Did you know that the Atlantic hurricane season lasts through November 30? That’s far longer than most people realize. And even if the experts at Weather.com are not predicting a lot of whoppers for 2015, they are quick to point out that it only takes one doozy to cause tremendous damage. September is National Preparedness Month, so why not make sure you are ready for a big one?
I’m not on the coast, so what’s the big deal?
Sure, hurricanes pose the biggest dangers to coastal communities, bringing lethally high surf, powerful rip currents and the potential for an enormous and dangerous storm surge.
But hurricanes can deliver intense devastation inland, as well. Anyone remember Hurricane Isabelle?
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, inland dangers include flash flooding, the kind that drowns drivers who misjudge immersed roads and would-be swimmers caught in powerful river currents. They bring high winds that leave live power lines strewn on the road, blow trees onto houses and cars, and turn debris into dangerous shrapnel. Tornadoes are also associated with hurricanes and, as many in the tri-state region know, can arrive and wreak immense havoc with little warning.
Message received! But what is there to do besides batten down the hatches?
Certainly, homeowners should prepare their property for an impending hurricane. For those inland, that means storing or securing anything not tied down. And for those who live (or own property) on the coast, it may mean additionally investing in such protections as storm shutters and flood insurance.
But wherever you live, the American Red Cross also recommends you have an emergency kit on hand which includes the following:
- A two week supply of food and water. Food should be non-perishable in case you lose electricity. Assume a gallon a day of water for each member of your household.
- A flashlight, hand-crank or battery radio, extra batteries, a multi-purpose tool, a cell phone with chargers, extra cash and an emergency blanket.
- A first aid kit, a week’s supply of any medications you take, extra glasses and/or contact lenses, and any sanitary or personal hygiene items.
- An envelope containing extra house and car keys and copies of personal documents such as proof of address, property deeds or leases, passports, birth certificates, insurances policies, important medical information and anything else you might need if you evacuate and later find a tornado has landed in your home office.
- A hard-copy map of your area and list of important phone numbers.
- If you have pets, include an extra leash, collar, ID, food and bowl.
- Think about the very young and the very old in your household and consider their daily needs (e.g. bottles, diapers, diaper cream, adult sanitary protection, extra hearing aids and batteries). Add a box of travel-sized games, books on CD (with player, headphones and batteries) and large print books.
- Consider storing your kit in plastic-lidded tubs that can be easily retrieved from your condo’s basement storage unit or from the backs of various closets or under the bed.
Okay, got my “blowin’ in the wind” apocalypse kit ready. Anything else?
The Red Cross also advises making an evacuation plan. Get together with your family or friends and discuss the kinds of weather emergencies that may happen in your area and how you will prepare. Make a plan in case you are separated. Decide on a meeting point such as a distant hotel you all know, the home of a far-flung friend or relative, or the local evacuation shelter. Figure out several routes you can take to this meeting point. If you have pets, research hotels and evacuation shelters that will take animals (your local Red Cross chapter will have shelter information).
Choose someone out of the area who can serve as a central contact person in the event of an emergency. Agree that if you get separated you will each call this person and let them know where you are and your plans. Be sure to have this person’s number not just in your phone but in writing. Local phone lines may overload or go out of service during a hurricane, so choose a person happy to text.
If you need to evacuate, try to access your emergency kit and load your car with two days’ worth of food and water and as much of the rest of the kit you can cram into the trunk. As a general rule, it is a good idea to have a sleeping bag or fleece blanket tucked away in your car in case of emergencies.
Come hell or high water, I’m ready for anything!
Almost. Be sure to pay attention to the weather alerts if storms are predicted. Consider downloading weather alert apps that will provide live information and other useful features in an emergency (the Red Cross, for example, offers a free hurricane app).
It may take you a day or two to get this all together, but then again, you don’t want to be that guy trading his TAG Heuer for contact lens solution, do you?