Preparing for Hurricanes

Display of tax-free hurricane supplies outside a Virginia Home Depot (C) Hillary Craddock, all rights reserved

Display of tax-free hurricane supplies outside a Virginia Home Depot (C) Hillary Craddock, all rights reserved

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. Continue reading

Disaster Response: Citizen by Day, Responder by Night (or afternoon, or morning…)

NYPD truck driving down the flooded FDR Drive during Hurricane Sandy, Source: Flickr Creative Commons, (C) david_shankbone

This post was originally published at Mind the Science Gap on Nov. 1, 2012.

The e-mails started on Friday. The director of my home county’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) sent out a request that all volunteers report their status for the upcoming hurricane. Would we be available in the event that Hurricane Sandy hit Northern Virginia? As the news reports came in and bloggers up and down the eastern seaboard reported what was going on, I couldn’t help but feel like I should be down there. I’ve spent most of my life on the East Coast; many friends and family members were hunkering down and waiting for the storm to pass. Thankfully, everyone I know pulled through safely.

Before I got involved in public health, my mental image of disaster response was a mish-mash of government response and spontaneous volunteers. The images of Hurricane Katrina on TV showed FEMA agents and uniformed National Guardsmen in one clip and college students and church groups in another. However, there is a middle ground – organized groups of people who train to specifically respond to disasters on a volunteer basis. The category of is a broad, and it includes many EMTs, firefighters, response teams, and search and rescue teams that have day jobs and work alongside their full-time colleagues. For the sake of this article, I’m going to focus on the groups that anyone can join regardless of experience. Continue reading