June 1st is the start of hurricane season.
Time to dust off your preparedness plans and refresh your supplies! Hold on, you say? The latest outlook is “quiet,” -- why should I prepare?
That is a very good question.
The seasonal outlook only provides insight as to the potential number of tropical storms and hurricanes, based upon current atmospheric and ocean conditions. It does not reflect any one location’s probability of a hurricane landfall.
Unfortunately, it only takes one storm to cause horrific destruction.
The 1992 hurricane season began and ended as a relatively quiet year, save for one major hurricane. Hurricane Andrew is one of three recorded Category 5 hurricanes to make U.S. landfall resulting in $26.5 billion dollars in damage and devastating southern Dade County, Florida.
It doesn’t require a major hurricane to cause extensive damage, as we learned from Hurricane Isabel in 2003, Nor’Ida in 2009, and Hurricane Irene in 2011.
Please do not let a “quiet” forecast keep you from developing or reviewing plans to protect your life and property
So, what should you do?
1. Make a plan
• Know your risk! Can you hear, smell or see water? Chances are you are at risk for flooding. But what is your risk? Two indicators of risk are FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Map (FEMA Map Service Center or Virginia Flood Risk Information System) and Storm Surge Inundation Maps. Your local communities are, also, wonderful resources. Many communities have websites and brochures that address local risk. Another informative site is ReadyVirginia http://www.vaemergency.gov/readyvirginia which includes helpful hints, printable resources and a downloadable app.
• Once you know your risk, develop a plan. Will you stay or go?
· If you stay, be prepared to take care of yourself and family for an extended period of time. In the event of a disaster, emergency personnel may be tied up and unable to respond. You and your neighbors will become the first responders. Have a first aid kit and know how to use it.
· If you go, know where you are going to go, when and be prepared to leave early. Traffic can become gridlocked in the event of a mandatory evacuation.
· Be responsible for your own safety. If you do not feel safe staying, do not wait for a mandatory evacuation, but again, be prepared to leave early.
• Do you have pets, older family members, children or require special medication? Your plan and kit should address these needs, as well.
• Identify an out-of-town point of contact. Inform them of your plan and provide contact information. Let other family and friends know of this point of contact so they can communicate with them about your status.
• Do you have a generator? If so and you have not maintained it, now is the time to pull it out, inspect hose lines, replace the spark plug and test operation. Pooled gasoline can damage hose lines.
• Fill cars and gasoline cans (for chain saws and generators) as early as practicable. If a mandatory evacuation order is given, there could be lines at gas stations. After an event, gas stations may not be operational due to a power outage.
• Do you have a gas grill? Make sure the propane tank is full and secured. After Hurricane Isabel, some neighborhoods hosted “block parties” to cook food that might otherwise spoil. Not only did this reduce food waste, it reduced stress, improved moral and promoted a sense of community.
2. Make a kit
Regardless if you stay or go, you will need a kit. It is possible where you evacuate to could lose electricity or be without safe drinking water. Consider your daily routine and how that would change without these. Keep in mind, if you go to a shelter, you will need to bring your own supplies. To lighten the expense of developing a kit, you can purchase items for the kit with each grocery shopping trip and take advantage of the tax holiday. Visit http://www.vaemergency.gov/readyvirginia/stay-informed/hurricanes/sales-tax-holiday/ to learn what is included. Some items to include in your kit are:
• Water – one gallon per person or pet/per day for a minimum of three days
• Non-perishable food
• Can opener – While some cans now include pop-tops, most cans still require a can opener
• Personal hygiene products
• Snacks (Think quality and preference. During an event, your body could be under a great deal of stress. It will need healthy calories to perform necessary tasks. Lean towards preferences. Favorite foods can provide comfort and it is highly unlikely that if you have never been a fan of sardines, you are instantly going to love them under extreme stress.)
• Disposable plates, cups, silverware and paper towels
• Necessary medications
• First aid kit (It cannot be repeated enough, in the event of a disaster, you and your neighbors will be the first responders. Become familiar with the items in your kit, keep them stocked and know how to use them. Learn CPR and keep emergency medical reference material)
• Battery powered or hand crank radio and/or NOAA Weather Radio (The battery powered radio can provide valuable local updates and equally as important entertainment. The NOAA Weather Radio is a great resource for watches and warnings all year long.)
• Flashlight and extra batteries
• Trash bags, gloves, eye protection, face masks, bleach, and tools -- these will be helpful after the storm
· Face mask to filter contaminated air
· Wrench or pliers to turn utilities off
· Hammer and nails to secure tarps
· Tarp(s) or plastic sheeting
· Duct tape
· Bleach to sanitize items
• Whistle to call for help
• Pet food and supplies
• Fire extinguisher
• Mobile devices are excellent tools for receiving valuable information and entertainment. Some crank radios include USB ports for charging phones. Another good option is a car charger.)
• Important documents – Include original or copies of:
· Medical insurance cards
· Home or property deeds
· Home owner’s, renter’s, vehicle and flood insurance policy documents. Your insurance agent’s contact information
· Vehicle titles, loan papers, etc.
· Financial statements
· Birth certificates, marriage documents, social security cards, passports, proof of citizenship, etc.
· List of medications
· Photos of family members and pets for identification purposes
• Map of local roads (A map book is helpful for creating a new route, in the event you are diverted from your planned route)
• Cash (ATMs or credit card machines may not be functioning.)
For additional items to include, visit http://www.vaemergency.gov/readyvirginia/getakit.
3. Stay Informed
Before, during and after a disaster it is important to listen for the most local, up to date information from emergency officials
• Emergency alerts - Visit http://www.vaemergency.gov/social-media/alert-localities to sign up for alerts for your locality
• TV and radio
• NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards
• Mobile devices
• Ready Virginia app for mobile device, available from the iTunes App Store or Google Play
• Learn the location of emergency shelters
4. Stay Safe
• Avoid floodwaters, move to higher ground.
• Turn around, don’t drown. Do not drive through flooded roads.
• Stay hydrated and eat healthy food.
• Be careful with exertion and take frequent breaks.
• Only operate generators outside and preferably away from windows. Carbon monoxide can build to dangerous levels in improperly ventilated areas.
• Recovery can take an extended period of time. Prioritize tasks and try not to accomplish everything at once.
• Watch for signs of stress in family and friends.