Have you ever lived through a major hurricane? I have. Twenty years ago Hurricane Hugo slammed ashore all across the South Carolina lowcountry coast, wrecking havoc everywhere. Our home was without electricity for four days while some isolated rural areas of the state went without power for six weeks.
Getting Ready For Hurricane Season
Preparation for a storm of this magnitude usually means boarding up your home and leaving for a safer destination. We chose to stay put and had very little damage to show for it. But, the inconvenience of going without the basics for several days loomed large – I can’t imagine how it would have been if we had to contend with major damage in addition to having no running water, fresh food, ice and other items we take for granted.
For coastal residents who live in areas exposed to oceanic disturbances whether they be hurricanes, nor’easters, floods and the like, having a plan in place to deal with such disasters is critical. May 24-30, 2009 is National Hurricane Preparedness Week, a seven day event which helps vulnerable people get ready for the coming season. Each day has its own theme with Friday, May 29th set aside to help people develop family specific plans.
Be Prepared When Disaster Is About To Strike
Whether you choose to ride out a storm or evacuate depends on a number of things including your local forecast and whether evacuations are deemed mandatory by the government. No matter whether you’re planning to stay or leave there are some things you can do to get ready including the following:
Develop A Disaster Kit – You may have the best food storage system already in place, but that system may not do you much good if the lights go out or if a fallen tree blocks access to an outbuilding housing your goods. Minimally, you should have readily available plenty of fresh water to last for as long as a week plus canned foods to tide you over. An alternative cooking source, one that won’t asphyxiate members of your household, is important as is having enough fuel to power it. Please check out our “Manage Your Food Storage Space Wisely” article for some tips on how to organize your larger and long term space and make sure that your first aid kit is filled up and current.
Create A Family Plan – Where will you go if you plan on riding out a storm? Younger children will go with you, but if you are meeting up with older children, is there a central location for everyone to gather? For example, if you plan on meeting up at your family cabin some four hours away, does everyone know how to get there? Gassing up in advance, recharging your cell phones and carrying essential supplies with you is important. Finally, what about pets and livestock? Who will take care of them if you aren’t able to take them with you?
Should you decide to ride out the storm, deeming that neither flood waters nor debris are likely to leave you stranded, you’ll want to make sure that your home is safe for everyone. Have a safe room ready in your home in the event that winds threaten to damage your home and harm inhabitants. Usually, a center room in the home, one without windows (such as a bathroom) is the best place to wait out the worst of the stormy weather. Make sure that you have access to food, water, prescriptions, pet food and other essential supplies while you wait. Check out “What Will Inflation Do To Soft Good Prices” for related information.
Securing Your Home – Working from the outside in, you’ll want to make sure that your home will be there when you return or if you stay. Anything outside that cannot be secured in place needs to be put away as whatever is outside can become a flying projectile in a storm. Don’t expect that your aluminum shed will be found if winds push past 100 miles per hour. That wood pile near the back of your home could prove deadly in the worst of winds.
On the home, you want to make sure that shutters are secured, windows taped and/or covered with wood, all doors are securely shut and that your garage door is closed. In the worst of a storm it can seem as if rain is coming up from below, as swirling winds push water everywhere. This isn’t the time to stay put if a roof problem stands to become much worse at the height of the storm. Check the resource section which follows to learn how a roof strap could keep your roof in place during a big blow.
Expect The Unexpected
No amount of planning to foresee every problem that will come up later on. For example, in our South Carolina neighborhood following the storm, large patches of insect mounds were destroyed, sending bugs everywhere. Imagine your home surviving the worst winds only to be under siege by red ants, bees, flies and more.
Though emergency personnel will be working diligently to help people out, avoid the resistance to call 911 unless it is an absolute emergency. Your phone will probably be working, your cell phone connection may or may not be dead, but only call for help if it is a matter of life or death.
Finally, make sure that you have emergency numbers written down, important papers put in a safe place (wills, birth and marriage certificates, financial documents, homeowners insurance, etc.) and a battery operated emergency radio on hand. Enlist the help of your youngest children who may be scared but will have their fears quelled if you are organized and give them something to do. Yes, that also means having plenty of play items on hand, just the sort of things to take the edge off of life when it becomes the most challenging.
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
American Red Cross: https://americanredcross.com/services/prepare/0,1082,0_253_,00.html
Disaster Supply Kit: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/prepare/supply_kit.shtml
Hurricane Preparation: http://www.hurricane.com/hurricane-preparation.php
Hurricane Roof Straps: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/retrofit/straps.shtml
Photo Credit: Cheryl Empey
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