lawn furniture, and pick up any debris in the yard that can act as a projectile during high winds.  Before a hurricane threatens, secure the parts of a fence that appear weakened or loose. Hurricane-force winds can easily dislodge boards and pieces from a fence creating flying debris.  Clear drains, gutters and downspouts of debris.  Check that garage doors are secured. Do not leave them open and board up any gaps––flying garages can destroy your home.
  • Trees: Have someone trim weak tree branches, along with branches that are positioned over structures, which could be broken off by high winds and cause property damage.
  • Seals: Make sure caulking around windows and doors is in good shape and not cracked, broken or missing, and fill any holes or gaps around pipes or wires that enter your building.
  • Basement: Have someone move furniture and electronic devices off the floor, particularly in basements and first floor levels to prevent water damage.
  • Anchor fuel tanks: An unanchored tank can be torn free by floodwaters, and the broken supply line can cause contamination or, if outdoors, can be swept downstream and damage other property.
  • Electrical Services: Shut off electrical service at the main breaker if the electrical system and outlets will be under water.
  • Appliances: Get help placing all appliances, including stove, washer and dryer on masonry blocks or concrete at least 12 inches above the projected flood elevation.
  • Rugs: Get help rolling up area rugs, and get them off the floor to reduce the chances of rugs getting wet and growing mold. This is particularly important if the property will be left unattended for an extended period of time and if long-term power outages are a possibility.
  • Sump Pumps & Drains: Inspect sump pumps and drains to ensure proper operation. If a sump pump has a battery backup, make sure the batteries are fresh or replace the batteries.

If you decide to ride out the storm at home:

  • Remember, if it becomes calm outside, the storm may not be over, you could be in the eye.  Deciding to stay could mean facing tornados along with the hurricane.  If ordered to evacuate, leave!
  • Buy a generator for use in a power outage. Store it somewhere that is safe from rain and rising water.
  • Know how to use your generator and ensure there is proper ventilation.
  • Most portable generators are designed to work with a few appliances or pieces of electrical equipment that may be plugged directly into the generator without the use of a generator transfer switch.
    • Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from engine exhaust is a common and serious danger that can result in death if generators are used improperly, in particular, if the fuel is not burned completely.
    • Never use generators indoors or outside near windows, vents, or air intakes that could allow CO to come indoors.
    • Maintain plenty of air flow space around the generator.
    • Get fresh air immediately if you begin to feel flu like symptoms, sick, dizzy or light headed.
    • Store fuel in an approved storage container or holding tank. Never store fuel indoors or near the electric generator.  It could start a fire!
    • Never refuel while the generator is running, and always keep a fully charged fire extinguisher located nearby.
    • Do not “back feed” power into your electrical system by plugging the generator into a wall outlet. Back feeding will put you and potentially others, including utility line workers, at serious risk of injury or death.
  • Close your windows, doors and hurricane shutters. If you do not have hurricane shutters, close and have someone help board up all windows and doors with plywood.  During the storm, stay in a room without windows, if possible.  If you cannot find assistance making your home safe or do not have a safe room in your home, you should stay in a local evacuation shelter or other safe facility.
  • Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting so food is preserved longer. Open quickly as needed to maintain a cool temperature as long as possible.
  • Conduct a home hazard assessment
    • Check for electrical hazards
      • Replace frayed or cracked extension and appliance cords, loose prongs and plugs.
      • Make sure there is only one plug per outlet. Avoid using cube taps or overloading outlets. If you must use an extension cord, use a cord rated for the electrical load and no longer than is really needed.
      • Remove electrical cords running under rugs or over nails, heaters, or pipes.
      • Cover exposed outlets and wiring.
      • Repair or replace appliances which overheat, short out, smoke or spark.
    • Check for chemical hazards
      • Store flammable liquids such as gasoline, acetone, benzene and lacquer thinner in approved safety cans, away from the home.
      • Place containers in a well-ventilated area and close the lids tightly. Secure the containers to prevent spills.
      • If flammable materials must be stored in the home, use a storage can with an Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM) approved label. Move materials away from heat sources, open flames, gas appliances and children.
      • Keep combustible liquids such as paint thinner, kerosene, charcoal lighter fluid and turpentine away from heat sources.
      • Store oily waste and polishing rags in covered metal cans.
      • Instruct family members not to use gasoline, benzene or other flammable fluids for starting fires or cleaning indoors.
    • Check for fire hazards
      • Clear out old rags, papers, mattresses, broken furniture and other combustible materials.
      • Move clothes, curtains, rags and paper goods away from electrical equipment, gas appliances or flammable materials.
      • Remove dried grass cuttings, tree trimmings and weeds from the property.
      • Clean and repair chimneys, flue pipes, vent connectors and gas vents.
      • Keep heaters and candles away from curtains and furniture.
      • Place portable heaters on level surfaces, away from high traffic areas. Purchase portable heaters equipped with automatic shutoff switches, and avoid the use of extension cords.
  • Turn off propane tank so there is no danger of an explosions from a leak.
  • Unplug small appliances to minimize fire hazards.
  • Fill your car’s gas tank since gas may be hard to find for some time.
  • Disinfect your bathtub, then fill it with water. The water might be critical for post-storm for drinking, bathing and toilet flushing.
  • Ensure you have all the supplies and products you need on hand.  Suggestions are:
    • Batteries – various sizes
    • Rope
    • Tarps
    • Plastic bags
    • Flashlights
    • Glow sticks are safer than candles due to potential gas leaks following a storm.
    • Battery-operated radio – A NOAA weather radio is best. Have it set to alert mode during the threat of severe weather and ensure that it is powered up.
    • Cash
    • Clothing
      • At least one complete change of clothing and footwear per person.
      • Sturdy shoes or work boots
      • Rain gear
      • Blankets or sleeping bags
      • Hat and gloves
      • Thermal underwear
      • Sunglasses
    • First Aid Kit (for your home and one for each car)
      • Box of adhesive bandages, various sizes
      • Large sterile dressing
      • Roller gauze bandage
      • Sterile gauze pads of various sizes
      • Roll 3″ cohesive bandage
      • Anti-bacterial hand wipes or waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizer
      • Antiseptic wipes
      • Several pair large medical grade non-latex gloves
      • Adhesive tape – wide
      • Anti-bacterial ointment
      • Cold pack
      • Scissors
      • Tweezers
      • CPR breathing barrier, such as a face shield.
    • Non-Prescription Drugs and Misc Personal Needs
      • Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
      • Anti-diarrhea medication
      • Antacid (for stomach upset)
      • Laxative
      • Contact lenses and supplies
      • Extra eye glasses
    • Prescription medication for all family members.  Ask your physician or pharmacist about special storing needs for your prescription medications.
    • Water
      • People need about a gallon of water a day. Keep this in mind when buying/storing water
      • Store water in plastic containers such as soft drink bottles. Avoid using containers that will decompose or break, such as milk cartons or glass bottles.
    • Food
      • Non-perishable food to last for five days.
      • Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, and vegetables
      • Canned juices
      • Staples and seasonings
      • High energy foods
      • Vitamins
      • Food for infants
      • Comfort or stress foods
    • Tools and Supplies
      • Paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils
      • Non-electric can opener, utility knife
      • Fire extinguisher: small canister ABC type
      • Pliers
      • Tape
      • Compass
      • Matches in a waterproof container
      • Aluminum foil
      • Plastic storage containers
      • Signal flare
      • Paper, pencil
      • Needles, thread
      • Medicine dropper
      • Shut-off wrench, to turn off household gas and water
      • Whistle
      • Plastic sheeting
      • Map of the area (for locating shelters)
    • Sanitation
      • Toilet paper, towelettes
      • Soap, liquid detergent
      • Feminine supplies
      • Personal hygiene items
      • Plastic garbage bags, ties
      • Plastic bucket with tight lid
      • Disinfectant
      • Household chlorine bleach
    • Entertainment, such as board games, cards, paper and pens
  • Keep important records, below, in a waterproof, lightweight and transportable container
    • Will, insurance policies, contracts, deeds, stocks and bonds
    • Passports, social security cards, immunization records
    • Bank account numbers
    • Credit card account numbers and companies
    • Inventory of valuable household goods for insurance purposes
    • Family records (birth, marriage, death certificates)
    • Driver’s licenses, proof of residence, tax records and photos of your home (exterior and interior)

Recovery

  • Wait until at least 30 minutes after the eye of the storm has passed over before entering rooms with windows.  Wait until your local weather, radio, and emergency service sends a public notice that the storm has passed before letting your guard down.
  • Remember that recovering from a disaster is usually a gradual process.  Removal of debris, property damage repair and availability of public services may take some time
  • Be extra careful when entering buildings as they may not be structurally safe.
  • If you smell gas, see flood waters around a building, or the building has been damaged by fire do not enter the building until declared safe by authorities.
  • Watch for electrical sparks or frayed wires. Stay away from wire and standing water!  Keep away!
  • Use a battery powered flashlight or glow sticks and not candles to see by.
  • When entering a building, watch for loose or slippery floorboards, falling debris and cracked masonry.  Items can also easily fall out of cabinets and shelves.
  • Trees will also have power lines tangled in them. Avoid any fallen trees
  • Take care with flooded basements. Obviously, do not enter it. Use a pump to gradually reduce the water level by about one third each day until it’s gone. To pump it any faster risks collapsing your home.
  • Clean and disinfect anything that has come into contact with sewage, bacteria or spilled chemicals. Surviving a hurricane includes staying healthy and keeping your family and pets healthy too
  • Avoid post disaster scamming.
    • Be suspicious of any contractor who tries to rush you to make decisions, particularly if the repairs are not an emergency or the work is temporary.
    • Immediately dismiss any contractor who claims to be backed by the government since the Federal Emergency Management Agency does not endorse individual contractors or loan companies.
    • Ask to see the primary contractor’s driver’s license and write down the license number and the license plate number of their vehicle.
    • Request proof of liability and workers comp insurance.
    • Never allow a contractor to discourage you from contacting your insurance company.

Check your insurance coverage

  • Ensure that your homeowner’s insurance has enough windstorm coverage to rebuild your home in today’s market.
  • You’ll need special flood insurance from the federal government to cover damage due to flooding.
  • Check your insurance policy for a windstorm or hurricane deductible.