Hurricane season officially starts for the Atlantic Coast June 1, and weather experts predict that the 2013 hurricane season will be more dangerous than normal. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts as many as 20 total named storms, which could include seven to 11 hurricanes and three to six major hurricanes. Accuweather also predicts a worse than normal hurricane season, with 16 tropical storms and eight hurricanes. They predict that four of those will be major hurricanes, and that three of those will make U.S. landfall.
So what can you do? It’s simpler than you may think – Get a kit. Make a plan. These two simple sentences have been used by everyone from the Red Cross and CDC to state and local health departments to encourage everyone to be prepared. Kits help ensure that you can either take shelter safely in your home or evacuate quickly and safely. A plan helps you care for yourself and your loved ones, even your pets and livestock.
Get a Kit
Kits should include any food, water, and medications that your household would need over the course of the three to five day period.
- Several clean containers for water, large enough for a 3-5 day supply of water (one gallon per person or pet per day, or about five gallons for each person/pet).
- At least a 3-5 day supply of non-perishable food.
- Manual can opener for food.
- A first aid kit and manual.
- A battery-powered or hand crank radio, flashlights, and extra batteries.
- A NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert, and extra batteries.
- A whistle to signal for help
- Sleeping bags or extra blankets.
- Water-purifying supplies, such as chlorine or iodine tablets or unscented, ordinary household chlorine bleach.
- Prescription medicines and special medical needs.
- Baby food and/or prepared formula, diapers, and other baby supplies (if applicable).
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation.
- Personal hygiene supplies, such as soap, toothpaste, sanitary napkins, etc.
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place.
- An emergency kit for your car with food, flares, booster cables, maps, tools, a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, sleeping bags, etc.
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.
- Local maps.
- Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger.
- Books, games, or puzzles.
- Copies of important family documents in a waterproof container, such as insurance policies, birth certificates, and bank records.
When planning for food, consider what you have on hand that could be prepared and consumed safely in the event that utilities (electricity, gas) are out. You should have food that doesn’t need to be heated or kept cold.
Virginia and Louisiana both have tax holidays this week, allowing people to purchase hurricane preparedness supplies tax-free. Check your state’s department of revenue or taxation to determine if a similar tax holiday will be available in your state.
The items listed here are generally useful for any kind of disaster or extreme weather event. It is important to maintain your kit to ensure that the food and water is safe and your supplies are in good working order. Consider putting together a workplace kit.
For a PDF list of kit supplies from FEMA, click here.
Make a Plan
First things first…
Some of the first steps of making a plan involve taking stock of your surroundings. What kind of warning signals or sirens does your community use? Does your community have a designated evacuation route or emergency shelter?
- Learn about your community’s emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes, and locations of emergency shelters.
- Identify potential home hazards and know how to secure or protect them before the hurricane strikes. Be prepared to turn off electrical power when there is standing water, fallen power lines, or before you evacuate. Turn off gas and water supplies before you evacuate. Secure structurally unstable building materials.
- Buy a fire extinguisher and make sure your family knows where to find it and how to use it.
- Locate and secure your important papers, such as insurance policies, wills, licenses, stocks, etc.
- Post emergency phone numbers at every phone.
- Inform local authorities about any special needs, i.e., elderly or bedridden people, or anyone with a disability .
- Make sure your plans include the needs of your pets. Will local emergency shelters accept pets?
If you own large animals or livestock, it’s also important to consider potential hazards for them. Is there a safe place in a pasture for them to shelter? Is there high enough ground to avoid drowning? Taking measures ahead of time can help prevent loss of livestock, as well as preventing injury of rescue workers. Here is a link to a video from horse.com (a little long, at 14 minutes) on planning for hurricanes with horses. The video includes a lot of good information for anyone with large animals.
Some tips from the CDC on what to do during a hurricane watch:
- Fill your automobile’s gas tank.
- If no vehicle is available, make arrangements with friends or family for transportation.
- Fill your clean water containers.
- Review your emergency plans and supplies, checking to see if any items are missing.
- Tune in the radio or television for weather updates.
- Listen for disaster sirens and warning signals.
- Prepare an emergency kit for your car with food, flares, booster cables, maps, tools, a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, sleeping bags, etc.
- Secure any items outside which may damage property in a storm, such as bicycles, grills, propane tanks, etc.
- Cover windows and doors with plywood or boards or place large strips of masking tape or adhesive tape on the windows to reduce the risk of breakage and flying glass.
- Put livestock and family pets in a safe area.
- Place vehicles under cover, if at all possible.
- Fill sinks and bathtubs with water as an extra supply for washing.
- Adjust the thermostat on refrigerators and freezers to the coolest possible temperature.
If a hurricane watch (hurricane is expected to hit your area in 24-36 hours) is issued for your area, you may need to evacuate. If evacuation is ordered PLEASE FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. Even if you fear looting, your items are not worth your life. This was evidenced in Hurricane Sandy, when many who did not evacuate when under orders to do so were stranded. Sadly, some died.
Adapt your plan as your household changes. Your plan can also be applied to other disasters that may occur in your area.
- FDA: what to do with food, medications, and medical devices
- NOAA: National Hurricane Center
- NOAA: Hurricane Preparedness, videos in English and Spanish
- NOAA: Difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning