Whether we like it or not, hurricane season is upon us and there are several predictions that the 2013 season will be worse than average. When I think about it, it does not matter whether tropical storms actually convert into hurricanes or not, the potential for adverse effects is great. Even a tropical storm has the capability of causing significant property damage, flooding, loss of power and utilitities, and delays to everyday activities. So what does this mean for preparedness?
1. Have A Plan
Fortunately, technology has evolved to allow early warning of storm systems and their potential to cause catastrophic damage. Such technology has minimized the loss of life that occurs as a result of storms. This is only beneficial though when residents and those in the effected area heed the warnings they are given and evacuate before a storm hits. If an evacuation order is given, the prudent thing to do is leave the area but not without having a plan first! A plan should include:
- The location where you will go if you must evacuate (hotel, friend or relatives house, shelter, etc.). Ideally, you should have a primary and secondary location. Wherever it is that you decide to go, it should be outside of the area of the evacuation order (I hope that part is kind of obvious).
- Determine the route of travel. It is possible that a route could be congested or unusable as a result of the need to evacuate or storm system. Consider a route that is on major interstates/highways and one that is on lesser used roads. Another contingency could include having a route in each direction from the area that you will evacuate. Many hurricane prone communities will have designated evacuation routes that are typically the best option.
- If you have pets, have a plan for them as well. Shelters will normally not allow the presence of pets except if necessary for a service capacity. It is also possible that the hotel you end up at does not allow pets and a friend or relative could have an allergy. Clear up any questions about these possibilities before it is too late.
- Make a load out plan. The time that you have to evacuate could be extremely limited and as a result of this possibility you should make a plan that includes the items that you will take with you and how it will all be loaded into the vehicle(s) that you will take with you.
2. Keep Supplies On Hand
If the decision is made to evacuate, ensure that your property(home, business, etc.) is properly secured. Often times this involves boarding up doors and windows and sandbagging perimeters.
In the event that an evacuation order is given there will undoubtedly be a rush to purchase the necessary items to complete these tasks. The best way to put yourself in a position where you do not end up short of the necessary supplies to secure your property is to complete an accurate estimate of the materials needed, purchase them, and have the materials staged prior to actually needing them. Covering doors and windows is best completed through the use of purpose built storm shutters but the next best option is use of 1/2″ to 5/8″ marine-grade plywood, cut to fit the door or window, and secured using screws.
Some may say that spending time and money to gather materials is a waste. This is a determination that each individual must make. It seems reasonable to me that if you live in the Gulf Coast Region and Eastern Seaboard of the United States that having necessary materials on hand is just being prepared for the inevitable. In other regions it may not be as likely that a large storm will hit your area and such materials are not necessary. What I can tell you though is that the same materials that are used to secure a property for a tropical storm or hurricane can also be used to secure a property from a number of other situations up to, and including, the rising of the dead*.
If the decision is made to stay in place during a hurricane or tropical storm it is imperative to have the additional items necessary to sustain life in addition to those needed to save lives and safeguard property. Some of these items include:
- Generator w/ Supply of Fuel
- Clean Water for Drinking and Hygiene
- Weather Radio
- Emergency Light Source
- First Aid Kit
- Whistle For Signaling
- Sanitation and Hygiene Supplies
Other precautions that can be made to prevent or minimize damage include trimming back shrubs and bushes, removing dead trees, cleaning out gutters and downspouts, and clearing exterior areas of items that could become projectiles in high winds.
3. Other Considerations
Evacuating from an area or deciding to shelter in place can be made even more complicated when there are children, pets, or those with medical concerns involved. Keep in mind that children as well as pets may be made more comfortable in strange environments when they have a few of their favorite items to remind them of home. Make sure that these items get taken with you if at all possible. Children may also need to have additional changes of clothes as compared to older family members. When medical concerns are present, ensure that additional necessary items are taken with you to include medications, medical equipment, and important paperwork.
*Please forgive me. I could not help myself and included the possibility of a zombie apocalypse.